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Head of US Security Risks

Natural catastrophes present serious safety threats as more organizations take on international exposure. Do you know how you will protect your people overseas?

There are two characteristics of natural catastrophes that make them a universal threat.

First is their frequency. Thanks to the effects of climate change, a growing global population and increased urbanization, severe weather events occur more frequently and leave more damage in their wake. Second is their unpredictability. Natural catastrophes can happen anywhere, often evolve quickly and tend to defy even the soundest predictive models.

Although at the present time and for foreseeable months ahead, the world is experiencing unprecedented travel interruption, eventually we will see return to travel for both personal and business reasons. Corporations, nonprofits, higher education institutions, and startups with socially and environmentally conscious missions are pushing into further-flung parts of the world, seeking new opportunities for research, education, philanthropy and business partnerships.

During the 2017-2018 school year, for example, nearly 333,000 U.S. students studied abroad -- a number that has grown steadily for years. There are at least 10 million NGOs worldwide. And more than half of small- to medium-sized businesses already have international customers.

However, these institutions may not have the resources to get their people out when natural disaster strikes. When danger escalates rapidly, establishing safety calls for clear lines of communication, boots-on-the-ground knowledge of a country’s infrastructure and resources, and the ability to move quickly. Major corporations may have a crisis management team on hand to deploy, but most organizations won’t know where to begin.

To help these organizations maintain their duty of care to employees, students and volunteers, AXA XL crafted a natural disaster evacuation endorsement as an optional enhancement to its kidnap, ransom and extortion policy. This coverage provides access to the risk intelligence and crisis management experts at S-RM and reimbursement for expenses related to evacuation of insureds traveling abroad.

Here are the key characteristics of the coverage:

What triggers coverage?
Triggering events encompass a range of natural disasters, including earthquake, volcanic eruption, tsunami, snow, rain, hail, lightning, flood, wind, windborne dust or sand, or wildfire.

For coverage under the endorsement to apply, the government of the host country where insureds are located must issue an official disaster declaration, or the country must be deemed uninhabitable, meaning that access to food, water and shelter is limited or nonexistent within 10 miles of the insured’s location.

AXA XL crafted a natural disaster evacuation endorsement as an optional enhancement to its kidnap, ransom and extortion policy.

What expenses are covered?
Expenses related to evacuation would be covered, including transportation, housing, and the costs of restoring insured persons to the host country once the danger has passed. If applicable, the salary of an insured person would also be covered during the period of disruption and up to 90 days following the evacuation event, or until that person can begin working again. 

Who handles the evacuation, and how does the evacuation process work?
When the need to evacuate becomes evident, S-RM consultants take over. The firm’s experts collectively speak more than 30 languages, are stationed at six offices around the globe, and are available around the clock, so they are ready to assist and if necessary and possible, deploy to wherever the crisis unfolds. 

The evacuation plan can go in several different directions, depending on conditions on the ground and the availability of transportation. 

Ideally, evacuees would be taken home via a commercial flight, but if airspace has been restricted or airlines grounded, it may be necessary to shelter-in-place. This was the situation, for example, after the eruptions of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, which shut down air travel across large swaths of Northern and Western Europe in April of 2010.

The priority shifts from leaving the host country to finding a safe space within it with adequate supplies of food, water and medicine, coordinating with local transportation and security experts to make sure any moves happen safely. Evacuation options are continually reevaluated as the situation evolves. 

What about returning to the evacuated country once the disaster has ended?
Once the host country has lifted its disaster declaration and confirmed that the area is safe, employees, students and other participants can return to the affected area within one year of the evacuation. All transportation costs associated with this move are covered by the endorsement. 

Why is this coverage necessary?
Every organization has a duty of care to protect the health and safety of its employee or volunteer base as much as possible, wherever they may be. Natural catastrophes can happen almost anywhere. Having resources at the ready to keep your people safe fulfills that duty of care and provides peace of mind for your team members, their families, and certainly your risk manager. 

About the Author
Denise Balan is Head of US Security Risks and part of AXA XL’s global Crisis Management team. She leads a team of underwriters in crafting Insurance and Consultancy solutions designed to address the real-life events we see happening in today's world. Denise can be reached via email

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US- and Canada-Issued Insurance Policies

In the US, the AXA XL insurance companies are: AXA Insurance Company, Catlin Insurance Company, Inc., Greenwich Insurance Company, Indian Harbor Insurance Company, XL Insurance America, Inc., XL Specialty Insurance Company and T.H.E. Insurance Company. In Canada, coverages are underwritten by XL Specialty Insurance Company - Canadian Branch and AXA Insurance Company - Canadian branch. Coverages may also be underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003. Coverages underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003 are placed on behalf of the member of Syndicate #2003 by Catlin Canada Inc. Lloyd’s ratings are independent of AXA XL.
US domiciled insurance policies can be written by the following AXA XL surplus lines insurers: XL Catlin Insurance Company UK Limited, Syndicates managed by Catlin Underwriting Agencies Limited and Indian Harbor Insurance Company. Enquires from US residents should be directed to a local insurance agent or broker permitted to write business in the relevant state.