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Coverage Spotlight

7 Questions for Karen Caulfield on Equipment Breakdown

In this coverage spotlight, an equipment breakdown underwriter sat down with R&I to discuss the ins and outs of covered losses due to mechanical or electrical breakdown.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 3 min read

Karen Caulfield, senior underwriting manager, equipment breakdown underwriting, Liberty Mutual Insurance, with more than 30 years of equipment breakdown underwriting experience, discusses the equipment covered under this type of insurance, how this coverage came to be and how it plays a role in businesses as small as a bakery to as large as a fortune 100 manufacturer.

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R&I: What is equipment breakdown coverage?

Caulfield: Equipment breakdown (EB) covers losses stemming from damage to key equipment caused by failure of mechanical, electrical or other components due to power surges, electrical arcing, steam explosion and other events. Such losses are typically excluded by standard commercial property forms.

EB pays for repairing or replacing damaged equipment as well as the resulting business income losses.

The coverage was originally developed to protect the steam boilers that powered large factories at the turn of the 20th century. Today, however, the business-critical equipment of any size company can be covered by this insurance, such as diagnostic equipment in hospitals, air conditioning and refrigerators in restaurants, and business and communications equipment in offices.

R&I: What is covered under equipment breakdown?

Caulfield: EB policies cover the cost to repair or replace key pieces of equipment. They can also pay for other expenses related to the loss, such as lost income, extra expenses needed to continue operations while the machinery is fixed, or the lost value of spoiled or contaminated products. A policy can even cover expenses incurred when normal operations are interrupted by the failure of off-site, non-owned equipment (contingent business interruption).

Karen Caulfield, senior underwriting manager, equipment breakdown underwriting, Liberty Mutual Insurance

R&I: Why is this coverage important today?

Caulfield: EB coverage should be a key part of any company’s insurance program, because both the frequency and severity of these claims are rising.

There are three reasons for this. First, technological advances in electronics have increased the complexity of equipment. Today, most equipment contains a range of sophisticated controls and sensors, internet connectivity and advanced electronic sub-components never imagined just five years ago.

Second, this new technology often requires specialized technicians to diagnose and fix the damaged equipment, increasing both downtime and repair costs.

Third, the nation’s aging electrical grid can cause fluctuating electrical supplies and outages, which can produce electrical surges that can seriously damage equipment.

R&I: What is the difference between equipment breakdown and property coverages?

Caulfield: EB is a type of property insurance that covers specific equipment damaged by mechanical and electrical failure and other events, which are typically excluded from property policies given the specialized underwriting and risk engineering resources needed to insure against these. EB was designed to fill the gaps in property policies.

R&I: Who can benefit from such coverage?

Caulfield: Any size company in any industry should consider EB as part of its risk management program.

From an office building to a main street bakery to a fortune 100 manufacturer, every company has sophisticated equipment that is key to generating output, and hence revenue. When that equipment grinds to a halt, revenue stops and the cost of continuing operations rises, further impacting the bottom line.

EB coverage protects a company’s bottom line by providing the resources to quickly repair or replace key machinery or for temporary production facilities.

R&I: What are current market conditions?

Caulfield: The EB market is healthy. Pricing, terms & conditions and capacity are stable. Interest in the product is shifting down market from large and mid-sized companies to smaller accounts.

R&I: What should brokers, agents and buyers look for in an equipment breakdown provider?

Caulfield: Brokers, agents and buyers should understand a potential provider’s complete equipment breakdown offering.

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It all starts with underwriting. Does the insurer have the experience to help define the exposure and develop plans for managing, mitigating and effectively pricing that risk?

Risk engineering is also critical. Does the carrier have the qualified, National Board-certified engineers who can help identify hazards and production bottlenecks, improve an account’s maintenance programs, infrastructure and business continuity plans, prevent unplanned downtimes, and allow a business to quickly recover from equipment failures?

One quick and effective measure of a potential carrier’s EB expertise is that insurer’s ability to offer its EB offering to other carriers so that those insurers can meet the full insurance needs of their customers.

Autumn Heisler is the digital producer and a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

High Net Worth

Your High Net Worth Client Wants to Live in the Danger Zone? Here’s What Your Resiliency Plan Should Look Like.

Having a resiliency plan and practicing it can make all the difference in a disaster.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 7 min read

Packed with state-of-the-art electronics, priceless collections and high-end furnishings, and situated in scenic, often remote locations, the dwellings of high net worth individuals and families pose particular challenges when it comes to disaster resiliency. But help is on the way.

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Armed with loss data, innovative new programs, technological advances, and a growing army of niche service-providers aimed at addressing an astonishingly diverse set of risks, insurers are increasingly determined to not just insure against their high net worth clients’ losses, but to prevent them.

Insurers have long been proactive in risk mitigation, but increasingly, after the recent surge in wildfire and storm losses, insureds are now, too.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy,” said Laura Sherman, founding partner at Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners.

And especially in the high net worth space, preventing that loss is vastly preferable to a payout, for insurers and insureds alike.

“If insurers can preserve even one house that’s 10 or 20 or 40 million dollars … whatever they have spent in a year is money well spent. Plus they’ve saved this important asset for the client,” said Bruce Gendelman, chairman and founder Bruce Gendelman Insurance Services.

High Net Worth Vulnerabilities

Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

As the number and size of luxury homes built in vulnerable areas has increased, so has the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, including hurricanes, harsh cold and winter storms, and wildfires.

