Risk management tips for schools facing catastrophic events like Hurricane Harvey

Risk management tips for schools facing catastrophic events like Hurricane Harvey

Risk management tips for schools facing catastrophic events like Hurricane Harvey Students in Texas and Louisiana have suffered a disastrous start to the school year. Hurricane Harvey has swept through the states leaving devastation and severe flooding in its wake.   

The University of Houston has announced it will remain closed through Labor Day (September 04) as the institution deals with “catastrophic flooding” and campus safety. A long list of state schools and state offices have also been forced to close due to the storm.

Schools must do everything they can to prepare for a Harvey situation and place huge emphasis on risk management, according to Dawn Puro, senior vice president at Ironshore.

“Schools have to put an emphasis on risk management in order to reduce the impact in the unlikely event that an incident should occur,” Puro told Insurance Business. “Schools need to have the ability to reach the entire campus community quickly, either via text, email, the website, social media or with an in-house amber alert. On top of that, they should have a method to update those individuals affected, whether it be the student body, staff, family or friends.

“They need to pre-establish which individuals will take charge in order to avoid chaos and it is vital that they have an evacuation plan to designate where people should go in the unlikely event of a natural disaster. It has to be an agreed off-site location, with pre-planned transportation, lodging, food, and a 48-hour pack of necessities for those individuals that are potentially affected.”

Puro is the product leader of Ironshore’s Campus Secure endorsement, a policy extension written by Ironshore’s Specialty Casualty Public Entity division offering institutions of higher education an automatic endorsement for expenses related to natural or man-made incidents.

However, institutions aren’t always keen to spend the extra dollar boosting their insurance coverage to protect against “unlikely events”. This is a challenge brokers need to overcome, said Puro.

“Brokers and carriers need to do a good job of educating clients about the risks they face, especially if case law begins to erode some of the immunities that public entities have enjoyed in the past,” she commented. “Another challenge insurance professionals face is dollars and cents – getting clients to understand the need to purchase more limits. Public entities tend to present to board the year prior, so it can be a challenge to get them to understand the need to buy extra coverage.”

One way to improve education and risk management is to carry out mock simulations, according to Puro.

“It’s not possible to calculate and pre-determine events but simulation takes institutions through all sorts of scenarios so that they’re better prepared in the unlikely event that a catastrophe occurs,” she said.

Related stories:
Ironshore sheds light on trials and trends of terrorism risk insurance
Lloyd’s insurers rocked by Harvey fallout