Tag Archives: loss control

Virtual Reality: A Role in Insurance?

Virtual reality seems like one of those emerging technologies with limited applicability in insurance. But as I’ve tested a few VR headsets over the past few months I have come to realize there is opportunity for insurance — though you wouldn’t know it from the typical demos.

I’ve now driven a Le Mans race car (until I crashed), flown over Manhattan (until I crashed) and fired a gun in a first-person shooter game (until I was killed). In all these situations, I found that the speed and movement made me dizzy — I am not really cut out for this type of VR.

I also recently tested Google Cardboard with a series of apps.

Admittedly, Cardboard apps are entry-level VR, designed to give a person an idea of the capabilities of VR. Mercifully (for me), many of the apps I tried were much slower, allowing me to absorb, learn and be entertained. This more “normal speed” approach is what I think is likely to be the basis of business-use cases for the insurance industry. A few of the potential VR uses in the insurance industry include:

  • Adjuster Training: Today, large P&C insurers build houses and other structures solely for adjuster training. Imagine being able to create a wider variety of situations and enable adjusters to learn and experience them through VR.
  • Underwriter Education: P&C underwriters must learn a great deal about the vehicles or property they will be evaluating, and life underwriters must be educated on medical and health conditions. VR environments that show different types of roofing techniques or vehicle construction would be very useful, as would interactive 3D illustrations of the human body.
  • Injury Rehab: Treatment programs for injured workers or individuals hurt in car crashes are often complex. VR might be used to demonstrate physical therapy exercises and show how to use medical devices and assist in managing stress or depression.
  • Loss Control: Training for loss control engineers or even providing safety training for commercial clients would be possible with VR.

I understand the fast-moving, visually stunning VR environments are where the action is today (pun intended). And there will certainly be a big market for gaming and entertainment VR apps. But, in the long run, there may be many more apps for individuals and businesses (including insurance) that allow users to experience a virtual environment by moving slowly and making conscious choices about how to navigate. VR will have to take some advice from Simon and Garfunkel’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song”: “Slow down, you move too fast.” If so, insurers that implement VR really could be “feelin’ groovy.”

See also: Is Insurance Ready for Virtual Reality?  

What is your opinion about virtual reality and insurance? Take the new SMA survey on emerging technologies in insurance, where VR is addressed — along with blockchain, AI, drones, driverless vehicles, etc.

Will Fintech Disrupt Health, Home Firms?

The integration of technology in the insurance company’s value proposition is turning out to be one of the main evolutionary trends in the sector, and digital initiatives have been for a couple of years now one of the priorities of insurance groups. Until today, though, they have brought only limited improvement when it comes to the competitive abilities of the insurer.

The best practices at the international level show that, to obtain concrete benefits, the innovation has to be directed toward clearly determined strategic objectives.

An interesting example is the American company Oscar – a start-up that in less than two years has managed to raise more than $300 million at a valuation of more than $1.5 billion. It has radically innovated the customer experience of individual health insurance policies by directing the innovation effort toward two key factors that are crucial for the profitability of the medical spending reimbursement business: deductibles and “emergency” visits.

Oscar has created an insurance value proposition based on a smartphone app that incorporates a highly advanced search engine – including a search based on symptoms – allowing the insured to identify and compare the medical structures part of the preferred network. In this way, the client receives support in optimizing direct spending before reaching the deductible; this basically postpones when the insurance company starts to pay and thus reduces the amount of spending (medical reimbursements) by the insurer for the remainder of the year.

The company addresses emergency visits by providing chat with a specialist and a call-back system that the insured can choose at will from inside the network. This represents a comfortable alternative and reduces the number of urgent visits.

Health insurance and connected health

In these last months, I have been considering how to replicate the motor telematics experience for the health insurance sector. Insurance companies see the benefits from a telematics black box and how the return on investment in this type of technology can be maximized by the insurer: This is possible by taking into consideration not only the underwriting of the car insurance policy but by also looking at the services provided to the client, at loss control and at customer loyalty. In health insurance, similar benefits are achievable by using mHealth devices and wearables.

The first element is risk selection, seen in car insurance as:

  • the capacity of auto selection and dissuasion of risky behavior,
  • the integration of static variables traditionally used for pricing with a set of “telematics data” gathered within a limited time and used exclusively for supporting the underwriting phase.

