One of the benefits of social media is the fact that it reminds you what was on your mind several years earlier. Today I was reminded of the horrific flooding in Ellicott City, Md., that occurred three years ago this week.
This event resonated for me because I had friends living there, and I lived in a similarly situated flood-prone town. The images from Ellicott City recalled for me the damage much closer to home, in Bound Brook, NJ, when Tropical Storm Floyd dropped over 13 inches of rain and the Raritan River crested at above 42 feet, inundating the downtown and sparking fires as electrical systems shorted out.
My little town of Dunellen had dodged a major bullet, I realized as I watched on TV as firefighters in boats responded to the devastation next door. Our basement, turned temporarily into an indoor swimming pool, seemed a minor inconvenience next to the losses in Bound Brook and elsewhere.
A few years later, my region would be visited by similarly shocking images in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy.
We’ve written a lot about flood risk, the flood protection gap, and the need for a resilience mindset to prevent damages and loss wherever possible and help families, businesses, and communities bounce back from unavoidable disasters. But sometimes a few images can persuade more eloquently and effectively than all the words in the world.
This Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, many are feeling a renewed sense of hope as COVID-19 infection rates fall and vaccinated individuals are given the green light to travel.
Over 37 million Americans are planning trips of more than 50 miles from their homes this weekend, according to AAA, an increase of more than 60 percent from last year, but still 6 million fewer than 2019’s pre-pandemic travelers on the same weekend.
Drivers are reminded to exercise caution on the roads, as Memorial Day has some of the highest auto accident rates, with alcohol consumption as a major contributing factor.
Triple-I recently spoke with Forbes magazine about avoiding some of the other hazards of summer, including car theft, grill fires, and dog bite liability.
We hope that you take the extra precautions outlined in the Forbes article — as well as review your insurance coverage – and have a safe, healthy summer.
By Marielle Rodriguez, Social Media and Brand Design Coordinator, Triple-I
To celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we spoke with Joann Wang, Co-Founder and Director of Operations of East Side Stories (ESS), a NYC-based non-profit organization dedicated to sharing the AAPI experience through film, media, and education. ESS brings together local talent, AAPI creatives and filmmakers, AAPI-owned businesses, and other community organizations to create meaningful storytelling and conversations around the AAPI experience.
We spoke to Wang on what inspired her to found ESS, how her crew prepares for pandemic-related liabilities on a film set, and the dogged resilience and solidarity of AAPI small businesses and their supporting communities.
Let’s talk about your background. What inspired you to found East Side Stories (ESS)?
I’m Taiwanese-Mongolian, and I’m a full-time school counselor and a part-time vocational counselor. Shane, our freelance filmmaker, and I started ESS as a passion project. We started doing our “Stories From the Heart” series and interviewing more than 50 Asian Americans on love and what it means to them. We met tons of great people during that project which was back in February 2020. Shortly after, a lot of the hate crimes against Asian Americans really sparked. We saw so many people who were really upset wanting to do something about it. During that time, because of COVID, we had not done anything with ESS. It was still just a YouTube channel.
We had decided to make ESS into a nonprofit organization because we felt that it would be a great way for people to channel their energies and what they want to do to tell Asian American and Pacific Islander stories. You can’t always rally or protest, but you can channel your feelings into a creative project and create something more meaningful, and we figured a nonprofit would be the best way for people to do this.
What is the mission of East Side Stories? What do you hope to achieve and inspire in others through your organization’s work?
ESS’ mission is to serve our creatives and to serve our community through education and storytelling. We hope that ESS is not only going to be a platform where we can spread education and information about being Asian American and Pacific Islander, but that it could be a meeting point for creatives to learn and share information and resources, and to connect with the community. A lot of businesses we see are not able to market themselves, so that’s where ESS would love to step in — “Let’s help you create a fun video to market your business. Let’s tell your story because you’re someone that’s doing amazing work for the community.”
What are some liabilities to think about when working on a film set and working in media production? How do you prepare for these liabilities for your crew and your organization?
