Beast from the East - One Year On


Last February and March winds from Siberia pushed in from the east causing the mercury to plummet. This caused snow chaos which disrupted travel and closed schools and hospitals across the UK when the Met Office issued its red alert. The so-called Beast from the East and Storm Emma caused widespread disruption that led to property insurers paying out a record breaking amount in burst pipe claims in the first quarter of the year. Weather insurance claims rocketed by 290% and, once again, the Insurance industry responded well. Some 86,000 claims were handled, compared to 29,000 in the previous quarter. The AA estimated there were 8,260 collisions on Britain’s roads in just three days. The relatively rare phenomenon of freezing rain was also recorded.

Mark Shepherd, Assistant Director, Head of Property, Commercial and Specialist Lines, ABI, said at the time “This winter definitely had a sting in the tail that was felt by thousands of homeowners and businesses. No matter how unpredictable the weather, insurers are always ready for it. Whether it is for your home or your business premises, property insurance can be a lifeline if the worst happens. And for some risks, like frozen and burst pipes, some simple preventative steps taken before the bad weather arrives can greatly reduce the threat.”

As 2018 slips away and we look to the cold months of a new year, the weather forecast is not looking too great, temperatures are expected to plummet by mid-January and the Met Office has observed that when a similar three-month forecast was issued at the start of last year, those predictions came starkly true. This year there's a higher chance of seeing colder spells and a slightly higher chance of snow across the UK and bookies have odds on at 4/5 that this winter will be the coldest on record!

The Beast from the East was unusual as it affected all of the UK rather than isolated locations. This caused difficulties for our loss adjusters and supply chain who needed to spread their resources across the entire country, rather than concentrate them in one region, as was often the case in the past. The weather generally caused issues for property inspections due to the difficult conditions to travel through prior to the sudden thaw on the Sunday afternoon – which led to the majority of the burst pipe incidents.

We saw a high proportion of pipes freezing in attic spaces in either main homes or annexes. Heating had been on in many cases, but the severity of the cold spell still caused pipes to freeze up. We also had a number of customers who were taking an early spring break and therefore burst pipes were not discovered immediately which increased the damage caused. Where appropriate, we used the policy cover to install Leak detection products, which should help prevent the extent of damage in the future as they would receive early notification of a problem.

By our own high standards we responded very well last time. Each weather event we face brings a new challenge and learnings of the best way to respond for our customers. Our supply chain has to be able to react and cope with such events. Therefore regular reviews and testing of our response was checked in our adjuster/supplier reviews and audits. We have reviewed our own detailed surge plan to ensure it remains relevant and up to date and we are ready for the worst that the weather can throw at us. One area where we felt we could improve was pre-warning customers and therefore we have developed a suite of guidance notes that we can issue at short notice.

We will endeavour to let brokers know when we believe there is going to be a significant weather event and also share guidance on social media – you can follow us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to see these, or make sure you are subscribed to our emails to receive these.

It remains to be seen as to whether 2019 will experience an event as severe as the Beast from the East, but it’s certainly something we are prepared for.

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