The creation of a value proposition that is focused on the use of wearables and that uses “gamification” makes the product attractive to individuals who are younger and healthier – generating a self-selection effect comparable to the motor telematics experiences. Oscar, since the beginning of January, has been offering clients a pedometer connected to a mobile app. Every day, the app shows a personalized objective that, if attained, means $1 earned by the customer. Each month, the customer can receive a maximum of $20 as cash back from the company.

The second source of value generation is services. The use of telematics data represents an incredible opportunity for offering new health services and for offering a better customer experience: for example, the geolocation of medical structures and doctors who are part of the network, linked to a medical reimbursement policy.

Medibank, of Australia, has integrated in its health policy (using a smartphone app) a series of services built on informative contents and advice. The services are medical – as done by the Italian insurance fund Fondo Assistenza Benessere, using an app called Consiglio dal Medico (an Italian start-up partnering also with Uber) – as well as related to wellness. Medibank, using this package of services, produced 10% growth in the company’s top line. This Australian player has created an app for noncustomers that gives access to wellness discounts and attracts customers who can later be offered other insurance, too.

The ability to provide health services with a high perceived value (from the client’s point of view) can also allow the company to increase the efficiency of guidance inside the preferred network – this is a crucial aspect for controlling the loss ratio of a medical reimbursement product. The loss control actually represents the third area of value creation, just as it does for the auto business.

Within the health industry, it will soon be possible to generate significant economical benefits employing telemedicine to optimize spending with medical reimbursements or to link the reimbursement to the actual observance of the client’s medical prescriptions. In the medium to long term, the objective is to have behavioral and contextual data to prevent fraud and early warning systems that can spot altered health conditions and that allow preventive and timely intervention.

South African-based Discovery has successfully tried out this second approach. It reduced the loss ratio of the cluster of insured who suffer from diabetes – mainly reimbursements linked to complications because of lack of self-control. Discovery provides an instrument for measuring the blood sugar level through a connected app and rewards the insured.

Discovery’s Vitality program represents the international best practice regarding the fourth axis of value creation: behavior guidance, by using a loyalty-based system that rewards non-risky behavior. The South African company has integrated – in its very complex reward system – devices for measuring physical activity and has incorporated their usage among the “rewarded” types of behavior. Discovery’s experience in several different countries proves the effectiveness of this approach in terms of:

  • commercial appeal
  • capacity to acquire less risky clients
  • ability to gradually reduce the risk profile of the single client.

Pricing based on individual risk is the last benefit achievable with the integration of wearables and health insurance policies. Constant monitoring of the level of exposure to risk lets the insurer create tariffs based on the health state, lifestyle and context of a person. As already done in the auto telematics business, this will be a goal to be attained after some years of data gathering and systematic analysis of the historical series together with information regarding medical reimbursements.

Home insurance and connected home

Homes are another area in which, at an international level, there has been experimentation with how to integrate an insurance policy with actual sensors. There already exists a replication of the business model used more than 10 years ago in the auto insurance sector — an up-front discount between 10% and 25% of the insurance premium based on installation of a device at the client’s house and by the payment of a fee for services or a lease for the technology. This approach, which has been adopted in the U.S. by State Farm, Liberty Mutual and USAA and in Italy by IntesaSanpaolo Assicura, BNP Paribas Cardif, Groupama e Poste, is based on two of the five levers of value creation: first, loss control – focused on flooding, fire and theft – and second, value-added services. American companies have even reached the point where they offer clients a wide range of services provided by selected partners (such as Nest) and tied to the home “ecosystem,” which can even include medical assistance services.

An interesting and innovative example of the use of such technology for the assessment and risk selection in home insurance is the one adopted by Suncorp with a retail touch to it, and by ACE Group, which focuses more on the insurance needs of high net worth individuals (HNWIs). Both companies have used a partnership with a start-up called Trōv – a smartphone app that allows registering and organizing the information referring to personal objects, including through photos and receipts – to evolve their underwriting approach when it comes to the risk connected to the contents of the house.

Domotics, or home automation, is growing at a high rate even in Italy and represents a material part of the revenues generated by the Internet of Things, according to data provided by the Osservatorio of the Politecnico di Milano. A horizontal domotics solution – with thermostats, smoke and water detectors, sensors present in appliances and other household items, sensors at the entrance and antitheft alarms, sensors spread within the building – would let an insurance company track the quantity and level of exposure to risk. This includes, for example, the periods and ways in which the home is used but also the state of the household and the external conditions to which it is exposed (humidity, mechanical vibrations, etc.).