We must make sure that our crew members are safe especially because of COVID liabilities, health liabilities, and any type of commercial liabilities. ESS currently operates as a volunteer-based organization so we’re all very bare bones right now. We’ve been using a lot of liability waivers to cover for ESS, but we hope to have more substantial compliance documents in place in the future.
Our Health and Safety Compliance Officer, Tori Wong, is a nurse foremost, and she’s an actress who works in media a lot and is a COVID compliance officer for other big sets. We worked together and created the health and safety protocols, so we follow a lot of what is recommended for standard businesses. For every single shoot that we have, crew members must check in with somebody on set that does COVID compliance. We have COVID compliance officers that go through training. Everyone must wear masks and do temperature checks, and there are particular zones that both talent and crew must stay in.
I know nonprofit insurance and liability is big, but because our organization is so young, and this is all our first time making a nonprofit, it’s been a lot of reading and learning. Taking a stab at the insurance part hasn’t come up yet, but I know it’s coming. We’re still in the process of getting our foundation set up, and then slowly rolling all the compliance into place.
2020 has been a rough year for small business owners, especially those in the Asian American community. Through your encounters and conversations with small business owners and other non-profits, in what ways have AAPI small businesses and the AAPI community demonstrated resilience and solidarity during the pandemic?
We’ve already collaborated with so many organizations and met so many people, and they’re all doing amazing work and bringing together businesses, for example, Welcome to Chinatown, Soar Over Hate, and Asians Fighting Injustice.
AAPI businesses have a fight in them and a huge will to live. That is why we’ve survived for so long, and ESS just wants to capture that. If we don’t amplify what everyone has been doing, people aren’t going to be able to see all the amazing work being done. It will inspire even more organizations to pop up.
Also, no one is afraid to share resources. I can message one organization and say, “Hey, I am trying to connect with someone with an organization who can do XYZ” and they will automatically help me get in touch with them. No one is gatekeeping, and that’s beautiful. That’s what community is about.
Let’s talk about ESS’ upcoming short film “An Essential Delivery”. How does this film capture the challenges and resilience of those working in AAPI small businesses and the gig economy?
This story is about a young woman who lost her marketing job and has to pick up a job as a food delivery worker, and she hides it from her mom, which is not the typical “model minority” story. The film is about essential workers. Shane was the one who came up with the idea after seeing videos of food delivery workers and their hardships. We put together a crew, and for a lot of them it was their first time working on a short. I saw people coming together, and I was blown away by the patience they had and in teaching the newer work crew members. We did it on a very small budget because all the people donated their time. We had around five restaurants that donated their space for us to shoot “An Essential Delivery,” so that was amazing because they didn’t even ask anything back from us.
Let’s talk about your TogethernESS program and your AAPI Community digital series. These provide an opportunity to engage and collaborate with AAPI businesses, organizations, and figures to share their stories. Can you give us insight on the work you do for these?
The TogethernESS program is something that we’re doing for the community. Organizations reach out to us when they want to create something, like a video or graphics, or attain any type of creative service. We can provide them with our nonprofit rate, or we work on a sliding scale with them. We’re still trying to build in a model where we can perhaps provide pro bono. We also want to be able to pay our creatives for their hard work. The TogethernESS program also includes work that we do with Soar Over Hate for their Care Fair event and Asians Fighting Injustice and their rallies. It’s been great so far.
The AAPI Community digital series lives on our YouTube channel. That series is focused on profiles of community members and organizations. When someone on our team has a particular person that they want to do a profile on and it aligns with our mission, we go and cover their story.
What are your goals for ESS in 2021 and beyond? What projects do you have in the works and is there anything you’re particularly excited to share with your audiences?
This year, we’re doing a feature length film documentary on Ace Watanasuparp, the owner of Spot Dessert Bar. Typically, our schedule is three short films a year, and we’re also launching our mentorship program. These are things I’m really excited about for 2022. This year we’ve been shooting a lot of the feature length film, and it’s been really cool to see and connect with all these awesome people. Other than that, just watching the organization grow and seeing and meeting people has been nice and heartwarming.
