Weathering the Storm: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety
Wednesdays with Woodward webinar
December 2, 2020
For 10 years, researchers at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) have been studying natural disasters, testing different building materials and identifying ways to mitigate damage from severe weather events. In this episode of the Wednesdays with Woodward webinar series, we celebrated a decade of IBHS research with Roy Wright, IBHS President and CEO; Debra T. Ballen, IBHS General Counsel and Chief Risk Officer; and Eric M. Nelson, Travelers’ Senior Vice President of Enterprise Catastrophe Risk Management and IBHS Chairman of the Board.
Protecting Homeowners, Businesses and Communities
IBHS seeks to prevent loss of property, jobs and life by conducting research on the risks of severe weather events, including wildfire, hail and extreme wind. The IBHS Research Center, a state-of-the-art facility located south of Charlotte, North Carolina, allows researchers to build full-size homes and buildings in a lab environment and then subject them to harsh weather conditions. Based on this research, IBHS provides strategies for homeowners and businesses to safeguard their properties, mitigate risk, and build and maintain better structures. Notably, IBHS shares its findings with insurance carriers to help customers reduce losses – and with policymakers to help inform building codes.
Nelson described the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as a wake-up call for public policymakers, the insurance industry and consumer groups. He explained that Travelers’ leadership “was passionate about being a part of the dialogue to develop a solution” to mitigation issues and thus joined IBHS as a member company.
Getting information to consumers about the availability and affordability of mitigation efforts is important. Nelson explained that by adding 5% to 10% in building and labor costs, you can strengthen a home against certain natural perils.
Speakers highlighted specific learnings from IBHS research, recommending that homeowners:
- Review IBHS shingle performance ratings for their roofs.
- Install garage door braces, hurricane-proof windows and storm shutters if they reside in hurricane-prone areas.
- Maintain a “defensible zone” around their home by clearing away brush and debris to protect against wildfire.
Learn more about IBHS’s recommendations for homeowners on Disastersafety.org.
Preparing for Natural Disasters in a Pandemic
According to Wright, severe weather responses have fundamentally changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. To reduce the number of people congregating in shelters and thus limit the spread of the virus, evacuation orders have been less extensive. This makes retrofitting your home even more important. Wright suggested that homeowners should attempt to make their homes more durable and weather-resistant, and thus more suitable as places of refuge during severe weather. Wright also noted that the most important protection for your home is the roof. Likewise, Ballen reminded attendees that when a business’s employees are working remotely, vacant buildings are still in need of severe weather protection.
Protecting Your Family
Ballen underscored the importance of “sunny-day maintenance” – preemptive measures taken in the off-season to prepare for severe weather. Even when forecasts aren’t cause for immediate concern, it is important for families to adopt a multi-tiered plan encompassing every weather-related contingency. She advised homeowners to locate a safe place where their families can go during an evacuation order. Homeowners must also keep in mind that the trajectory and magnitude of storms can shift very quickly; a Category 1 storm can morph into a Category 3 hurricane in a matter of hours, Ballen explained. Sunny-day maintenance makes unforeseen emergencies more manageable and often results in better safety outcomes.
Presented by the Travelers Institute, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety and the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.
Joan Woodward, President, Travelers Institute; Executive Vice President, Public Policy; Travelers
Debra T. Ballen, General Counsel & Chief Risk Officer, Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety
Eric M. Nelson, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Catastrophe Risk Management, Travelers
Roy Wright, President and CEO, Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety