Tag Archives: disaster planning

Need for Translation in Disaster Planning

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes and are indiscriminate in those they catch up in their chaos. As such, when it comes to disaster planning, it’s essential to account for linguistic diversity. Incorporating translation and localization services into the planning process is therefore an essential part of ensuring an appropriate and robust response. 

In this post, we’ll take a look at disaster planning from a linguistic inclusivity perspective. We’ll also consider the value of translation services in responding to disasters, from mitigating the impact of climate change-related disasters to health crises. Let’s get to work! 

We live in a globalized world, with people moving from one country to another for economic, personal and political reasons. Furthermore, many countries are home to a rich variety of indigenous languages. This global linguistic diversity means that monolingual disaster planning is risky in many circumstances and locations. 

Using translation and localization as part of disaster planning

Using translation in disaster planning is a dual-pronged process. Not only do the disaster planning documents themselves need to be in multiple languages, but plans need to be in place to ensure that the response to the disaster is delivered in multiple languages, as well. 

Localization needs to be considered, too. It’s not enough to translate words from one language to another. Translated documents need to be shaped so they better connect with the target audience. 

When creating disaster plans and strategies, it is important to use translation and localization services to ensure that all the communities that are likely to be affected by the disaster are cared for as part of the response planning. The translation element of the process will ensure that the disaster planning documents are available in all the languages that will be needed. Localization, meanwhile, can ensure that the plans take account of factors such as how to connect with different communities in an emergency. 

Localization in action 

A recent example is how information has been shared with remote Amazon communities about COVID-19. Local interpreters have been used to share information over the radio in local languages, as many of the communities in question do not have access to the internet.

While every person who works on a disaster response strategy hopes that their work will never be used, they need to plan how it will be. That means having translation and interpretation resources lined up and ready to spring into action. 

The value of translation services in disaster planning 

When a disaster strikes and panic ensues, those who don’t speak the primary language of the area are often more likely to suffer because they receive information second-hand. This not only introduces delays at a time when action could be crucial but also builds in the potential for misinformation to spread. 

See also: Value of Optimized Resource Planning

That’s why it is so important to use professional translators and interpreters as part of a coordinated disaster response. They need the right skillsets, too: Experienced medical translation professionals are needed in this pandemic, for instance, to deliver technical information packed with medical details and not worry about any of it being lost in translation. 

Disaster planning can be tough. There are so many unknowns to account for. Building multiple languages into that process certainly doesn’t make it any easier, but it does mean that the disaster response can be applied in a way that helps as many people as possible, regardless of their native tongues.

In a Crisis, Will You Be Ready?

S___ happens!

Fifty years ago, Rock, David and I were at Pelican Aviation’s hangar listening to several seasoned pilots talk about their most terrifying experiences in the air. One said, “The engine made a loud noise, the plane shook violently and suddenly I couldn’t see a thing.” One of us innocently asked, “What happened – did the windshield shatter?” His answer was simple, “No, tears.”

Having spent much of my adult life in insurance, I’ve seen many disasters. The question is: Are we ready?

Hurricane Katrina was a terrible event for Mississippi. In New Orleans, there was minimal wind damage, but there were levee failures and accompanying social/civil chaos.

There was also a little-noticed success story: LSU’s medical school relocated from New Orleans (blocks from the chaos) to Baton Rouge in about a week. This required some luck, community (BR and NO) support and, I believe, some divine intervention, but it was an example of leadership at its best.

What if you had to relocate your office, all your team and everyone’s families following a catastrophe? Have you even considered the possibility?

See also: 4 Lessons From Harvey and Irma  

Here’s reality – many if not most of us will face great challenges. Some may parallel experiences we’ve seen before, just with greater or lesser intensity. There will be more fires, hurricanes and floods. Terrorists will attack us again. Planes will crash. We can’t stop all the bad in the future – the best we can do is try to avoid or at least mitigate the damage.

Most of us watched the successful rescue of 12 young soccer players and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand. Relative to 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, it is a minor event, but I believe it will prove to be one of the best case studies anywhere of what to do when the stakes are high, time is limited and you don’t know what to do.

Remember, these folks were lost for about 10 days before anyone even knew where they were. The last few days of their stay were examples of calm, leadership, courage, planning, possibilities and then very deliberate action.

Every Seal, volunteer, civilian, etc. should be celebrated for their effort, courage and patience – living and learning as they progressed. They didn’t rush in, reacting to a terrible situation. They walked, crawled, and swam in, well-prepared and observing appropriate caution. In construction, we’d say: Measure twice, cut once.

