In this Issue:

THE ROLE OF THE ENGINEER IN FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT

ASSESSING WIND VERSUS SURGE DAMAGE: REFLECTING ON WHAT WAS LEARNED FROM HURRICANE KATRINA

HAIL DAMAGE CAUSING BILLIONS IN CLAIMS

THE ROLE OF THE ENGINEER IN FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT

Damage assessment by an engineer following a flood event may be broken down into categories. First, there will be questions regarding the origin of the damage and second, engineers may need to evaluate the extent of damage and provide a scope of repair.

The source of the water must be determined; was it flood waters flowing from a creek, river or other water way, or was it ground water, sewer back up, sump pump failure, or a combination of sources. The source of the water will likely affect insurance coverage and should be clearly defined by the evaluating engineer.

Flood and water damage assessments may include evaluations of structural damage due to hydrostatic and hydrodynamic pressures. Structures may be lifted as a result of being buoyant in a flooded condition. Evaluation of foundations may need to be performed. Depending upon the forces of the flood water, the weight of the building components and the connections to the foundation system, the structure may float from its foundation.

While the cause of the damage may seem obvious, conditions following a flood such as cracking in walls or ceilings, may not be related to the flood event. It is important to determine whether or not the damage existed prior to the flood event. Often damage that was present prior to a catastrophic event was unnoticed by the insured, who now believes the damage was the result of the event. The investigating engineer should be able to determine if the suspect damage was the result of a specific event.

Other services that may be required once the extent of the damage has been determined, include a scope of repairs to assist the claims adjuster in determining the value of the loss. Additionally, identification of construction or design deficiencies may be important factors to consider as they may have caused or contributed to the flood damage. All contributing parties must be identified as subrogation will be allocated to all parties who may have contributed to the loss. Moisture intrusion, microbial issues and air quality may also become issues or come into play.

PEX PLUMBING FAILURES

ASSESSING WIND VERSUS SURGE DAMAGE: REFLECTING ON WHAT WAS LEARNED FROM HURRICANE KATRINA

A tremendous amount of information about the assessment of damage to structures in the determination of wind versus surge became available following Hurricane Katrina and the damages experienced there. Aerial photographs published by NOAA became of particular value as did topographical maps and aerial photographs taken prior to the hurricane. Utilizing these resources provided a means for engineers to supplement on-site observations.

Forensic meteorologists were also of particular value in providing opinions of the timing of events with regards to the wind versus surge components of hurricane damages. In many instances without this data, it would be impossible to determine the cause of damages. Professional engineers had a very daunting task to determine the forces that caused the destruction.

Structural engineers must understand the forces from surge water versus those of wind, including dynamic and hydrostatic conditions. The velocity of wind gusts and surge forces are taken into consideration.

Complete demolition of superstructures was consistent with powerful forces of storm surge, while structures located at higher elevations may be more prone to damage from greater wind forces.

The ethical pressures being faced by engineers in the determination of flood versus storm serge were also daunting insomuch that many property owners had no flood insurance. The determination of wind versus flood damages could bring financial ruin to individuals or families. Following the ASCE Code of Ethics provides some key factors to deal with these pressures such as honesty, integrity and objectivity.

The tremendous volume of buildings that needed to be inspected was also a problem. The Investigative Engineers Association put together guidelines for member professional engineering firms to provide catastrophe response in a organized fashion that would allow for a greater volume of investigations to happen in a more timely fashion. Time was an important factor to consider as there were over 250,000 people displaced by Hurricane Katrina and rebuilding efforts were not likely to start until insurance issues were resolved.

The Investigative Engineers Association organized a Catastrophe Response Committee consisting of professional engineers who were dealing with the situation in Louisiana and the gulf coast following the storm, to ascertain issues experienced and a way to deal with major catastrophic events such as this that may cause widespread damage in the future. The project included dealing with ways to organize a team of professional engineers and the distribution of assignments by area coordinates to eliminate as much windshield time as possible. Additionally the association put together the www.ienga.com website which enables its users, whom are all members of the I-ENG-A organization, to search for engineers by discipline, by state licensure and by availability. Technical training for CAT response including report formats, report time lines, safety, briefing, debriefing, structure of the CAT response team, the roles of Team Leaders, Investigative Engineers and Registered Professional Engineers, etc., were discussed as well as insurance requirements.

While the role of the I-ENG-A headquarters includes CAT response training and assistance with job processing, tracking, and data collection, the local member firm is to serve as the host or as the event management office. The models discussed teams of 3-4 engineers who would complete 6-8 assignments /day depending upon the complexity and travel time involved.

In conclusion, having engineers who are trained in these efforts with a plan in place before a catastrophe occurs can save a lot of time and money for all parties involved when a catastrophe does strike. If you would like to discuss catastrophe response with firms who may serve as your host, please feel free to contact association headquarters or visit www.ienga.net or www.ienga.com to locate the firm or firms near your areas of concern.

Sources: Forensic Engineering: Proceedings of the 4th Congress, October 6-9, 2006, Paul A. Bosela, Norbert J. Delatte