Earthquakes in Syria and Turkey, a marine oil spill or the reckless abandonment of wildfires are a few examples of newsworthy headlines with a variety of claims and concerns to assess the losses.
The train derailment and subsequent burning of caustic chemicals contained in shipments in East Palestine, Ohio, is another recent event with various ramifications for insurance companies and, most importantly, residents of the city.
For Michael J. Low, vice president at Crawford Global Technical Services and loss-event with years of experience in the field, the first and most important step in assessing a situation like this in Ohio is approaching a benevolent situation.
“When you’re dealing with people who have gone through this kind of event, the most important thing to have is empathy right away,” Lu said. “You have to put yourself in their shoes and understand the deep frustration and innate fear these people are experiencing right now, especially with all the variables and unknown outcomes of this derailment and caustic chemical burn.”
From an insurance standpoint, the loss adjuster must understand how the entire city will be affected, especially for landlords and businesses.
The law noted that “no one goes to restaurants, buys anything from stores, or gets gas, which puts pressure on local operations to be able to continue to provide services.”
“People will also have to re-evaluate whether to move to another city, but where will they go when their biggest assets are now worth nothing? Mortgages still have to be paid.”
While natural disasters of various intensities have become the norm in the present era, such cases in Ohio are a relative anomaly.
“We’re used to seeing naturally occurring events, whether it’s hurricanes or ice storms especially in places where they don’t happen often, as well as destroyed buildings,” Lau said. “But this tragedy in Ohio is something different and you need to be aware of the long-term effects on the city. Will people’s businesses be able to recover, will the land be considered toxic and uninhabitable?”
After observing the situation from various news outlets and first-hand accounts, Lu noted that “on the homeowner and personal allegations side, we’ve seen vehicles and homes with a lot of soot piling up.”
However, these aesthetic concerns pale in comparison to more immediate environmental impacts. Residents are tired of trusting the air they breathe and the water they’re told is safe to consume, which unfortunately isn’t an easy fix for insurance companies or health officials.
“There will likely be a lot of water and air quality testing over the next two months, and even then, we still don’t know what the long-term health risks are,” Lu said.
“I come home and I don’t feel safe. I don’t want to get sick when I go home. This is my home. This is where I live. And this is where my child will grow up,” one mother in eastern Palestine said. https://t.co/qAzRGuM21C
– ABC News (@ABC) February 27, 2023
This can lead to a significant drop in the value of property while also alienating the city’s residents from vital commercial exchanges including real estate and travel.
The schedule is not specified
Events involving environmental impacts beyond mere physical destruction generally have a more hypothetical framework about the length and arduousness of the path to resolution.
Referring to an earlier incident, Lu recalled the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in 2010 that killed 11 people and spilled hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. “It took five or six years for the region to return to normal,” he said. “It wasn’t just about the fishing, but the quality of the air and water, as well as the impacts on the surrounding businesses.”
Likewise, it will likely take some time until the full extent of any concrete ramifications on land, health, or the economy in eastern Palestine is assessed.
“Ultimately, it’s probably a combination of both private industry and government resources that will get this done as quickly as possible, so we’re not talking about this event nine months later,” Lu said.
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