Atlantic Hurricane Season starts June 1 each year, but it’s never too late to make sure your properties’ COPE data is complete and up-to-date. When used in conjunction with a catastrophe modeling tool like AIR or RMS, thorough COPE data can help ensure you have the right coverage whenever a risk event pays you a visit.
As we’ve discussed before, Catastrophe Modeling (also called “cat modeling”) helps insurers, reinsurers and other groups evaluate and manage catastrophe risk. These include manmade perils like terrorism and pandemics, but also natural events like earthquakes and hurricanes.
When you’re talking about the data that insurers and reinsurers need in the case of a hurricane risk event, this mainly concerns the “E” in secondary COPE data. In Risk Management, COPE is an acronym for “Construction Occupancy Protection and Exposure.” COPE data comes in two categories: primary and secondary COPE data. Primary COPE data details a property’s square footage, its construction materials, any fire protection, and its location. Secondary COPE data drills down within those categories, detailing building structure and how it might behave under adverse weather conditions.
So if you’re in an area where hurricanes are prevalent, having accurate Exposure details can become a priority. Note that wind and flood insurance are separate policies from standard property insurance. These insurance rates are partially based on how well your property can withstand powerful inland winds and storm surges, as well as factors like your geography, the area’s weather history and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) information. And that involves collecting data related to the features of your property that protect against — and can be affected by — high winds and flooding.
Secondary COPE Data Related to Wind
When it comes to the wind exposure associated with hurricanes and convective storms, there is a wide array of secondary COPE details that can be important to track for your Property Statement of Values. They include but are not limited to:
- Wind Resistance of Windows: Windows with poor wind resistance are less likely to withstand powerful winds and flying debris, their damage potentially resulting in additional damage to building interiors from both wind impact and precipitation.
- Sheltered or Unsheltered Windows: Whether or not a window is sheltered can be another factor of note, particularly in high wind conditions where airborne objects can easily become missiles.
- Roof Framing: The type of framing material used for the roof can affect the roof’s ability to remain safely in place during hurricane-force winds.
- Roof Anchors: The type and effectiveness of the connections used to secure the roof support systems to the walls can affect your risk for property damage. Different types can be more effective in areas where hurricanes are prevalent.
- Roof Covering: The type of materials used to cover a roof – for instance, clay tiles versus standard shingles — can affect the severity of damage to a building during a hurricane.
- Roof Geometry: The shape of a roof can be a factor when wind load is a concern. A high steepled roof, for example, will have more wind uplift than a flat roof.
- Roof Parapets and Chimneys: Parapets or chimneys are additions to a building structure that can be subject to damage in high winds. Knowing the number of chimneys and parapets a building has and the height in feet of each can be valuable data to keep on hand.
- Roof Age and Condition: An older roof can become brittle and might not endure the extremely high winds of a hurricane the way a newer, more flexible roof would. It’s good to know the life of the roof for each of your buildings and how well each is holding up.
- Wind Zone: Based on information from FEMA, the Wind Zone indicates the tiers of vulnerability a particular area has for natural risk events involving high winds like hurricanes or tornadoes.
- Mechanical/Electrical Equipment Bracing: The way items like generators and HVAC are braced and connected to the building exterior can have an impact on how much damage occurs to a property during high winds.
- Wind Missiles: Some items can become missiles during the high winds of a hurricane. It’s important to document these items and their distance from your property.
- Contents’ Vulnerability Due to Wind: Describes the vulnerability of damage due to wind.
- Cladding Type: Cladding is the final layer on an exterior of a building. In the case of hurricanes, it can help prevent weather damage to the frame.
- Door Resistance: How powerfully can the property’s doors resist wind and pressure? A door blown in by hurricane wind is the beginning of potential interior and structural damage.
These are just a few of the wind-related details you may wish to document, in order to help create a more accurate picture of your property for your insurance provider. Your underwriter should be able to provide you with more details to collect specific to your location and their needs.
Secondary COPE Data Related to Flooding
Analyzing and updating the COPE data related to flood protection can be a great way to align your property with best practices for your area as hurricane season approaches. With forethought and — if necessary – remediation, you can help avoid worst case scenarios and potentially secure better insurance rates in the process. The recommended best practices for flood protection can vary by location so be sure to contact your underwriter for the information they use to assess your flood risk. You can also check out the Flood Zone materials on FEMA’s website for even more information.
Important secondary COPE details regarding flooding to incorporate into your Statement of Values might include:
- Flood Zone: Based on information from FEMA, the Flood Zone indicates the tiers of vulnerability that a particular area has for natural risk events involving flooding.
- Flood Protection: This describes the compliance of the building with flood zone requirements in design and construction.
- Base Flood Elevation: In a flood zone, a building may be elevated to stand on piles or have high retaining walls to ensure the lowest floor is above the Base Flood Elevation (also called BFE). Structures in flood zones with basements or non-elevated lowest floor living space built prior to current code requirements may prompt worst case scenario insurance ratings.
- Basement: Detailing whether a structure has a basement and, if so, its level of flood protection can be an important point to include on your SOV, particularly in a hurricane-prone region.
- Contents’ Vulnerability Due to Water: Insurers may want to know just how vulnerable the contents of your property would be, if exposed to flooding.
While the items above are common COPE data points for flooding, make sure to check with your insurance underwriter for the full list of data needed for your policy and your region.
3. Some insureds are losing their insurance placements
Because securing and retaining insurance has become more competitive, not only are entities with property in high-risk zones losing their placements, insureds without current valuation data are also struggling to retain all the coverage they might need. At Centurisk, we hear from organizations regularly saying their broker warned them that if they didn’t get a new appraisal done — and swiftly — they might lose their insurance placements. It’s simply a level of risk they’re unable to take.
But valuation cost calculations have changed a lot over the past five years, too. With inflation affecting the cost of materials, and labor shortages increasing the cost of construction projects, replacement costs have grown significantly. In the US, from January 2019 to January 2021, the rate of valuation growth was between about 1% and 5%. However, starting in 2021 and continuing through 2022, the labor shortages, tariffs/trade challenges, and supply chain issues drove property valuation trends above 15%.
But because of this flux and uncertainty, many organizations haven’t adjusted their property values during this time, unsure how to compensate for all the change. And this is in an industry where property was already dangerously underinsured. A 2017 Verisk global data analytics study showed that approximately 75% of all commercial properties were uninsured. And by 2022, studies in the UK showed that more than 90% of UK properties were underinsured, securing just 68% of the coverage they truly needed.
So this is why…
It’s Not Just Bluster
Having the right COPE details on hand for your property, specific to wind and flood protection, can be a major help once hurricane season blows in. With a little forethought and a data collection plan, you can make sure your insurance coverage is complete and your ratings aren’t gone with the wind.
(For more information on primary and secondary COPE data related to risk events, check out this page.)