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BURNED TO THE GROUND - PDF

VIEWS: 11 PAGES: 8

Shortly after 4 AM on Saturday, Dec 6, 2008, the author was jarred out of bed by a phone call. It was Wendy Fransen, the CFO of Benchmark Foam, an agency client. Her first words were "the plant has burned to the ground." An anonymous caller had reported the fire to 911 at 2:15 AM. The plant had not run a third shift that night, so the facility was empty. That meant that no one was injured or killed. However, had there been a shift working that night, early detection might have controlled the fire. It was his responsibility to reassure everyone that they would put the insurance plan to work and support their recovery effort. He outlined the post-emergency issues that they would be facing in the coming weeks. Because of ongoing investigations by insurance companies, the site would remain secured for six weeks -- far longer than he anticipated. This is an issue that is overlooked when estimating recovery time for Business Income purposes.

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									076-081:076-081   7/16/10    12:10 PM     Page 76




                  BURNED TO THE GROUND
                                  A agent’s story of a client’s recovery—Part 1


        By Jeff Pray, CPCU, RPLU,
        AFSB, CIC                                   Bonnie Merz, one of our agency’s claims   found Tom Devine on the service road.
                                                    specialists. She, in turn, called two     He climbed into my truck.




        S
                                                    adjusters at Cincinnati Insurance             “I bet I ruined a good pheasant
                 hortly after 4 a.m. on             Company, the carrier on the account.      hunt for you today,” were Tom’s first
                 Saturday, December 6, 2008,        Before 9 a.m., one of those adjusters     words. Talk about cutting through
                 I was jarred out of bed by a       was enroute to Watertown and had          the tension of a difficult moment. By
                 phone call. If you have a son      assembled a team that included a sub-     that time, the plant was completely
        or daughter away at college, you know       rogation attorney out of Chicago, a       destroyed. The large flames on the
        the thoughts that race through your         Cause & Origin expert from Missouri,      west end of the plant were fueled by
        mind as your reach for the phone.           and a local independent adjusting firm,    a stockpile of polystyrene inventory, an
        Thankfully, it wasn’t the kids. It was      Dakota Claims. The adjusting team was     insulating material that is Benchmark’s
        Wendy Fransen, the CFO of                   on the scene Saturday and Sunday.         main product. There was no stopping
        Benchmark Foam, an agency client.               My next call was to the president     that fire; the firefighters could only
        Her first words were, “Jeff, the plant       of Benchmark, Tom Devine, who             let it burn itself out.
        has burned to the ground.”                  would meet me on the service road             An anonymous caller had reported
            Within 30 minutes I was driving         north of the plant.                       the fire to 911 at 2:15 a.m. The plant
        to Benchmark’s headquarters in                  It was still a very dark, very cold   had not run a third shift that night,
        Watertown, South Dakota, 100 miles          morning as the lights of Watertown        so the facility was empty. That meant
        away from our agency in Sioux Falls.        began to brighten the horizon. I was      that no one was injured or killed.
        It was the beginning of a yearlong          probably three miles south of town        However, had there been a shift
        journey with the people of                  when I could first see the long, thick     working that night, early detection
        Benchmark. Despite my 26 years in           black trail of smoke that somehow         might have controlled the fire.
        the commercial insurance business           stood out against the dark morning
        and all the insurance designations I        sky, winding southward with a strong
        had earned, when the phone rang             north wind behind it. As I slowed to
                                                                                              Nearby businesses
        that morning, I felt ill-prepared.          exit off the interstate, the red glow         As we sat together, briefly
            What did we do before the age of cell   from the fire lit the sky only a few       reviewing the information I brought
        phones, e-mail, and the Blackberry®?        hundred yards away. After clearing the    for Tom and Wendy, we watched the
        On the way to Watertown, I called           checkpoint with emergency officials, I     heavy black smoke billowing to the

        76                                                                                                           ROUGH NOTES
076-081:076-081                                                7/16/10    12:10 PM     Page 77




      Photo Courtesy of Watertown Fire Department




                                                    Firefighters protect Benchmark Foam’s only surviving structure,     Next door at Mallard Pointe Surgical Center, smoke damage
                                                    a storage building.                                                 was extensive.


                                                                                                                                            jobs. Many of the workers would be
                                                    south, engulfing the Mallard Pointe            Benchmark would have a supply solu-       enlisted to provide security at the fire
                                                    Surgical Center next door. This smoke         tion in place to preserve this critical   site, and some would become
                                                    damage would shut down and                    business relationship. By 8 a.m. the      carpenters to set up temporary offices
                                                    interrupt those operations for several        doors of Enercept 
								
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