The insurer could price based on individual risk, adopting pricing logic based on behavior, as already done in the motor sector. This could open up growth opportunities, such as for secondary houses used only for vacation and rarely insured. This scenario, which sees the growth of solutions built on connected objects within the home – if correctly approached by insurers by reviewing their processes to make the most of the potential offered by gathered data – can lead to important benefits in loss control: Some studies have estimated that there is the potential to cut in half the current expenses for claims.

To turn this opportunity into reality, it is essential that the insurer acquire the ability to connect its processes (through adequate interfaces) with the different connected objects. Insurers must create an open digital platform that uses the multiple sensors to be found in the home “ecosystem” – just like those used in the health sector.

The change of paradigm doesn’t only concern fundamental aspects of the technological architecture – like data gathering or standardization of data coming from heterogeneous sources – but affects the strategic choices of the business model. For insurers, it becomes a necessity to define their level of ambition for their role in the ecosystem and for their cooperation with other players to create solutions and services around an integrated set of client’s needs.

It is extremely interesting to see the journey made by American Family Insurance, which – in partnership with Microsoft – has launched a start-up accelerator focused on home automation.

Insurers have to start thinking strategically around how adapt insurance business to IoT, before some new Fintech comers do it.

This article originally appeared in the Insurance Daily n. 749 and n. 750 Editions.

Copper Theft Solution Reduces Claims For Construction Sites

Copper theft presents a significant challenge for loss control.

Unlike other property crimes where “recovery” goes a long way toward mitigating the loss, such as the recovery of a stolen car in an auto theft, the recovery of the stolen copper seldom impacts the size of the claim.

Copper theft is different because the damage done to a building stealing a few hundred dollars' worth of copper can cost insurers tens of thousands of dollars to repair. The typical copper theft claim involves the damage done ripping wires and plumbing out of walls or the coils from a rooftop HVAC system. In vacant buildings, thieves target water lines and sprinkler systems as well as the electrical wiring. Once a vacant property has been hit, thousands of dollars must be spent to bring it back up to code before it can be occupied. It is this “collateral damage” that makes copper theft claims so expensive to an insurance company.

The key to reducing copper theft claims is prompt police response. The faster law enforcement arrives, the less time thieves have to damage the property. Faster police response is what wireless video alarms deliver and why they are a valuable tool for loss control against copper theft.

Copper theft has impacted insurance companies across North America, becoming a mainstream problem covered by television news. The following reports from television news underscore much of what this article is attempting to communicate — a new paradigm to mitigate risk and reduce claims impacting the real world from Virginia to Arizona.

Construction crime is a close cousin to copper theft and has been a black hole for risk management with few affordable solutions. The nature of construction risk is temporary and this means that wired surveillance cameras and alarm systems are simply too expensive and cumbersome to install to make them cost-effective.

The technology challenges are significant: in addition to limited budgets there is often no power, no phone lines, and no easy access to internet. Policy holders do not want to spend large amounts of money for temporary infrastructure that has no value after the job is done. For construction, human guarding is the most obvious approach, but it is beyond the budgets of many job sites. With guarding cost prohibitive, from a loss control perspective there have been very few affordable options for mainstream policy holders to protect their projects. Construction remains a problem child for many insurers who are forced to raise deductibles and implement exclusions to make construction profitable.

The following newscast from Buffalo, New York describes the challenges of securing a construction site and successes found with wireless video alarm systems.

While human guards have become too expensive and unreliable for many sites, technology is improving and loss control has a new tool to secure construction sites. Portable wireless video alarms give loss control professionals an affordable tool to deliver police response to a job site before the damage occurs. These new wireless camera/detectors (called MotionViewers) sense an intruder and send a short video clip of the incident over the cell network to a central monitoring station for immediate review and police dispatch and priority police response.

The immediate review/response with a monitored video alarm has proven more effective than human guards as the sensor/cameras are installed in multiple points across the job site to detect and report any activity. The crucial factor in reducing claims for copper theft is immediate police response, and video verified alarms make all the difference — the monitoring central station operator is a virtual eyewitness to the crime.

Police treat a video verified alarm as a crime-in-progress — they respond faster and they make arrests. Case studies on video verified alarms have arrest rates of over 50%. One construction site in Arizona had 40 arrests over four months on a single site. Arrests make a difference because one arrest prevents an additional 30 crimes — copper theft is typically done by habitual thieves who target construction sites or vacant property.

To be affordable and effective, the camera/sensors must be easy to install, without the cost of trenching cables and running wires. Power is a challenge as many construction sites have only temporary power provided by generators during working hours. Many vacant building have no power at all.

The wireless Videofied alarm systems need no infrastructure to secure a site. They operate for months or even years on batteries, communicating over the cell network to the central station. These portable MotionViewers are more effective than fixed cameras because they can be moved to protect the assets on a job site as the project evolves. Portability is important because construction theft is often an inside job by a subcontractor familiar with the delivery and location of expensive materials or assets — and they know the locations of fixed cameras and how to avoid them. In contrast, magnetic mounts on the wireless MotionViewers enable the job supervisor to move the cameras, placing them on steel studs and tool cribs at the end of the day to protect what is most at risk.

Wireless video verified alarms for outdoor applications mean that loss control professionals have an effective tool to fight copper theft that is affordable enough for implementation by their policy holders. For more information visit www.videofied.com.

Resurrecting "Modern" Loss Control from the Past

Once upon a time, alarms detected burglars, officers responded and police made arrests. Underwriters depended on “loss control with a badge.”

In fact, underwriters created the security industry in the early 1900s when they wired a problem Boston bank that then alerted the nearby telegraph office of a burglary. Police arrested the burglars and prevented a large claim.

Underwriters built upon this success and pushed policy holders to install burglar alarms because they worked — police made arrests and lowered claims. The alarm/police response concept worked so well that underwriters soon mandated that all high-value policy holders such as banks and jewelry stores install UL certified intrusion alarms before issuing a policy. They also created alarm discounts in their policy contracts to encourage their other commercial and residential policy holders to install burglar alarms.

This historic police/alarm/insurance model boosted profits through the 1970s, but the partnership lost its value, deteriorated and died. Before we resurrect this partnership and reconsider the “alarm discount,” we need to understand what happened.

Background
What caused “loss control with a badge” to fade?

From the underwriter’s perspective, the unprecedented bull market of the 1980s meant that profitability shifted away from loss control to a focus on collecting premium and driving investment-income. At the same time from the alarm perspective, the digital phone dialer appeared and opened a new mass market for inexpensive burglar alarms. The installed base of traditional alarm systems exploded into the tens of millions, creating a tsunami of false alarms for law enforcement that eroded value. With a staggering false alarm rate of over 98%, police now considered traditional alarms a waste of resources and response decayed. Officers no longer made arrests as alarm companies focused on selling “deterrence” instead of apprehensions. From the police perspective, they simply no longer cared.

The situation degraded to the point that major cities like Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and Milwaukee stopped responding to traditional burglar alarms altogether. This trend towards declining alarm response continues to be an issue. The police/alarm/insurance partnership had atrophied and neither the police nor underwriters saw value in traditional burglar alarms.

The Problem
Before we consider the solution, let's look at how traditional alarms are viewed by police. When hit with budget cuts, Detroit Police joined the growing trend and decided to end response to traditional alarms because there simply weren't enough officers to go around anymore. Traditional alarms no longer delivered.

On August 16, 2011 in a Detroit Free Press feature article, Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. declared that any triggered alarm will require a verified response before dispatch sends a cruiser to the location. Godbee cited a US Department of Justice report supporting verified response as a reliable practice towards eliminating waste and improving public service. Abandoning traditional alarms, Chief Godbee sees video verified alarms as the solution to more effective policing — using video to verify that the alarm is an actual crime. Detroit Police Commander Todd Bettison stated, “Our main goal is to respond to crime, and if we can utilize modern technology, then so much the better. We feel very passionate about this. We've been looking at this for a long time and from what we've observed this is definitely the way to go.”

One program developed by the security industry to address this “false alarm problem” was to transform false alarms into a municipal revenue stream — creating city ordinances mandating false alarm fines and permits for burglar alarms.

While filling the city's coffers with false alarm fines may placate city councils, this approach does very little to increase arrests and address the need for effective loss control. In any case, in many jurisdictions this program is simply overwhelmed by draconian budget cuts that are decimating the ranks of law enforcement.

