This fall presented the most devastating hurricane season in recent memory, with four storms registering as a Category 3 or higher. Weather phenomena of this magnitude leave unimaginable destruction in their wake. After the fact, the rebuilding process presents unique challenges, particularly for those doing the actual reconstruction and restoration work.

The numbers are still being tallied on the damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, but early estimates indicate that the combined rebuilding cost could range from $120 billion to $200 billion. Proper funding will be key to ensure an efficient and effective recovery for these affected areas, but as everyone in this line of work knows, money alone cannot ensure things go smoothly.

Looking back at reconstruction efforts after Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, it’s important to assess what was done right and what could have been done better. Following are some best practices that construction owners and contractors can implement to help rebuild while keeping stress to a minimum.

Make Sure Subcontractors Are Licensed and Insured Professionals
In 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused a major uptick in restoration construction jobs, but not everyone working was a true professional. Many workers had good intentions and sought to lend a hand to get their hometown back on track. Others, unfortunately, were less honest, posing as contractors and under-bidding just to get the job. 

It is not always clear who can be trusted. Conducting background checks helps provide a clearer picture of which owner groups and organizations are working with reputable contractors. And, administrative verification services can assume the responsibility of determining whether subcontractors have proper insurance and certifications. No matter what the intentions are, it is imperative to check a contractor’s license and insurance.

Verify the Quality of Materials 
There will be significant demand for building materials, and some contractors might try to maximize on profit by buying the cheapest materials they can find. Often this can lead to purchasing supplies that are imported.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with supplies produced outside of the United States, the only safety standards these materials must adhere to are those imposed by the office of Customs and Border Protection—an organization whose standards are much less rigorous than the ones that Underwriters Laboratories imposes on American-made materials. 

Additionally, J, K and L exclusions on the ISO standard coverage form CG form 0001 0431 may preclude coverage for using faulty materials. For example, a claim based on the use of faulty materials—recently seen with drywall and copper imported from China—may be denied, leaving the contractor liable, not the insurance company.

Monitor the Price of Supplies
In the aftermath of storms such as Harvey and Irma, the basic concept of supply and demand can lead to price gouging. With that in mind, contractors need to monitor the price they are paying for supplies and materials, as well as the price of materials subcontractors might try to pass off at the end of a job. 

Price inflation is natural in the wake of a major storm. However, if an insurance claim is submittted for property damage created by the contractor’s work, the insurance company will consider the customary marketplace average for the item in question and not the price paid—even if the damaged material was purchased within a short time of the incident. Overpaying for materials or supplies could leave contractors on the short end of the stick if they need to report a claim.

Consider Logistics Beyond the Jobsite
A contractor from outside of the Houston area offering services to help rebuild from Hurricane Harvey must make sure that a plan is in place for all employee-related logistics, and not just the challenges that arise during work hours. Contractors are responsible for providing safe working conditions; if this work involves travel, the responsibility could fall on the contractor from a workers’ compensation standpoint.

Here are some issues to consider:
  • Where will the team sleep?
  • Where will workers get clean water?
  • What will the they eat?
  • How will the contractor protect the team from potential unsafe conditions resulting from the storm?
  • How will workers travel from their housing accommodations to the jobsite?
Failure to consider these issues can result in an official complaint from crew members that can sometimes result in a workers’ compensation claim or OSHA violation.

Pay Attention to Details
With so much on the line, it is essential to be thorough every step of the way. From bidding to construction to completion, there will be hurdles—some known and some unforeseen—for decision-makers to overcome. With careful planning, it is possible to get these enormous jobs done properly and on time. 

Jake Morin is ProSight Specialty Insurance’s niche president of construction. For more information email jmorin@prosightspecialty.com or visit prosightspecialty.com.