Wilson grew up around boats, spent his teenage years teaching
kids to sail at a Y camp, is a young father with a beautiful
wife and two smart children -- all-American to be sure. But
he takes his passion for boating and helping others so seriously
that he leaves it all behind when a hurricane strikes to
help BoatUS insureds in their time of need…
What are your primary responsibilities as director of the BoatUS
Catastrophe (CAT) Field Team?
Usually within a day or two after a major hurricane, BoatUS mobilizes
a team of claims personnel and independent marine surveyors to
head to the affected region to help recover boats, adjust damage
and settle claims. Our goal is to be finished within 30 days, depending
on the severity and the number of boats involved.
I oversee the
CAT team operation which includes managing storage/salvage strategy
for insured Member boats – some are not easy to
find and therefore must be stored in a secure place for repair
or salvage sale. I act as the public relations liaison for local
media, manage operational expenses, make manpower decisions and
most importantly, look out for the team’s health and morale.
What’s a typical day like “in the field”?
I lead daily meetings with staff both in the field and at the home
office to coordinate boats we need to salvage, transport and
store, review the damage appraisals and assign new cases for
adjustment. I make myself available for surveyors when in the
field, as a resource for problem-solving and relationship building.
And at the end of the day, I provide reports on the team’s
activities and progress to BoatUS management.
some of the worst Hurricane devastation you’ve
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 had probably the most devastating damage
over the broadest area, although the four Florida storms of 2004
(Charley, Frances, Jeanne and Ivan) provided us with a major logistical
challenge due to the need for concurrent teams in separate locations
throughout the state. But every storm is devastating in its
own way to the people directly affected by it. I try not to forget
the “big picture”. Comparing one storm to another really
doesn’t matter to someone whose home, business, property
or boat has been severely damaged.
Where is the most unusual place you’ve ever located a policyholder’s
boat after a storm? How did you get it out?
When boats break loose during the violence of a hurricane they
can end up almost anywhere. We have found them on the water, under
the water or out of the water; in parking lots, driveways, swamps,
bayous, and yards; on roads, highways and train tracks; by themselves
or in a pile with many other boats. As Doctor Seuss once said “From
there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere”.
I do remember the Cat Team having to engage helicopters following
Hurricane Bob in 1991, to retrieve several boats that landed in
environmentally sensitive areas.
What are some of the unusual conditions or hazards you’ve encountered
We’ve encountered all sorts of wildlife -- alligators, snakes,
scorpions, fire ants. Remember, they’ve all been displaced,
too. Our living conditions are less than ideal and include living
in trailers or in motels/hotels with no power or water. We have
to travel significant distances each day to find services and restaurants
that are operational. And long lines for fuel, food, water, etc.
can also tax the process of managing time and resources.
How does a catastrophe claim differ from a regular claim?
Probably the biggest difference is in the sheer volume of claims
we see in a single area after a catastrophe. It creates a tremendous
demand for resources. Through our experiences, we have found
that the best organized efforts will result in the earliest possible
resolution of the Member’s claim.
The BoatUS Catastrophe Team is renowned in the marine industry
for its organization and execution of salvage and claims management
(if I may say so myself).
What should boaters do immediately following a catastrophe if their boat
has been damaged?
Boat owners should contact their insurance carrier and report the
claim as quickly as they are safely able to do so. They should
take whatever action they can safely take to protect the boat from
further loss. This might include retying lines, removing equipment
that might be a target for thieves or vandals, or covering damaged
areas with tarps or plastic sheeting.
they cannot safely approach or board the boat they should not
attempt to do so, please do not take unnecessary risks. The
damage to property can be fixed, injuries or deaths often cannot.
should not contract for the salvage recovery of their boat without
prior approval from their insurance company. (In
the case of Members insured with BoatUS, we will coordinate the
salvage recovery for them.)
Does an insurance policy provide coverage during a Hurricane
Every boat owner whose boat is stored in a region that is prone
to hurricanes should read their policy to get a full understanding
of what coverage is and is not being provided. If you have
any questions, contact your carrier and ask them to explain it.
Many companies (including BoatUS) increase the deductible for damage
incurred in a Named Storm state. However, BoatUS policies also
provide for reimbursement for hurricane prep and haul-out – the
steps you, as an owner, take to mitigate the damage before the
storm. (Call or check our policy for details.)
Based on your years of experience, what steps can boaters take before a Hurricane
to avoid or minimize damage to their boat?
Having a plan in place well ahead of time is probably the most
important thing. The time to think about storm preparation
is not when Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel begins reporting
from your front yard. Develop your plan ahead of time and execute
it well in advance of the storm.
advice you’d like to share with our Members?
The best Hurricane Preparation information that I am aware of can
be found at our own BoatUS Hurricane Resource Center. Members
should visit this site the minute a storm is “Named” for
access to tracking tools and other valuable resources for getting
their boat out of harm’s way.
Lastly, while the CAT team is here and always ready to act in
the event of a Hurricane, I wish I had more opportunity to meet
our Members under less stressful circumstances!
For Members not insured by BoatUS, visit our website for a Fast,
Free Quote or call 1-800-283-2883 for personal service.
To reach the BoatUS Claims department, call 1-800-937-1937
-- open 24/7!
* All BoatUS
policies subject to limits and exclusions