The recent Department of Justice publication, “The Impact of the Economic Downturn on American Police Agencies” stated that at least 10,000 officers had been laid off in 2011. In the last two years, the San Jose Police Department has reduced its officers by 20% — forcing them to reconsider alarm response.

In a memorandum sent to the City Council's public safety committee in December 2011, police Chief Chris Moore wrote that, “the primary purpose of police is to respond to reported crimes, preventive patrols and community policing, and the practice of responding to all audible alarms does not accomplish any of those goals.” Chief Moore further underscored just how ineffective traditional alarms were at delivering apprehensions: “In 2011 San Jose had 12,450 alarm calls and of those there were only 2 arrests.”

These statistics are not unique. According to the Las Cruces Sun-Times, Las Cruces, New Mexico is moving towards verified response after reviewing that in 2011 a total of 12,970 alarm runs resulted in only 2 burglars being arrested. In light of such statistics, San Jose, California went forward and implemented a verified response policy on January 1, 2011. City leaders say the new policy will allow police to focus on high priority calls and perhaps even reduce those response times.

This is the real benefit of verified response to underwriters — policy holders who use video verified alarms actually get faster response for more arrests. Police attention is focused on crimes-in-progress instead of on false alarms.

Most underwriters are not aware that police don't respond to traditional alarms in many areas of the country. Politicians avoid public outcry, and degraded alarm response policies are often presented in “politically friendly” code but the result is the same — no police response and higher claims.

“Broadcast and file” is one example of a “friendly” sounding non-response policy that is popular in Colorado and the West. For many large Colorado cities like Denver, a “broadcast and file” policy means that alarms are simply broadcast over the radio and an officer responds if he feels like it, and has nothing else to do. It is “voluntary response.”

The majority of the time this means no response at all. In contrast, video verified alarms still receive mandatory dispatch in “broadcast and file” jurisdictions and deliver real value and arrests. Many police departments have simply relegated traditional alarm response to such a low priority that the response time is measured in hours not minutes.

Underwriters have not been totally ignorant of this trend towards degraded response. Large companies like State Farm and Allstate have already eliminated the “alarm deduction” in Florida and underwriters are moving to remove it from their contracts nationwide because they can no longer afford what has become a “marketing device” that has no impact on reducing claims.

The Solution
The alarm industry and law enforcement have a solution — new technology and updated policies. Video verified burglar alarms have resurrected the police/alarm response model. Police are making arrests again and changing the paradigm. The June 2012 cover story of SDM Magazine, “Does All of This Stop Crime?”, cited examples of amazing arrest rates using video alarms. Universal monitoring, an alarm company in Charlotte, achieved over 60% arrest rates on their monitored video alarms in a one year period. F.E. Moran, an alarm company in Illinois, delivered 129 arrests for 136 incidents using video alarms protecting commercial property — over a 95% arrest rate!

The March 2012 issue of IACP (International Association of Police Chiefs) Police Chief Magazine documents a case study of this new approach at Detroit Public Schools in an article entitled, “Arresting Results: How One District Achieved a 70 Percent Closure Rate with Video Alarms.” Detroit Public Schools installed video intrusion alarms in 30 vacant schools that were targets of vandalism and copper theft. During the 2010/2011 school year, there were 101 burglaries in these facilities. According to the report, the police closed 70 incidents with arrests of 123 people — a 70% arrest rate.

From an underwriter's point of view the results change the game — a few thousand dollars for video alarms saved millions in damage for Detroit Public Schools. In fact, Detroit officer John Greene made over 150 arrests using video intrusion alarms and was named officer of the year in Police K-9 Magazine.

These results are not unique — video intrusion alarms are delivering arrests across the country, saving insurers millions.

In February 2012, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, speaking of their new Priority Response program, announced initial arrest rates of 19% for video intrusion alarms. In contrast, the 2011 burglary arrest rates (without alarms) in Dallas and Minneapolis were 5.2% and 7.3% respectively. Even more worrisome, a study by the San Bernardino Police and Sheriff in 2007 reported an arrest rate of 0.08% for traditional alarms. For San Jose it was less than 2 arrests for every 10,000 alarm runs in 2011.

It is ironic that insurance companies continue to offer costly “alarm discounts” in cities that no longer respond to alarms that no longer deliver arrests.