“There is a growing desire to inhabit this riskier terrain,” said Jason Metzger, SVP Risk Management, PURE group of insurance companies. “In the western states alone, a little over a million homes are highly vulnerable to wildfires because of their proximity to forests that are fuller of fuel than they have been in years past.”

Such homes are often filled with expensive artwork and collections, from fine wine to rare books to couture to automobiles, each presenting unique challenges. The homes themselves present other vulnerabilities.

“Larger, more sophisticated homes are bristling with more technology than ever,” said Stephen Poux, SVP and head of Risk Management Services and Loss Prevention for AIG’s Private Client Group.

“A lightning strike can trash every electronic in the home.”

Niche Service Providers

A variety of niche service providers are stepping forward to help.

Secure facilities provide hurricane-proof, wildfire-proof off-site storage for artwork, antiques, and all manner of collectibles for seasonal or rotating storage, as well as ahead of impending disasters.

Other companies help manage such collections — a substantial challenge anytime, but especially during a crisis.

“Knowing where it is, is a huge part of mitigating the risk,” said Eric Kahan, founder of Collector Systems, a cloud-based collection management company that allows collectors to monitor their collections during loans to museums, transit between homes, or evacuation to secure storage.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy.” — Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

Insurers also employ specialists in-house. AIG employs four art curators who advise clients on how to protect and preserve their art collections.

Perhaps the best known and most striking example of this kind of direct insurer involvement are the fire teams insurers retain or employ to monitor fires and even spray retardant or water on threatened properties.

High-Level Service for High Net Worth

All high net worth carriers have programs that leverage expertise, loss data, and relationships with vendors to help clients avoid and recover from losses, employing the highest levels of customer service to accomplish this as unobtrusively as possible.

“What allows you to do your job best is when you develop that relationship with a client, where it’s the same people that are interacting with them on every front for their risk management,” said Steve Bitterman, chief risk services officer for Vault Insurance.

Site visits are an essential first step, allowing insurers to assess risks, make recommendations to reduce them, and establish plans in the event of a disaster.

“When you’re in a catastrophic situation, it’s high stress, time is of the essence, and people forget things,” said Sherman. “Having a written plan in place is paramount to success.”

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Another important component is knowing who will execute that plan in homes that are often unoccupied.

Domestic staff may lack the knowledge or authority to protect the homeowner’s assets, and during a disaster may be distracted dealing with threats to their own homes and families. Adequate planning includes ensuring that whoever is responsible has the training and authority to execute the plan.

Evaluating New Technology

Insurers use technologies like GPS and satellite imagery to determine which homes are directly threatened by storms or wildfires. They also assess and vet technologies that can be implemented by homeowners, from impact glass to alarm and monitoring systems, to more obscure but potentially more important options.

AIG’s Poux recommends two types of vents that mitigate important, and unexpected risks.

“There’s a fantastic technology called Smart Vent, which allows water to flow in and out of the foundation,” Poux said. “… The weight of water outside a foundation can push a foundation wall in. If you equalize that water inside and out at the same level, you negate that.”

Another wildfire risk — embers getting sucked into the attic — is, according to Poux, “typically the greatest cause of the destruction of homes.” But, he said, “Special ember-resisting venting, like Brandguard Vents, can remove that exposure altogether.”

Building Smart

Many disaster resiliency technologies can be applied at any time, but often the cost is fractional if implemented during initial construction. AIG’s Smart Build is a free program for new or remodeled homes that evolved out of AIG’s construction insurance programs.

Previously available only to homes valued at $5 million and up, Smart Build recently expanded to include homes of $1 million and up. Roughly 100 homes are enrolled, with an average value of $13 million.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work.” — Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“We know what goes wrong in high net worth homes,” said Poux, citing AIG’s decades of loss data.

“We’re incenting our client and by proxy their builder, their architects and their broker, to give us a seat at the design table. … That enables us to help tweak the architectural plans in ways that are very easy to do with a pencil, as opposed to after a home is built.”

Poux cites a remote ranch property in Texas.

Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“The client was rebuilding a home but also installing new roads and grading and driveways. … The property was very far from the fire department and there wasn’t any available water on the property.”

Poux’s team was able to recommend underground water storage tanks, something that would have been prohibitively expensive after construction.

“But if the ground is open and you’ve got heavy equipment, it’s a relatively minor additional expense.”

Homes that graduate from the Smart Build program may be eligible for preferred pricing due to their added resilience, Poux said.

Recovery from Loss

A major component of disaster resiliency is still recovery from loss, and preparation is key to the prompt service expected by homeowners paying six- or seven-figure premiums.

Before Irma, PURE sent contact information for pre-assigned claim adjusters to insureds in the storm’s direct path.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work,” said Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting for Ironshore’s Private Client Group.

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“If you’ve got custom construction or imported materials in your house, you’re not going to go down the street and just find somebody that can do that kind of work, or has those materials in stock.”

In the wake of disaster, even basic services can be scarce.

“Our claims and risk management departments have to work together in advance of the storm,” said Bitterman, “to have contractors and restoration companies and tarp and board services that are going to respond to our company’s clients, that will commit resources to us.”

And while local agents’ connections can be invaluable, Goetsch sees insurers taking more of that responsibility from the agent, to at least get the claim started.

“When there is a disaster, the agency’s staff may have to deal with personal losses,” Goetsch said. &

Jon McGoran is a novelist and magazine editor based outside of Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]