Internal Communications

MapAction: Technology and recovery

When disasters are heightened to a major crisis, they quickly become all-hands-on-deck situations. And while we first think of sending in water, food and shelter to those in need, one charity is providing something just as valuable: information.

Our colleague Chris Ewing has been working with a charity called MapAction, which is dedicated to gathering and providing data in the wake of disasters of all kinds, for a decade. Volunteers like Chris are able to be deployed halfway around the world in mere hours when needed.

That’s how Chris found himself in the Caribbean country of Dominica within 60 hours of Hurricane Maria devastating the island. He explained that his colleague was able to arrive the day after the storm, but Chris’s flight from the UK was delayed because airports were shut down.

“We were based in the government operations center before there was energy or water in the capital,” Chris explained. “The first couple of days were pretty chaotic.”

MapAction’s mission is to help coordinate efforts to ensure help is getting where it’s most needed. The charity gathers information regarding transportation options, where the most vulnerable populations are, and where medical supplies are and where are they most needed.

All of this data is compiled and turned into a visual map— known as a shared operational picture— that is shared with the local government and other aid agencies.

The hurricane in Dominica presented some specific challenges for the MapAction. The mountainous island caused major communication issues, as roads were impassable, and phone and mobile networks were down. With 95% of buildings damaged, the situation was dire.

Chris remained onsite for two weeks to help coordinate recovery efforts, but he explained that a surge team would likely remain in place for as long as nine months along with workers dispatched by the UN.

The ability to catch the next flight from the UK to the Caribbean, South America or Africa and stay there for weeks at a time requires a lot of support. Chris noted that he has an incredibly understanding family. In addition, he said his managers and the firm in general have been incredibly supportive.

“The main thing they’ve given me is flexibility with my time,” Chris explained. “But the firm has provided much-needed funds. A few years ago, our office sponsored MapAction and Aon matched our donations. While we’re partly funded by the UK and Dutch governments, donations make up a huge part of our financial resources.”

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‘The cloud is in a warehouse’: How we help protect Microsoft’s technology

When we partner with a powerhouse company like Microsoft, it’s easy to assume that all of claims with them are multi-million-dollar transactions.

And that’s certainly a true assumption in many cases, according to Stephanie Lampi, a Senior Risk Manager at the tech company. When she sat down with our colleague Sherril Kist, a Managing Director, during a Client Insight Session on Empower Results Day for Clients 2017, she discussed just how we have helped grow their business when it comes to cloud-based computing.

“We always think of cyber risk as some sort of hack, but cyber growth for us is in data centers.” Stephanie explained. “The cloud is not really in the clouds— we all know that right? The cloud is in a warehouse.”

So Microsoft has trusted in our firm to help them with contracts and leases to help secure as much physical property to house their servers as possible at the smartest price.

But while those big deals come with sizable price tags, Stephanie explained that they actually don’t get the biggest ROI there.

“We buy fine art insurance,” she said. “It’s about $6,000 per year – that’s a drop in the bucket for Microsoft— not even a rounding error. But that policy has had the best return for us, as well as the best story.”

Sherril recounted the time she was touring MIcrosoft’s campus when her guides pointed out a chandelier created by renowned Pacific Northwest glassblower and artist Dale Chihuly.

“Microsoft people were talking about the piece and how expensive it was and I looked at it and said ‘There’s a hole in your Chihuly,’” she chuckled. “Someone— maybe a cleaning group— had put a hole right through the bottom of it.”

Sherril was able to start the claim on the spot, and it ended up costing $25,000 to fix the small hole. According to Stephanie, it became lore around the Microsoft campus that the best reason to have insurance is to have your Chihuly fixed.

But when it’s all said and done, Stephanie explained why our firm is such an essential partner for Microsoft. While the risk department is usually a cost center, as opposed to a profit center, we’ve been able to actually help Microsoft secure sales, which makes Stephanie’s conversations up the ladder much easier to have.

“We’re trying to justify why we’re spending money on insurance,” she told Sherril. “And we’re able to tell this story and say ‘Here is something we’re able to do with insurance. We’re enabling sales. Now  you’re getting these million dollar deals, and some of them rely on us being able to provide that insurance policy.’ That’s getting the CFO on board with our team and supporting us as we go and create some more innovative solutions.”