An underwriter knows that putting one burglar in jail prevents an additional 30-50 burglaries they would have committed on the street (as well as eliminating the cost of the entire claims process incurred by the company). A single site in Chandler, Arizona protected with video intrusion alarms resulted in over 40 arrests in 4 months according to an article in Modern Contractor Magazine.

While response to traditional alarms is decaying, video verified alarms are transforming security and providing new value to law enforcement and underwriters. Alarm monitoring companies are even sending video clips of the intruders to police cell phones, making them even more effective. This is making a dramatic difference in combatting property crime, a paradigm shift for police and sheriffs. Video alarm technology and Priority Response has created an inflection point in an insurance market demanding the return to modern loss control.

It is also a new world for law enforcement. Both police and sheriffs embrace solutions that deliver arrests and make them more effective. Law enforcement sees video intrusion alarms as a fundamental paradigm shift and they want to encourage them, so much so that they are directing the 911 dispatch centers to create special dispatch codes that designate video alarms for high-priority response. In essence, the 911 operators treat video verified alarms as a crime-in-progress, not just an alarm.

Priority Response to video alarms means that the historical police/alarm concept has value for underwriters and works again protecting property and reducing losses. Police respond to video alarms and make arrests that reduce claims. Law enforcement is being proactive, encouraging their citizens to help them protect their property. Chief Steve Dye, of Grand Prairie, Texas recently announced a Priority Response policy on a televised newscast and sent flyers in the water bills of Grand Prairie property owners encouraging them to upgrade to video alarms. Sheriff Larry Amerson of Calhoun County wrote a letter to his constituents, “We believe that video alarms offer enhanced protection to you and help us in our efforts to keep Calhoun County citizens safe and protect their property.”

Law enforcement is making arrests again, and it matters. The National Sheriffs Association even officially endorsed the video alarm manufacturer, Videofied, the first endorsement of a burglary alarm by national law enforcement — because they deliver more arrests.

It is a new world for underwriters. Loss control matters again. It's a world that is ripe for the rebirth of the police/alarm/insurance partnership. Underwriters need loss control — the stock market crash and economic downturn have radically impacted the insurance business model and profitability. Pat Speer, editor of Insurance Networking News, spoke of alarm systems in her January 2012 column, “Is Loss Control a Lost Art?” She concludes her article with, “Given the cost dynamics of the industry's long history of successful loss control initiatives, holding clients contractually accountable for known risk management prevention efforts is just logical. Isn't it?”

Underwriters are again forced to price policies that depend upon loss control for profitability. To strengthen the point, the downturn has created new crime categories, such as copper theft, that leave insurers with expensive property claims 20 to 30 times greater than the scrap value of the stolen copper — recovery is impossible when stealing $1,800 of copper creates a loss of $85,000 for broken plumbing, wiring and HVAC. CBS News recently reported on copper theft at a dental office in Sacramento where thieves caused over $10,000 in damage for $200 of copper.All this pressure on profitability comes at a time when the premium base is actually shrinking. With the proverbial financial gun to their heads, underwriters are looking to resurrect “loss control with a badge.”

Reconsidering The Alarm Discount
Underwriters are becoming educated. Experience has taught them that video surveillance is not loss control. Most surveillance is NOT monitored in real time. It is true that high definition CCTV surveillance cameras and a video recorder can document a theft in high resolution for later review by the business owner. This may be interesting for a television audience, but for the underwriter the crime has already happened, the building is damaged and the crook is long gone with the loot.

Movie-quality video without real time monitoring and immediate police response is a solution, but for other problems. Video quality is not the key issue — once the monitoring operator can tell that there is an actual crime and sends the police — that is enough. There are hundreds of video clips of arrests on YouTube taken outdoors and in difficult low-light conditions that prove the point.

“Adequate video quality” means affordability and the good news is that video intrusion alarms themselves are now the price of a traditional system and much less expensive than a high definition surveillance system. Police don't need Hollywood quality to make arrests — what they need is instant notification of a crime-in-progress.

Underwriters know they must answer the question, “How can we encourage policy holders to use video alarms and police response to reduce losses?”

One simple approach is to review the existing alarm discounts and limit them to video intrusion alarms that deliver Priority Response. Practically speaking this means working with an alarm company as a partner that provides video verification services. Effective loss control means that video clips of the burglary are sent to a monitoring station where they are immediately reviewed and dispatched as crime-in-progress.