May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month, an occasion to raise awareness about this underutilized financial product, which is designed to safeguard your income in case you get sick or injured and are unable to work.
Disability insurance, also known as disability income insurance, complements health insurance and is meant to replace lost income and help protect you and your family from an otherwise financially catastrophic illness or injury.
Depending on where you have been employed, whether you’ve served in the military, and the reason you’re unable to work, there are a number of potential sources of disability income.
Employer-paid disability insurance is required in most states, and so is the most common. Most employers provide some short-term sick leave. Many larger employers provide short-term disability (STD) and long-term disability (LTD) coverage as well, typically with benefits of up to 60 percent of salary lasting from five years to age 65. In some cases, LTD insurance is extended for life. Disability benefits from employer-paid policies are subject to income tax.
When you buy a private disability income policy, you can expect to replace from 50 percent to 70 percent of income. When you pay the premiums yourself, disability benefits are not taxed.
Social Security disability benefits may be paid to workers whose disability is expected to last at least 12 months and is so severe that no gainful employment can be performed.
The Department of Veterans Affairs will provide some replacement income for veterans, depending on the nature and circumstances of the disability.
Auto insurance may cover some income loss under the personal injury protection (PIP) portion of the policy if the disability results from an auto accident. As always, this depends on the policy, the insurer, and the circumstances.
Disability insurance provides vital protection for most workers against events that are hard to contemplate. Securing this protection in the event of a serious illness or injury is just as important as insuring your home or car.
Click here to learn more about the types of disability coverage available.
Reintroducing wolves into areas where they’ve previously been decimated seems to reduce car crashes involving deer by nearly 25 percent.
Huh? What? Is this one of those “Correlation doesn’t equal causation” memes?
Not at all.
Scientists in Wisconsin have gathered data about road collisions and wolf movements in the state to quantify how the arrival of wolves affected the frequency of deer-auto collisions.
“In a pretty short period of time, once wolves colonize a county, deer vehicle collisions go down about 24 percent,” said Dominic Parker, a natural resources economist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and co-author of their new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
You might say, “Well, of course – wolves eat deer, fewer deer means fewer collisions.” But it’s a bit more subtle than that. The scientists found that reintroducing wolves created what scientists call “a landscape of fear.”
“When you have a major predator around, it impacts how the prey behave,” Parker said. “Wolves use linear features of a landscape as travel corridors, like roads, pipelines and stream beds. Deer learn this and can adapt by staying away.”
Just one study
Now, of course, this is just one study, and it’s not being embraced by everyone – for example, farmers and ranchers who don’t love the reintroduction of predators that might kill their livestock or add to the cost of protecting the animals they raise.
“People who value the existence of wolves are often not in the same communities where wolves are present,” said Jennifer Raynor, Parker’s colleague and co-author. “Urban wildlife lovers may be happy to know that wolves exist out there, but rural people have to stare at the carcasses of livestock and pets.”
Deer-vehicle collisions “are happening in both urban and rural areas,” Raynor said. “No one is avoiding this problem” – which means rural people are also benefiting from wolves, whether they realize it or not.
On average, 19,757 Wisconsinites collide with deer every year, leading to about 477 injuries and eight deaths. Wolves save the state $10.9 million in losses every year, the scientists determined —a figure 63 times greater than the total compensation paid for the loss of livestock or pets.
The average cost of an animal-strike claim under comprehensive coverage for 2001-14 models during calendar years 2004-13 was $2,730. That’s a hefty price but still lower than the average payout of $3,510 for a collision claim, the Highway Loss Data Institute has found.
More research needed
Guillaume Chapron at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, who studies large carnivores, says the team hasn’t provided enough information about their statistical methods, the degree of uncertainty in their results, or details on how to replicate their analysis.
“It may be that they found a new dimension to the role played by wolves, but their paper makes a critical evaluation of their findings impossible,” he said. “I’m sure it will be loved by wolf advocates, but much less by statisticians.”
Eyes on natural risk mitigation
More research clearly is needed before anyone should begin advocating large-scale reintroduction of wolves into populous areas with an eye toward reducing auto insurance claims and premiums. But the study highlights an area to which insurers are paying increasing attention: natural risk mitigation.
For example, interest has risen in how restoration of natural ecosystems – such as mangrove forests and coral reefs – can reduce insured losses caused by storm surge caused by hurricanes.
In many places, mangroves are the first line of defense, their aerial roots helping to reduce erosion and dissipate storm surge. A healthy coral reef can reduce up to 97 percent of a wave’s energy before it hits the shore. Reefs — especially those that have been weakened by pollution, disease, overfishing, and ocean acidification — can be damaged by severe storms, reducing the protection they offer for coastal communities.
In Florida, a recent study found, mangroves alone prevented $1.5 billion in direct flood damages and protected over half a million people during Hurricane Irma in 2017, reducing damages by nearly 25 percent. Another study found that mangroves actively prevent more than $65 billion in property damage and protect over 15 million people every year worldwide.
Communities, businesses, and families looking to reduce damages and their associated costs should look closely at natural, pre-emptive mitigation.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis last week signed two bills that lawmakers say will leave Florida better prepared for future flooding and sea level rise.
The legislature’s approval of these measures and the governor putting his signature on them is one of those moments that seem to mark a real change in awareness of and attitude toward this often-minimized risk. As the Tampa Bay Timespoints out, “Florida’s legislature for most of the last decade has taken little action and entertained hardly any public discussion about sea level rise.”
The bills, SB 1954 and SB 2514, will — among other things — set aside hundreds of millions of state dollars for flooding infrastructure projects. It requires the Department of Environmental Protection to prepare a flooding and resiliency plan and provides up to $100 million a year to communities that identify areas along the coast and other waterways that are at risk from sea level rise.
“This is a really significant amount of resources,” DeSantis said at a bill signing ceremony in Tarpon Springs. “We’re really putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to protecting the state of Florida, particularly our coastal communities, from the risks of flooding.”
On the leading edge of sea level rise
Florida’s 1,350 miles of coastline is the lifeblood of its tourism industry. Given the fact that much of the state sits at or near sea level on a foundation largely composed of porous limestone, it is particularly vulnerable to the threat of rising seas. Some areas of the state are already seeing flooding on clear days during particularly high tides, according to the Associated Press.
The magnitude of the threat is illustrated by the fact that three Florida-based insurers recently announced that they will not be renewing more than 53,000 property policies as of June – just as the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season begins. The first named storm of the season — Subtropical Storm Ana — formed early on May 22, northeast of Bermuda.
Florida statute Chapter 224 Part III allows insurers to cancel policies when the company would be placed in a hazardous financial situation due to an uptick in claims after hurricane damage or attorney’s fees to defend itself over fraudulent adjuster claims.
Dulce Suarez-Resnick, past president of the Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies, said this kind of widespread cancellation is common after subsequent years of heightened hurricane activity.
“It’s not the end of the world or that they’re bad companies,” Suarez-Resnick said. “It’s that these companies were weakened by prior storms and the bill for the reinsurance got heftier. That’s where we are today.”
Thanks to the insurance industry’s longtime focus on assessing and quantifying catastrophe risk and the rise of sophisticated modeling capabilities, insurers are ideal partners for addressing these evolving risks.
Subtropical Storm Ana formed early on May 22, northeast of Bermuda, becoming the first named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. The National Hurricane Center upgraded Ana to a tropical storm on the morning of May 23 but it was quickly downgraded to a tropical depression by afternoon.
Ana weakened into a post-tropical cyclone and was expected to dissipate on May 24 as it tracked northeastward into colder Atlantic waters.
This marks the seventh consecutive year in which at least one named storm has formed prior to the start of Atlantic hurricane season, which officially begins June 1. Over the past six years, there have been eight preseason named storms, four of which made landfall in the U.S. In 2020, two tropical storms—Arthur and Bertha—formed in May.
By Katrina Cheung, Communications Manager, Triple-I
As we continue to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, Triple-I is spotlighting Filipino-American gallery owner, painter, and Covington, Louisiana-native, Marianne Angeli Rodriguez.
