In the early summer of this year, we saw what’s sometimes referred to in the UK as “changeable” weather – in other words, anything from raging windstorms to sudden deluges and a lot of floods and rainwater runoff in between. As you might expect, many of our customers were affected and needed our help – but few more so than a charming, retired couple whose comfortable Staffordshire home was hit by lightning on Monday 12 June.
On the day of the event, the policyholders were temporarily apart – the husband was in hospital overnight for some routine tests and procedures and the wife was home alone (well, except for the dog!) when she heard a huge clap of thunder closely followed by what she later described as a loud bang which caused the whole house to shake, after which all the power went off.
A direct lightning strike had hit the chimney stack of the policyholder’s substantial 1940s property, causing it to collapse, creating more damage to the slate roof as it did so. Fortunately, and having witnessed the strike, a concerned neighbour not only called the Fire Brigade but also contacted our policyholder in hospital to let him know what had happened and that his wife and dog were shaken – literally – but otherwise safe and well and now in the neighbour’s house.
The Fire Brigade attended with no fewer than three appliances. Having satisfied themselves that there was no immediate risk of fire, they nonetheless turned off the gas and declared the house to be uninhabitable until they could arrange for a structural engineer to assess the extent of the damage.
On the next morning, the husband returned home from hospital and he and his wife were advised by the Fire Brigade’s structural engineer that the chimney stack had been impacted to such an extent that there was not enough left of it to give concern for further collapse. The property was otherwise declared to be safe, but it was noted that there was a large amount of loose debris in the guttering and on the roof and that this posed a hazard in itself. Our lovely couple moved back into the house, using a long extension cable to “borrow” electricity from a neighbour so they could at least have a cuppa – and luckily, the ambient temperatures in June meant that the lack of central heating wasn’t an issue.
When our policyholders called the claim in, a quick check of our weather tracking system confirmed that there had been over 3,500 individual lightning strikes within a 50 mile radius of their home – this was clearly a valid claim, and a file was opened on the morning of 13 June; the weather data, plus a detailed description of both the damage and the concerns for the couple’s welfare, triggered the involvement of Crawford Building Consultancy (CBC) on the afternoon of 13 June. The CBC team led by Theresa Tate saw their own instructions arrive on the morning of Wednesday 14 June.
“With the knowledge that this was an elderly couple using an extension cable to get by and living with hazardous rubble on the roof, it was clear that they needed our support as quickly as possible” says Theresa.
So, she enlisted the help of CBC’s senior building surveyor, Omar Khan, who set the wheels in motion to ensure the safety of our customers. Phone contact was immediately made with our policyholders to reassure them that help was on its way. By just after noon on Wednesday 14 June, a representative of Hickenbuild – one of Crawford’s network of approved specialist building contractors – was on site and had carried out a survey. His assessment was not only practical but rapid. By 4 p.m. on the same day, Hickenbuild had brought in an electrician and a Gas Safe engineer to get the utilities safety-checked and reconnected and had arranged for a scaffolding contractor to attend later that evening on an emergency basis to ensure that no further debris could fall – and this also meant that make-safe work to the roof could be started next day. Omar adds “We had additional warnings of imminent heavy rain, so we not only wanted to take care of the customers’ safety, but we also wanted to make sure they didn’t have to deal with any further damage.”
Although we had told the policyholders that we’d happily arrange alternative accommodation, they were adamant they didn’t want to leave their home. But with these measures in place, we knew they were safe and well, giving us time to gather the resources and services needed fully to restore their home and get their lives back on track.
Tony Derbyshire, Network Director Contractor Connection, adds
“This is an outstanding example of Crawford doing what it does best. When the worst happened for these customers, leaving them without power and potentially vulnerable to falling debris, we stepped up and delivered positive action within 48 hours of the event. I could not be prouder of the Crawford Building Consultancy team and our trusted partners at Hickenbuild.”