A longer term approach being coordinated by the PPVAR (Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response) is to bring the insurers, law enforcement and security companies together to begin to develop guidelines and standards that could be used by underwriters for specific markets and applications. The board of the PPVAR is composed of representatives from the Police, Sheriffs, the National Insurance Crime Bureau, and the Alarm Industry. This security/insurer/law enforcement working group will analyze loss data for specific applications, such as construction, and create guidelines for minimum requirements needed to actually bring the police and stop the losses — an updated reincarnation of certificated alarm systems.

In any case, the alarm industry and the PPVAR are reaching out to insurance industry associations including the CPCU (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters), the NICB (National Insurance Crime Bureau), ISO (insurance Services Corporation), PIAA (Professional Insurance Agents Association), and others to educate them and solicit their support as we attempt to resurrect the partnership that worked so well in the past — security companies installed alarms, police made arrests, and insurers reduced loss.

Additional Resources
For more information on the PPVAR: www.priorityresponse.info
CPCU webcast training is available at www.cpcusociety.org/page/184331/
NICB 6 minute video overview: www.ijmag.com/LossControl

Take The Construction Jobsite Crime Quiz

Cost Retention and Safety Enhancement: Protecting Your Assets

While construction activities are fluctuating due to the current economic situation, general, heavy/highway and specialty contractors continue to face increasing consumer and regulatory demands and requirements to provide a safe, healthy and secure work environment for their employees.

However, the consequences of theft and lack of security in the workplace are not always understood. Several states have contractor-based trade associations who partner with law enforcement, e.g. the Construction Industry Crime Prevention Program (CICP), which monitors, participates and assists contractors in protecting your assets.

To test your knowledge, Take the Crime Quiz

True or False:

1. Substance abuse is an important factor contributing to crime.
Unfortunately, True. The Construction Industry Crime Prevention Program has been notified that some construction firms have relaxed their hiring standards, including substance abuse polices, because of the severe labor shortage. Employee theft accounts for around 85% of a firm’s theft problem. One employee with a substance abuse problem can be a firm’s entire theft problem in addition to creating a safety problem on the jobsite.

2. Attitude has nothing to do with theft on a jobsite.
False. Rationalization and opportunity are two of the leading factors in employee theft. The common rationalization from some employees is “The contractor leaves all these tools, generators and equipment unprotected, because they are so rich. Obviously they don’t care. Besides, I need a drill at home.” Congratulations, you have just had a theft.

Most construction firms provide the opportunity for theft if there is poor or no inventory control at a jobsite, lack of inventory accountability, no one is watching payroll checks, or the firm is willingly handing out replacement tools and materials.

3. So long as employees are working and getting paid, the job is getting done.
True. However, job quality and efficiency can be compromised. Thefts and vandalism can rise in direct relationship to how employees are treated. It is always wise to review your layoff and termination procedures and see that they are carefully and calmly carried out.

Terminations alone account for some of the worst vandalism cases identified by the Construction Industry Crime Prevention Program. The Construction Industry Crime Prevention Program historically had taken a close look at these cases and in each one, the employee was terminated in front of his peers by an angry site manager. While one can sympathize with the site manager’s frustration — so often justified — but it can cost him/her dearly in the long run.

All jobsites should be made extra secure, locks changed, and an obvious tightening of security implemented following a difficult termination or layoff.

4. Using Tailgate Safety Meetings to discuss crime incident is detrimental and takes away from production on the jobsite.
False. Many contractors have controlled thefts by using a safety meeting as the basis for discussion. Routine and/or regular discussion of vandalism and theft can control the issue and raise awareness among the employees.

Ask for employee input. Treat the person with the best crime prevention tip of the month with a gift certificate. The majority of employees are honest, but they often perceive the company’s attitude as “not caring” because it is never discussed.

5. Posting signage to deter theft or a reward poster is beneficial.
True. Many crimes and theft have been uncovered because of postings and utilizing safety meetings to discuss items such as these. If you belong to a Construction Industry Crime Prevention Program, pass out reward fliers. Ask anyone with information to call the CICP hotline and remind them they can remain anonymous. State that losses are going to be investigated, and make a point of assigning someone the responsibility of securing the jobsite. Be obvious about looking through debris piles and control debris. A clean jobsite presents a concerned, careful attitude that will also send strangers on down the road to look for easier pickings.