Never forget that one of the rescue team died early in the process. Was this loss the impetus to do things differently? I don’t know. I do believe our greatest learning occurs in adversity – it is the wisdom of scar tissue! The death was tragic but may have slowed the process and improved results.

I encourage each of us to consider the disasters that could be on our horizon. Begin a crisis management process with your families and your organizations. You won’t have all the answers, and you don’t yet know all the questions – nonetheless, be as prepared as you can and program for the unexpected. Plan your actions and act your plan.

See also: Innovation — or Just Innovative Thinking?  

A speaker once said at an agents meeting, “the merchant of misery is either at your door, just left or will soon arrive.” The best thing you can to is to be as prepared as possible and hope and pray you are blessed with the courage, skills, patience, process and RESULTS that these Thai crisis managers enjoyed.

Be prepared. Practice your preparations. Preparedness is a process not a one-time event. If in the end all of your preparation is not needed, BE THANKFUL. If it is needed, you may thank me for the suggestion. Good luck and Godspeed.

4 Lessons From Harvey and Irma

As we prepare for what could be a very active hurricane season, we pause to reflect on what we learned from last year’s historic storms.

Even from the sky, it was heartbreaking to see the devastation from flooded neighborhoods, destroyed homes, submerged cars and people left homeless in Texas, Florida and beyond.
Together, Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma cost billions and served as a stress test for the insurance industry.

Munich RE named the 2017 hurricane season as the costliest on record, resulting in $215 billion in losses. According to the reinsurance company, last year’s disasters totaled $330 billion in losses—just $135 billion of which was insured.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as well as the California wildfires at the end of 2017, represented the bulk of last year’s storm damage. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lists 16 weather events that resulted in $1 billion or more each in losses. These catastrophes totaled $306.2 billion in damage, the NOAA reports, and eclipsed the prior cost record of $214.8 billion in 2005.

EagleView had a unique view into what the industry was facing. We mobilized a fleet of 120 fixed-wing aircraft to capture millions of high-resolution images of the affected areas as well as referencing satellite and drone imagery. From there, we applied machine learning to quickly analyze property data to help carriers begin triaging and processing claims.

See also: Hurricane Harvey’s Lesson for Insurtechs  

While no one welcomes disasters, the storms, fires and mudslides may have accelerated the insurance industry’s response to catastrophic events. An army of adjusters with clipboards and flashlights will no longer cut it. The industry must evolve.

Here are four lessons we learned firsthand during the 2017 hurricane season.

1. Take advantage of the calm before the storm.

As we saw in 2017, catastrophes can wreak financial havoc on an insurer’s books. Naturally, carriers want to mitigate those costly exposures to risk before they might occur.

At the time of quoting, machine learning can help assess risk. With comprehensive property data analytics, a carrier can eliminate “buying a claim” when binding the policy, thus ensuring the right rate for the right risk. During the renewal process, understanding any change to that risk can help a carrier try to minimize claim frequency and severity.

2. Make boots on the ground smarter with eyes in the sky.

Experienced, licensed adjusters bring a level of expertise that can be hard to replicate, especially following a natural disaster. But they can only cover so much territory, especially if they are hard to find.

That’s what happened in Florida when Irma hit. Insurers had to scramble to find adjusters. Yet many were, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out at the time, “1,000 miles away, working on claims made after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas.”

To ensure proper coverage, insurers can work with partners in advance to put the right tools in place before a storm. For EagleView, that sometimes meant staging our aircraft hundreds of miles away from the hurricane so that we could get in the air as soon as the FAA gave us the go-ahead.

Complementing the adjuster force with the right aerial imagery program will give insurers greater confidence that they’ll be able to answer their customers’ needs quickly and accurately. Some carriers saw as much as a 60% improvement in adjuster production when they applied aerial imagery and data analysis solutions.

3. Don’t fly blind.

Drones are important assets in property inspection, but they’re an imperfect solution by themselves. While the FAA’s Part 107 rule guiding small unmanned aircraft offers greater flexibility to fly in national airspace, certain restrictions can still prove cumbersome.

Namely, the drone must remain in the line of sight. During an inspection of a large property with multiple outbuildings, for instance, the pilot must move around the property to keep the drone in sight.

Time is another constraint when it comes to operating a drone. Without the appropriate waiver from the FAA, a pilot can only fly in daylight or twilight, which makes conducting thermal imaging to detect roof leaks challenging.

Because some small drone operators were unable to meet the demands of large carriers, some insurers abandoned their drone programs altogether. Others have minimized the number of drone assignments, hired and coordinated a collection of disparate drone pilots or simply conducted re-inspections themselves.

