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The point is obvious. No professional property underwriter would place his company's coverage on a risk that had a high probability of being intentionally, or negligently, burned down.
Unfortunately, every day in the United States there are enormous insurance losses due to fires that could have how to underwrite an event prevented if only the property insurers knew about, and acted on, the applicant's claim history or the conditions of the risk.
Given this, there are several major things that property insurers and property underwriters need to understand about fire and arson.
First, costs of insurance losses from fire far exceed losses from all other categories of "natural" catastrophes combined. Second, arson is the largest cause of fire losses in non-residential commercial buildings and is the third largest cause of residential fires.
Third, insurance industry experts and national fire incident data agree on one point; one in every four fires in the United States today is intentionally set.
Finally, approximately eighty-four of every one hundred confirmed cases of arson today go unsolved and only two percent of arson cases result in the offender's conviction for the crime of arson. Eighty-four of one hundred arson cases go unsolved.
Two persons are convicted for one hundred known arson cases. Every property underwriter should clearly recognize that if a criminally inclined or negligent applicant is let through the door, odds are that your company can neither prevent a fire loss nor defend itself from the fraudulent arson claim.
These disturbing facts about arson investigation are among the principle reasons interFIRE was created and underscore why effective underwriting practices are critical for the protection of property insurance companies.
This section of interFIRE focuses attention on the process of property underwriting against fire, and especially against arson losses. The information contained here was derived from underwriting training manuals and publications and from in-depth interviews of career property underwriters with ten or more years underwriting experience for primary carriers.
Our objectives during the interviews were to learn: Begin a discussion about whether effective property underwriting practices can measurably add to their company's bottom-line success by writing good risks and denying coverage to criminals and others who are arson or fire prone.
Property Underwriting, Fire Safety and Arson Prevention Very few people in our society today are in a better position to influence fire safety and arson prevention than a skilled property insurance underwriter. For reasons explained here, the underwriter is virtually the only "player" in our system that can influence enforcement of fire and arson prevention measures on a daily basis in commercial and in residential risks.
Each community, through its local and state statutes and regulations, has an apparent capability to promote fire and arson prevention. This is obstensively accomplished through enforcement of basic fire prevention, building and sanitary codes especially with public buildings and publicly licensed commercial establishments.
In reality, civil code enforcement and fire prevention units are notoriously undermanned in most communities and typically get the "back burner" treatment from the courts.
Sensible enforcement of even the most basic sanitary, utility or building codes is lax to nonexistent once the "Certificate of Occupancy" is issued in residences and smaller businesses where most of the fires occur.
One exception to this rule is after a fire has damaged or killed. When this happens manufacturers, distributors or maintenance personnel, along with their insurance carriers, often become involved in litigation.
Certain professions and skilled trades dealing with the architecture, fire safety engineering, design and manufacture of construction, finishing materials, furniture and appliances, wiring, heating and ventilation systems and conveyances play important roles in protecting Americans in their homes, employment and transportation.
Many structural, utility and appliance designs that have stood the test of time are safe if used within reasonable limits given intended design and maintenance. Because most public safety inspectors can have limited impact on problems affecting day to day fire safety, the property insurance carrier is in an extremely influential position to promote fire safety and arson prevention when it simply acts to protect its own interest.
Three days after the policy was issued the barn went to the ground. The cause was arson. The pressures of a competitive business environment, workload, cost cutting, less than informative sources of risk information and sometimes even sloppy workmanship and poor judgment allow too many totally unacceptable risks to slip by property underwriters and gain insurance coverage every day.
This fact has serious consequences for both property carriers and for society. While each insurance application on the underwriter's desk is, in some ways unique, most applications can be grouped into broad categories enabling the underwriter to apply information from standardized rating indices and industry databases.
In many arson cases resulting in losses to property carriers, clear warning signs were present that were either ignored or missed by the underwriter who placed the business.
These warning signs range from financial instability, a serious criminal background and questionable prior losses to wholesale disregard of reasonable security and fire prevention measures.
In spite of its frequency, arson is seldom considered as an individual peril. Many underwriters feel that arson, like many other kinds of crime, is random and difficult to judge as a risk factor.PAAM is a nationally recognized cultural institution that fuses the creative energy of America's oldest active art colony with the beauty of Cape Cod that has inspired generations.
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