6. Crime problems are not an issue in construction.
False. If you don’t think you have a crime problem, it probably isn’t being tracked. Check with your Safety representative, Risk Manager, Insurance loss control representative or claims adjuster to verify just how much this exposure is causing a problem.

Your safety rep, insurance representative, risk manager, law enforcement and the Construction Industry Crime Prevention Program can share with you various ways in which to lower your loss exposure as well as retain efficiency, productivity and replacement costs.

7. The majority of jobsites are cased during the day, especially for equipment.
True. Crime statistics reveal the job is cased throughout the day, especially for items which return a high dollar value on the black market.

All strangers should be challenged, and all visitors should be required to sign in at the job trailer or with the site manager and the rule must be enforced. Contact your CICP organization for appropriate signage to reduce your liabilities after hours. Signage, as offered by the Construction Industry Crime Prevention Program, offers a round-the-clock emergency crime hotline that is visible and well known to law enforcement and the public. This is a good deterrent.

8. Crime is preventable.
True. Keep padlocks closed at all times. Use only case-hardened padlocks and if you must use chain, it should be case-hardened as well. Check to see that padlocks are closed in recessed covers on bins.

With increasing insurance premiums, contractors cannot afford to ignore the long range implications of crime if they want to improve their bottom line and reduce their liabilities.

9. A suspect, including strangers, often returns to the scene of the crime.
True. They want to gauge the reaction on the jobsite. As Andy Warhol says, everybody has 15 minutes of fame. For contractors, indifference, no “tightening up,” and/or a business-as-usual attitude only escalates the suspect’s confidence and your theft problem.

Unfortunately, the repeated crimes of contractors’ job trailers or tool bins being broken into is an indication of a repeat offender. Besides, they get needed tools every time.

In 2001, California Youth Authority inmates informed the Construction Industry Crime Prevention Program of Northern California that they often vandalized a site and returned early in the morning to watch the site manager “yell and cuss,” knowing there would be little or no follow up. This reactive approach to theft gave the offenders the confidence to start up equipment, move it around, and cause more damage.

Proactive approaches to deter crime, theft and vandalism includes handing out reward fliers, addressing crime issues at tailgate meetings, tightening up on inventory control, and security. Motion sensor lights hooked up to alarms are also effective, especially when wired to come on in unexpected areas.

10. Crimes, vandalism and thefts are part of doing business, and insurance covers the losses.
False. Case studies revealed one contractor had sustained a $400,000 judgment. A juvenile raced his motorcycle all over their jobsite, causing major damage. He crashed the bike, resulting in him becoming a paraplegic. The judge ruled they did have “No Trespassing” signs, but they did not have enough!

Three 4- and 5-year-old children started up a backhoe in Berkeley. It took five patrol cars to get them stopped as they crashed into street barricades and generally caused havoc and panic for the residents.

The company was very fortunate: they were not sued by the neighbors, nor by the children’s parents for leaving the backhoe with the keys in it outside the locked gate. In addition, the news media did not “showcase” the contractor on the six o’clock news for endangering children who live in a low-income neighborhood. Fortunately, the only injuries sustained were to the equipment.

A contractor’s risk manager went pale when the Construction Industry Crime Prevention Program informed him that a drug addict, according to his statement, “needed a ride home” and drove one of their backhoes five miles over county roads, parking it near his house.

The possibilities of a tragedy in these scenarios is very real. Negative publicity, impact to public relations, associated costs and headaches do not need to be outlined for any risk manager, superintendent or owner. Even though the examples listed above are not your employees, the exposure and risk is out there. The bottom line is that the company loses money, injuries occur, and the liability is great, unless you take strong preventive measures to minimize this.

11. If your tools and equipment cannot be positively identified, in most cases the thief is the winner.
True. Mark all tools and equipment with the driver’s license number of a principal operating owner in a firm or clear company identification. Employees should be required to do the same. Take inventory. If your site managers can’t tell law enforcement or your insurance company what is missing following a theft and/or provide serial numbers, the thief is the winner. However, take caution, blue spray paint and somebody’s initials on a bunch of hand tools does not qualify as “positive identification.”

Tally your Score
So, how did you score in protecting your assets? Hopefully, 100%. Yet, if not, there are resources to help you. Contact your trade association, your state/regional Construction Industry Crime Prevention Program, and your loss control representative. These organizations can assist you in physical site surveys, law enforcement liaison and recovery of your assets. Be smart and get involved in cost retention and safety enhancement.