Not only is that inefficient, but it sets the carrier up for a bad customer experience. A better approach? Carriers should use a mix of satellites, fixed-wing planes, drones and field inspectors to run an effective inspection program. A variety of information sources—rather than a single inspection method—will deliver the most comprehensive claims data.

4. Maintain customer satisfaction with speed.

The good news, according to a JD Power report, is that “overall customer satisfaction among homeowners filing property insurance claims has reached a new all-time high, despite record-high property losses following a spate of hurricanes, earthquakes and fires in North America” in 2017. However, the report goes on to tell us that there’s wide variability in performance by region, noting that customer satisfaction in Texas and Florida—two of the areas hardest hit by hurricanes—show below-average results.

Speed in resolving issues is a critical factor in retaining high satisfaction levels. That means carriers need to ensure a partner has a large breadth of capture and processing resources.

See also: Getting to ‘Resilient’ After Harvey and Irma  

Carriers need to feel confident that their vendors can scale. In a catastrophic situation, technology partners must be able to meet the demands of their clients with drones, satellites, fixed-wing aircraft and field inspectors, and deploy those solutions immediately.

Applying these lessons to 2018

With the record-breaking disasters of 2017, could 2018 be similar? We haven’t yet figured out how to predict or prevent natural disasters like the ones we faced last year.

What we have learned from these experiences, however, will surely help the industry better deal with this year’s crop of storms. That should be good news for insurers and the people they serve.

How to Prepare Your Firm for Winter

Disasters can happen in an instant, or they can come with some warning. There is usually some notice when there is an impending winter storm, but, all too often, people are still caught by surprise. When looking at the winters of 2015 and 2016, winter storms hit in some areas of the country that were not accustomed to such harsh conditions. This only proves winter storms can happen anywhere, no one is immune and, if you have a business, you need to be prepared.

When people hear “winter storm,” they usually think about snow or blizzards — and that is certainly part of it. But winter storms can also bring high winds, ice and freezing rain. There could also be a combination of any of these conditions. This can result in power outages, downed trees, unsafe roads and other situations that make it dangerous to be outside.

Statistics show nearly 25% of disaster-affected businesses never re-open. It doesn’t matter if that disaster is a winter storm, flood, hurricane or some other tragedy. Any business is vulnerable, but small businesses are especially at risk. They tend to have fewer employees who are able to get the business up and running again and assist in recovering losses. They also have less capital available to start over or even recoup losses.

Creating a Business Emergency Plan

A good business emergency plan could be the key to allowing your business to recover and resume operations after a disaster. This sample business emergency plan from Ready.gov is a good place to begin.

First, identify the address where your business will operate, then identify a secondary location should the first become inaccessible. Next, appoint someone as the primary crisis manager for your business and designate a backup if that person is unavailable. Assemble a crisis management team and find other businesses that you can network or coordinate within a disaster.

See also: Getting Beyond Risk in Insurance M&A

After this, determine and prioritize your critical operations as well as who is in charge and what he/she needs to do when the emergency plan goes into effect. Also, list your suppliers, vendors and contractors — their contact information, what they supply and how to reach them. Then, identify an alternative for each, perhaps outside of the affected area or businesses that can get to you if the roads are closed.

Include these elements in your emergency plan:

  • Evacuation plan
  • Shelter-in-place plan
  • Crisis communications plan
  • Cyber security plan
  • Records backup
  • Employee contact list

Your plan should be updated annually and after any emergency event. After a crisis, it is important to review your plan, assess its effectiveness and document any lessons learned — then make adjustments accordingly.

Prepare Employees

Most cities have text or SMS alerts for severe weather. Encourage your employees to sign up for alerts and download weather apps so they can keep an eye on the weather. Provide information on putting together an emergency supply kit, securing important documents in a safe place and creating a family communication plan so they can be prepared at home. Your employees are more than just workers in your business, and part of continuing operations means ensuring their personal safety.

Make information about winter storms accessible to your employees, especially if you are in an area where winter storms are somewhat uncommon or if you have employees who are from such areas. Have a meeting to discuss these things with your employees and help them prepare. Review various scenarios, problems and potential resolutions for both work and home.

Prepare your Business

Use this 12-point checklist to get your business winter-ready:

  1. Review your insurance policy and coverage. Some policies offer financial protection for business interruption because of severe weather. Also, make sure your policy adequately covers your business and the property it is on.
  2. Replace old doors and windows, ensuring there are no gaps or cracks where cold air can seep in.
  3. Clear your gutters of all debris.
  4. Make sure your pipes are properly insulated, even if you live in an area that does not typically get severe winter weather.
  5. Don’t leave any building unheated for any time, even if it is empty. The pipes can freeze, which has the potential to cause serious problems.
  6. Check outside for dead trees or branches that are low-hanging or weak. Wind can cause a tree or branches to fall. Ice can accumulate on branches, creating what is called a “widow maker,” which is a deadly branch that can fall suddenly when it breaks under the burden of the ice.
  7. Inspect your roof for any loose shingles for issues that could present problems during a storm.
  8. Hire a pro to inspect your heating systems.
  9. Invest in a good generator. Even if the power goes out, a generator can keep your business operational.
  10. Create a plan for ice and snow removal. Ice and snow are significant liability risks as a safety hazard. They also have the potential to cause severe structural damage and can prevent your customers from being able to get to your business if you are able to remain open.
  11. Teach your employees how to manually process credit cards and ring up customers. If you are a retail establishment, this is particularly crucial, but it can allow you to still make sales transactions even if you don’t have internet access. You will need to have a detailed inventory and make precise notes on what is sold so that the information can be entered once your business is back online.
  12. Back up your data. Many businesses purchase cloud technology to back up their data, but if you have sensitive information you should get professional assistance. You can also back up offline as well using an external drive.

See also: Riding Out the Storm: the New Models

Winter storms should be taken very seriously. Prepare your business and ensure continued operations or decrease your downtime. You don’t have to become a statistic. No business has to fail after a disaster if it is properly prepared.

5 Techniques for Managing a Disaster

Once disaster strikes, the first priorities are always safety and preservation of property, but there are priorities to consider ahead of a loss to avoid unexpected surprises. Disaster mitigation and restoration is a critical service after property damage, and how you manage it may affect the outcome of your claim. Though there are many capable firms that specialize in property damage clean-up and restoration, there are some that will make mistakes, and others may even take advantage of the situation. When it comes to recovering the cost of mitigation and restoration services for an insurance claim, any mishaps can create big problems that may leave you stuck with the bill.

See also: Are You Ready for the Next Disaster?  

Here are five techniques to prevent potential problems before they arise:

    1. Vet your emergency response team prior to loss — Preparation is the key in any endeavor, and with property damage claims you cannot be too prepared. Recovery service providers should be identified and interviewed. Make sure the company you choose will be able to handle your potential issues. Involve your insurer during vetting. There are “approved” vendors that insurance companies recommend; however, just because they are “approved” does not mean there will not problems. Notify the insurance company of who you plan to use, as well.
    2. Clarify and document scope of work — Be clear on scope of work with the recovery firm and make the adjuster part of that conversation. Often, emergency response does not follow the normal protocols of a typical project. There likely won’t be time for detailed estimates, so try to get the adjuster to approve work in real-time to avoid second guessing.
    3. Take a hands-on approach — Your property may still be underwater, but once access is granted you must be hands-on. No one should have access to your facility without the presence of a company representative. Assign a property supervisor to the affected site to keep track of who is there and what they are doing. It’s your property and your responsibility. The bigger the loss, the more people there will be coming in and going out, so it is vital to have a company representative onsite to observe and answer questions.
    4. Audit contractor charges before approving — The first weeks after a loss are chaotic. It’s important for policyholders to put controls in place to monitor activity and to verify that work has been completed to specifications and according to the terms of the agreement. Reimbursable insurance expenses should be separated and audited prior to payment for proper detail and accuracy. This needs to be done efficiently in real-time. If you don’t have the resources, this step can be completed by your claim preparation accountants, i.e. forensic accountants. Having forensic accountants on your team, along with your technical experts, can let you process this information in the context of insurance recovery. Don’t assume your forensic accountants will automatically audit invoices. Identifying errors or, worse, fraud is critical to avoid delays in payment or project completion.
    5. Address issues immediately — When the first invoice arrives, insurance companies may act surprised and even deny coverage, especially if the steps above have not been followed. Make sure to get the parties together to discuss the issues. Don’t procrastinate and don’t assume. It is important to be proactive with any potential discrepancies. The policyholder is responsible if there are unresolved differences. If the adjuster disagrees with the work performed and the invoices are paid, it may be difficult to recover all your expenses.

See also: A Real Checklist for Real Disasters  

The immediate aftermath of a disaster is stressful and hectic. Preparation and communication can help you weather the storm and minimize unwanted surprises when you’re looking for claim payment. Having an experienced and independent forensic accounting team will reduce the stress, the workload and reimbursement issues. Per the tagline for one of the largest restoration firms, in the end you want it to be “Like it never even happened.”