(Image source: Betterview.)
Hurricane Ian made 2022 one of the costliest Atlantic Hurricane seasons on record. The storm was also the deadliest to impact Florida since the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. Ian was the second major hurricane of the season, following Fiona, which became a hurricane on Sept. 20. Only a week later, with Ian looming as a potentially much more severe event, the leadership of Betterview (San Francisco) decided to donate its CATastrophic Response System (CAT-RS) to insurers in Florida and South Carolina to help them respond immediately and allow policyholders to recover faster.
Over 30 insurers took Betterview up on its offer and were able to identify well over 600,000 properties in the Hurricane’s track, enabling them to allocate CAT response resources, proactively alert customers, and understand losses faster and with great granularity to better plan their financials and reserves. Among those companies was Coterie Insurance, a Cincinnati-based digital distributor of small business insurance.
“Betterview’s product allowed us to see aerial imagery pre-event and post-event and identify actual property damage to potentially affected customers,” comments Pete Buccola, Head of Insurance, Coterie Insurance. “It also provided indicators for our Claim team where there was predicted damage based on their ML models. So, within four business days, we now had credible data on the properties where our team needed to deploy Claim resources, as well as more credible event exposure for our reinsurers.”
When designing CAT-RS, Betterview’s goal was to deliver a product that would empower carriers to help their insureds more rapidly recover from catastrophic events, according to David Tobias, COO, Betterview. “Prior to Hurricane Ian, we did not have real world data and feedback from insurers to know how well we hit the mark,” he recalls. “We decided to donate CAT-RS to any carrier that wanted to try it because we believed that it would help them direct resources to the people who were most impacted and we would get useful feedback to continue to improve CAT-RS for future catastrophes.”
“We had been working on the product for sometime, and when we saw the potential impact of the storm, we felt it was imperative to the industry to see if we could help people—not just Betterview customers, but anyone who could benefit from using our platform free of charge,” Tobias continues. “We were in a unique position and took the opportunity to make a positive impact.”
Betterview promoted the availability of the donation through emails and public social posts. The carriers who responded to the offer were a mix of large national carriers as well as regional and local carriers that were immediately impacted in Florida and South Carolina, according to David Lyman, CEO, Betterview.
“When putting out the communications, we expected that a few companies might raise their hands, but the demand outstretched our expectations,” Lyman says. “Although we reached out to Betterview customers, most of the companies, over 30, that responded and utilized the system were non-Betterview customers.”
The insurers who accepted use of the Betterview application were able to learn whether the properties they insured were in the path of the storm and how much it impacted their policies in near real-time. As the storm progressed and when post-event imagery became available, Betterview’s systems were then able to tell the insurers which properties were damaged, and to what extent.
“Having these near real-time insights allowed insurers to stage resources more effectively, for example staging claims adjustors in the right areas,” Lyman notes. “Additionally, it allowed them to respond to check on their insureds health and safety and kick off the claims process before FNOL.”
Insurers using CAT-RS submitted nearly 700,000 properties. After geocoding, they were able to identify 663,217 in the storm’s path. Of those, 535,791 were predicted to be in high wind speed areas, and 102,109 were identified as likely exposed to both high wind and coastal storm surge areas.
While the storm was ongoing, CAT-RS analyzed 53,767 properties with pre-event imagery. The application scored 46,543 properties with the Betterview Hurricane Vulnerability Score, with about 22 percent scoring 1 or 2, signifying 3.5 times more likely to be damaged than properties with a score of 5.
Shortly after landfall, CAT-RS pulled in and analyzed 152,881 gray sky images from multiple sources, including NOAA, Nearmap or GIC, depending on carriers’ licenses with imagery providers. Analysis of the imagery identified 17,226 damaged properties in the combined portfolios of the participating insurers, using Betterview’s computer vision damage classifiers. CAT-RS found that the three counties with the largest number of damaged property were Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota, all in the state of Florida. Among the types of damage detected were:
- Exposed roof deck (1,489/8.64%)
- Roof shingles missing (13,008/75.51%)
- Structural damage (490/2.84%)
- Tarps on roof (1,461/8.48%)
Betterview reports that its Hurricane Vulnerability Score turned out to be highly predictive of damage, with properties scoring 1 found to have been damaged in much larger numbers than those with a higher score. The vendor says that, for Hurricane Ian, CAT-RS helped insurers perform their critical duty of responding proactively, rapidly and accurately to minimize policyholders’ losses and difficulties, and to help them recover more quickly. CAT-RS helped the participating insurers to cut down on waiting time for damage assessments, availability of claims adjusters or first notices of loss, thus reducing overall impact to policyholders, a Betterview statement noted in the wake of the storm.
Given the benefits of CAT-RS to insurers’ ability to respond to the exigencies of Hurricane Ian, carriers participating in the donation were overwhelmingly grateful, according to Betterview’s Tobias. “We wanted to help the industry and the people who were impacted without any agenda,” he says. “For example, Coterie Insurance is not our customer, but utilized our CAT-RS system during the storm, and later wrote a piece in P&C360 that mentioned our aid. Seeing this come full circle is great because many Betterview employees come from the industry, and as a company, we just wanted to play our small part in helping during a catastrophe.”