FIRE & WATER—Rytech in full Catastrophe Mode

Operating coast to coast sometimes requires the management of multiple catastrophe responses. For Rytech this can involve Pacific Coast Fires and tropical Atlantic Hurricanes. Right now, Pacific states face thousands of fires while Gulf Coast states clean up from hurricanes Laura and Sally.  And the seasons of both, fires and hurricanes, are far from over.

WEST COAST—Starting in January of this year over 7,900 wildfires have burned over 3.7 million acres.  Many are still raging.  As of August 15, when California’s fire activity first surged, there have been 26 fatalities and over 6,100 structures destroyed.  Six of the state’s top 20 largest fires happened this year creating smoke plumes over 10 miles (17 kilometers) in the air, another North American record.

GULF COAST—Meanwhile Rytech’s Gulf Coast states had already taken a one-two punch when tropical storm Marco and the monster Hurricane Laura converged on the Texas-Louisiana border the same week in August. 

Then came Sally.  It was the eighteenth named storm, and seventh hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, coming ashore as a Category 2 near Gulf Shores Alabama on September 16.   

Rytech has a substantial presence in each of the Gulf Coast states, from Texas to Florida. And, while any remediation firm would be severely tested by simultaneous storms, Rytech’s 25 years of operation help it manage simultaneous catastrophic events, even when they occur on opposite coasts.

Example. In 2017 after a Cat 4 named Harvey hit Texas, Rytech franchises from California were dispatched to assist before going to St. Augustine Florida to also assist with clean up from Hurricane Irma. 

A month later Rytech’s California team returned home and was immediately called to assist the Ventura County franchise remediating behind 9000 brush fires that damaged 1,063 homes and businesses.  And then, again, back to Florida–this time to Panama City assisting Florida franchises dealing with another worst-case Hurricane called Michael.   

“There isn’t one person in our company a storm doesn’t impact.” says Randy Kerlin, Rytech’s Chief Operating Officer (COO).  “In true Team Rytech fashion everyone rises to the occasion jumping to assist where needed. Whether it’s mobilized franchises or our Accounting and Sales team assisting with customer call backs, everyone jumps in where they can.”

And, for Rytech, it’s business as usual when it comes to working closely with insurers. 

Rytech carrier partners all recognize the challenges a storm presents and will often relax service expectations. Some even assist with “mobilization fees” recognizing the significant additional expenses associated with catastrophe’s, such as: overtime pay, lodging, meals, fuel, additional supplies, equipment and more. These are all necessary well before arriving at the first job site.

“Typically carriers provide their anticipated claim volume and PIF (policies in force) for the impacted areas.” Kerlin says. “But capacity is the million-dollar question. How many jobs can we effectively perform under catastrophic circumstances, especially considering each storms’ unique characteristics?”

Randy Kerlin, Rytech COO

Every experienced responder knows it’s not only where the storm hits, or at times even its strength at landfall. It’s also the infrastructure of the impacted area, available fuel and lodging, coastal vs. inland damages and large-scale power outages.

“Power and access are critical” says Kerlin.  “Without power drying can’t begin and is limited at best. Even generators need gas which at times is also a scarce post-storm resource.”  And this, according to Kerlin, “…creates another compounding situation with building conditions being the ideal environment for microbial growth.” 

Michael and Sally both struck parts of Florida’s Panhandle.  But the key component wasn’t always their damage, it was accessibility. For some remote areas hit by Michael, the nearest overnight stay added a two-way commute of 4 to 6 hours for each and every job site.

In the early stages of Rytech’s CAT PLAN, Kerlin points to communication and lots of it…

“We monitor the storm closely, determine projected impact and begin reaching out to our franchise locations to ensure they are prepared for an influx of claims and, most importantly, are taking steps to remain safe. We also notify our network of the possible influx of claims and begin identifying other Rytech locations willing and able to mobilize. Our Sales Team is also simultaneously contacting our carrier partners to establish claim volume expectations and obtaining direction on carrier service level expectations for storm related jobs. Internally, we increase our administrative capacity to service clients both in and out of the impacted areas– daily business doesn’t stop in Denver, CO because of a hurricane hitting Pensacola, FL.!”

While no firm operates perfectly after even a single hurricane, preparation, experience and dedication helps Rytech get as close to its’ non-catastrophe performance levels as possible. Novelist  Robertson Davies said it best: “Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances and they become more extraordinary because of it!”

FEATURED PHOTO ABOVE–NASA’s Aqua satellite captured six tropical storms and more than 100 different U.S. wildfires (see red dots) in a single photo snapped on Tuesday (Sept. 15, 2020). Wildfires, which have particularly scoured California, have now burned over 4 million acres across 10 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. When the featured photo was taken, there were six named storms total — Sally off the Gulf Coast, Paulette, Rene, Teddy and Vicky in the Atlantic Ocean and Karina in the Pacific.   

Laura was a Cat 4 with 150 mph winds

Sally caused 20” of rain. Florida’s Panhandle had 3 feet