Three Key Strategies for Effective Damage Assessment after Major Disasters

By Brandon Wirtz | Published June 30, 2023

The unrelenting power of Hurricane Ian tore through Florida in 2022, causing massive damage to high rise condominium complexes and large-scale residential developments along the southwestern coast. This catastrophic event resulted in losses ranging between $50 billion to $65 billion, negatively impacting more than 2.5 million local residents. 

RMC Group worked alongside insurers to launch assessments, mitigation, and repair processes for numerous high-rise structures, with the potential damage exposures exceeding $750 million to these structures. The magnitude of the disaster required a comprehensive approach, involving large teams of building consultants and engineers to evaluate the affected properties exhaustively.

3 Key Tenants of the Assessment Process
Here are three fundamental strategies that emerged during the assessment process, key to handling large projects in future catastrophe claims.

1. Prioritize rapid and collaborative inspections

The first step in any post-disaster recovery is immediate and efficient inspections. Visiting the site promptly enables us to differentiate between new and pre-existing damages, which is essential to expedite the claims process and commence restoration work. 

Collaborating with property managers, who have a profound understanding of the premises, allows us to pinpoint key issues faster. They bring deep knowledge of the property’s specific characteristics and problems, making the inspection process quicker and more thorough. Teams of experts are divided strategically to carry out initial visual and physical inspections systematically and efficiently.

2. Invest in thorough planning and advanced data gathering methods

Once the key issues have been identified, it becomes crucial to shift gears, slowing down to invest significant time in detailed planning and the establishment of effective data collection methods. Crafting a solid plan coupled with a systematic data gathering approach ensures that the comprehensive assessment performed by the entire team is both time-efficient and productive.

The creation of centralized and easily accessible databases for all project consultants is a non-negotiable requirement to facilitate efficient communication and prompt follow-ups. Detailed reporting, inclusive of visual damage evidence and other pertinent data, is a must to maintain a precise and enduring record of the damage.

The utilization of modern collaborative tools proves instrumental in enabling large teams of unique individuals to collate inspection data in a consistent and comprehendible manner. These tools ensure that collected data can be stored and efficiently retrieved from a single collaborative source for team review and estimating later on.

Furthermore, the incorporation of advanced technology like 360-degree imaging provides an additional edge. This invaluable tool enables teams to capture a wealth of data far surpassing the capabilities of traditional photography, resulting in a more holistic and detailed view of the damage.

3. Encourage face-to-face interaction and establish collaborative partnerships

In the face of disaster recovery, fostering a spirit of collaboration is key to preventing potential conflicts and promoting smoother operations. Face-to-face meetings with all stakeholders – including adjusters and property managers – enable us to tackle critical issues, sort out coverage overlaps, and organize invoicing more effectively. Regular onsite meetings, as well as live property inspections, provide a first-hand perspective of the damage extent, facilitating a better understanding among the team.

Moreover, building and nurturing relationships with all parties involved in the project, from engineers to building managers and owners, can hasten the claims process and avert potential legal issues. Existing partnerships can be leveraged to anticipate needs and complement the work of on-site partners.

A Communal Effort

The devastating path left by Hurricane Ian uncovered a shared story of resilience among the victims. With more than 2.5 million Florida residents enduring the catastrophe, it wasn't just an individual hardship, but a collective trial. The unique bond forged between property managers, consultants, adjusters, engineers, and contractors in their shared experience was nothing short of extraordinary.

This sense of community transcended beyond the shared tragedy, uniting all in a concerted effort towards recovery and restoration. It was more than just a mutual undertaking; it was a symbol of shared strength and hope in the face of adversity. This camaraderie didn't just make the recovery process less overwhelming but also more efficient.

This information is intended for informational purposes only. Each restoration project has unique properties and must be evaluated individually by knowledgeable consultants. RMC Group is not liable for any loss or damage arising out of or in connection with the use of this information. 

USA Today “Ian’s deadly path: A visual look at how the hurricane devastated Florida region by region,” January 10, 2023.