Rodriguez spent much of her life living abroad in West Africa, Central America, Europe, and Asia before settling in the U.S. She earned her bachelor’s in media studies and anthropology from the City University of New York at Hunter College, and a degree in fashion design from FIT. After being laid off from two different fashion industry jobs, she worked as a freelancer creating fashion and beauty sketches for magazines, in addition to taking client commissions. She eventually outgrew working in small-scale and shifted to working on larger canvases.
Rodriguez’s art has garnered attention from numerous magazines and has led to various collaborations.
Her work is on permanent display in numerous public installations, including the Sloan Kettering Cancer Centers in New York, Southern Hotel Covington, Magnolia Hotel New Orleans, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab Chicago, Nolé restaurant in New Orleans, and the New Orleans Louis Armstrong International Airport.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Rodriguez about her gallery, her work, how she remained resilient in the face of the pandemic and other setbacks, and how she protects her business from natural disasters.
Tell us about your work and your gallery. How did it all start?
Shortly, after I was laid off, a job opportunity for my husband moved us to a different city and I dedicated the following year to painting out of my dining room. I developed a website to sell my work online, and soon after I rented out a studio to work out of. After three years of working diligently and growing my client-base, I outgrew that space and decided on a new, more prominent, gallery location around the corner. At this point my husband joined me to work on the business full-time as my business partner and gallery director. We signed the lease to this new location two weeks before COVID shutdowns.
Wow, 2020 was such a tough year for small businesses so I can only imagine how daunting it was for you and your husband to open the gallery during the pandemic! Despite the unknown and challenges that the pandemic presented, it seems like the gallery is thriving.
Can you talk about some of the obstacles you’ve faced since opening the gallery and how you have been able to overcome them?
Since we took on a much larger brick and mortar space right in the beginning of the pandemic, our main challenge was the disappearance of foot traffic. We realized that our online presence and web shop was going to be our saving grace so we re-strategized and poured our efforts into marketing, re-designing our e-commerce platform, and becoming more engaged on social media. We also tapped into local partnerships and were able to offer more products and services including custom framing and high-quality canvas prints to diversify our offerings and meet the needs of various art buyers. Since everyone was quarantined and taking on home-improvement projects including decorating, 2020 turned out to be a prosperous year for us as a small business.
Given that you live in a hurricane-prone area, in what ways have you safeguarded yourself and your gallery property against extreme weather?
During hurricane season, with any imminent threats, our typical drill is to secure the outer perimeter of the business by removing objects (like our hanging gallery signage) and using sandbags at entry points to safeguard against flooding. In case of emergency, we have insurance and an evacuation plan.
Art is such an important part of our history and our communities. It tells us stories from all walks of life, including those that might not be told often in mainstream media. As an artist, what do you hope to convey to people with your art?
I’m a colorist, so first and foremost what I wish is to elicit feelings of joy, delight, and positive energy when viewers first come across my work. As a minority based in the South, it’s been a privilege to sprinkle in bits of my Filipino heritage in both the imagery and the titles/stories behind the work – it’s a way to invite others to receive new insights without necessarily speaking so directly about it, and I love the way it opens the door of deeper connections and curiosity.
There’s been a consensus in the AAPI community that many have felt cultural and societal pressures to pursue STEM-related careers.
What advice do you have for anyone that wants to follow their dreams, but feel pressure to follow a certain career path based on societal pressures or maybe even pressure from their family?
My advice for anyone wanting to go “against the grain” is to be fully prepared to and willing to take on the rollercoaster that may lie ahead. Research your industry, know your competition and stay ahead with technology and social media. Take one step at a time, and fully immerse yourself in each evolving chapter. Take note of the hard lessons, be thankful for them as they’re there to help you move closer to the best most professional version of yourself/your business. Build trust by over-delivering on customer service. Practice gratitude daily.
Were there other times in your life that you have personally had to remain resilient despite the challenges ahead? If so, can you share what those experiences were and how that has helped you as an artist and businessowner?
