Hualien Earthquake: Four lessons learned for CAT readiness


Nigel Cook

Head of Major and Complex Loss at Sedgwick

On Wednesday 3 April 2024, a severe earthquake hit near the coast of Taiwan. Though the earthquake in Hualien was strong, the epicentre was off the coast in a more sparsely populated area, limiting the damage.

My team at Sedgwick received over 100 claims in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, with several major claims among mostly residential and small business claims.

Each CAT event is unique in its circumstances and challenges, providing fresh opportunities to learn and improve on processes we’ve mastered over many years responding to these types of events.

Following the Hualien earthquake, my team was reminded that preparation and communication are central to effective response. Here are some of my biggest takeaways that other insurance leaders can learn:

Know your resources

Different events call for different skills and experts in the field responding to damage. To truly be prepared, insurance leaders need to be ready to call upon the right people when disaster strikes. Plan resourcing needs in advance for different scenarios by identifying adjusters with specific skillsets, language skills, and travel requirements.

Have a surge plan

One of the greatest challenges for CAT events such as earthquakes is the need to respond to a sudden surge in claims volume. Knowing this, leaders should have surge plans in place to appropriately staff the intake of claims and respond to claims when a surge happens. Touch base regularly with an updated list of contractors who can wait on standby or be deployed on short notice to support the surge.

Keep client communication open to build trust

Communication is key, especially during a crisis. Maintaining strong, regular communication with clients before and throughout a CAT event improves quick assistance and builds stronger trust during the time when clients need support most. Through our suite of technology solutions, we have the capability to provide clients with real time data by offering its digital tools to insurers, brokers and policyholders. The tools are also mutually benefit to adjacent industries and provide a way for all stakeholders to review, process and organize claims data in a way that can be used to retrieve valuable insights.

Prepare in advance

By knowing clients’ business needs and forging strong relationships make CAT events run smoother for everyone involved. During an event, adjusters should keep client contact information close at hand to provide timely and regular updates on the status and development of the event. Clients should feel like their insurer is there to support them through every step of the recovery process.

Stay aligned as a team

Communication is just as essential within a team to keep disaster response running as smoothly as possible. Insurers should maintain open lines of communication internally during an event. Assign part of the team to keep abreast of the disaster’s development – whether that means tracking a storm, observing rainfall and flood reports, or monitoring for earthquake aftershocks – to facilitate understanding of the CAT response needed with the wider team. With stronger communication, the entire team can respond more nimbly and aid clients and adjusters in the field faster. Clear internal communication also helps when working with reinsurers.

It is impossible to prevent severe weather events and oftentimes very difficult to predict them. The best step insurers can take is to continuously look for ways to improve upon readiness and response strategies to catastrophic events like earthquakes.

At the heart of the response effort for my team is always remembering our role of giving care. Clients count on us to listen, to respond, to protect, and to help make things right. Leaders, as you learn from each event and improve upon readiness and response, keep human care as a priority in every action.