22 August 2014

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News & trends: rising damp


Waterlogged fields, a sea of umbrellas and cancelled events set a soggy tone last summer. Britain is getting wetter – make sure rain doesn’t sink your event


When word came through from the Met Office that summer 2012 was the wettest in 100 years, it didn’t surprise the organisers of Creamfields, the Badminton Horse Trials and Hit Factory Live in Hyde Park, all cancelled due to adverse weather. The season’s rainfall of almost 371mm was 60% up on average, and it wasn’t a one-off either – four of the five wettest years since records began in 1910 have been in the last 13 years.

While the rest of the world debates whether this phenomenon is down to the displaced Gulf Stream, global climate change or an imminent Armageddon, organisers just want their events to go ahead. Or, failing that, not to end up bankrupt.

Enter the insurance superheroes. Well, sort of. The fact that Britain is getting wetter hasn’t escaped the attention of insurers either, so buying insurance for wet weather is not quite as simple as putting in a phone call when you see a dodgy forecast. Chances are your insurer is looking at the same raincloud on the Met Office website and they won’t touch you with a lightning rod.

Wet weather insurance comes in two forms: Pluvius cover, which has an exotic Roman name, but is hard to get hold of, and Adverse Weather insurance, a last-resort option which is tougher to claim against. Pluvius is for ‘rain stops play’, either literally or because being at the event is uncomfortable – summer sports, of course, but also an alfresco summer party. Some insurers offer this, others – most – don’t, unless you have very specific circumstances (pre-sold tickets, high-profile event, data to show possible liability). 

The other option, Adverse Weather insurance, covers you if the conditions make it ‘a risk to life or limb’ for your event to go ahead: a lightning storm at a pole-vaulting convention, perhaps, or high winds threatening to uproot your marquees. In this instance, cancellation must be your last resort, say insurers. ‘We always say you should behave as if you’re not insured,’ says Lee Swindle, an underwriter for Event Insurance Services. ‘So would you cancel the event if you didn’t have insurance? If the answer is no, you won’t have a claim.’ They’ll demand photographic evidence, supported by safety officer’s reports to prove that cancellation was ‘unavoidable’.

Ultimately, even the most comprehensive insurance policies need to be supported by a thorough contingency plan. In a survey of 2012 event organisers by Event Insurance, more than half said they now have adverse weather action plans in place. This could be anything from budget provision to a back-up venue, a woodchip mountain or social media alerts.

What it will certainly involve is tasking a member of your team with weather risk management. They will be responsible for building in a 20% margin for error in your weather-related budget entries. Corner cutting could punish you further down the line – don’t be the guy who discovers he’s insured £10,000-worth of kit for £2,500 (especially when the ‘average clause’ in your policy specifies that your insurer is only then liable for the same percentage of what you’ve insured: £625 in this instance). The message is clear: the clouds will come, just make sure you’re ready for them.

This article was first printed in Square Meal Venues & Events, summer 2013.

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