Years ago, when I had just gotten laid off from my job and was dipping my toes into the artworld doing local art fairs, my car was stolen and everything I had invested in for my new venture was gone. It was devastating. My family urged me to move back home and consider a career in the corporate world. I stuck it out and stayed and rebuilt from the ground up. That experience gave me the tenacity I so needed to be fully independent, committed and driven in pursuing my creative path. Later, as I grew more serious in my practice, I got rejected from the galleries I wanted so badly to land a relationship with, but I continued to work on my art, perfecting my process and investing in courses to widen my business knowledge, and ultimately opened -and now operate- a gallery of my own.
What has been the most rewarding part of being a small businessowner?
The most rewarding part of being a small business owner, specifically as an artist, is having complete autonomy over the creative vision being released out into the world. Having the ability to positively impact your community and brighten someone’s day is both empowering and humbling.
May 22 marks the ten-year anniversary of the Joplin, Missouri, tornado – the deadliest single tornado event in U.S. history. In these videos, Triple-I’s Scott Holeman shows how the people of Joplin have recovered and become more resilient.
The EF-5 tornado destroyed thousands of homes and businesses and was the largest insurance event in Missouri history, with insured losses totaling roughly $9 billion (in 2021 dollars).
Survivors of the 2011 tornado say many lessons were learned after the devastating storm. Local insurance experts say the disaster taught the community about the importance of renters insurance and keeping homeowners policies updated.
Today, many Joplin residents prepare a “go-kit” whenever there’s a storm threat.
Numerous public facilities, businesses and residences have added enhanced safety modifications. The high school and hospital are prominent examples.
Wildfires in California and across the West are starting earlier and ending later each year. The ongoing drought worsened last week, with every part of the state in moderate drought or worse.
After a 2020 fire season that Janet Ruiz, Triple-I’s California-based director of strategic communications, called “anything but normal,” this year’s season may be even worse.
Warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and earlier spring snowmelt create longer, more intense dry seasons that make forests more susceptible to wildfire. The fire season’s length is estimated to have increased by 75 days across the Sierras and seems to correspond with an increase in the extent of forest fires across the state.
“Hots are getting hotter”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently expanded a drought emergency declaration while seeking more than $6 billion in multiyear water spending.
“The hots are getting a lot hotter in this state, the dries are getting a lot drier,” he said. “We have a conveyance system, a water system, that was designed for a world that no longer exists.”
California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has called for property insurers across the state to play a larger role in boosting wildfire preparedness among homeowners and businesses by providing more wildfire mitigation incentives. He spotlighted eight insurance companies in the state and the California FAIR Plan, which offer discounts to policyholders that have taken adequate steps to harden homes and mitigate wildfire risk.
This group represents only 13 percent of the state market, and Lara hopes the figure will rise significantly this year.
“Insurance companies support and echo Commissioner Lara’s call for mitigation,” Mark Sektnan, vice president of American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA), said in a statement on behalf of APCIA, the Personal Insurance Federation of California (PIFC), and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC).“Insurers are working with scientists and modelers to further the science of understanding how to better mitigate wildfire risk and understanding the value of various mitigation programs and efforts. While we cannot stop wildfires, we are learning how to mitigate the risks and are moving towards understanding and quantifying the value of individual and community mitigation. Insurers encourage homeowners, renters and businesses to get their property and finances ready for wildfires, as we are facing another dry, hot summer.”
Mostly caused by people
As much as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by people, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, downed power lines, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson. The remaining 10 percent are started by lightning or lava.
The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety provides recommendations for reducing the likelihood of your home catching fire, including noncombustible siding, decking and roofing materials; covered vents; and fences not connected directly to the house. In addition, combustible structures in the yard such as playground equipment should be at least 30 feet away from the house and vegetation 100 feet away.
But given weather, climate, and population trends, more than individual planning and risk transfer through insurance will be required to head off wildfire risk and bounce back from events. Innovation and a resilience mindset on the part of governments, businesses, homeowners, and communities will need to take hold.
Want to learn more about wildfire mitigation and resilience? Register for “Wildfire Ready: How Do You Prepare Your Home and Finances for Wildfires?” on May 20 at 10 a.m. (PT)