A devastating property loss and a warning of collapse danger both made headlines recently. One of the news resources that those of us in the property insurance industry turn to is the Claims Journal. I have the Claims Journal app on my iPhone and check it frequently, but I was surprised when two stories in the same feed were reporting on collapse issues in two different parts of the country.

The first report was on a devastating collapse loss, luckily no lives were claimed, when the second story of a church collapsed during a teen youth service. The reports indicate that 70 students at their youth group meeting when the floor collapsed The teens dropped about 12 feet into the kitchen below. 35 students were injured and one was taken by air for treatment of a head injury. The local hospital treated 19 students, while the rest were treated on scene. There is no dispute that this loss happened suddenly and one of the teens recapped the collapse that happened in the middle of the sermon,

We heard a huge rumble and the floor collapsed and people collapsed with it. Everybody heard it. The floor started crumbling and waving. People started falling through the ceiling, just like you’d see in a movie.

An Associated Press article explained that this part of the church was a metal prefabricated building that was used for community activities with classrooms and a large recreation room. When taking a look at the damage after the loss, Jones County Fire Counsel said, “the floor collapsed in like a “V” or funnel. It was an area about 30 feet by 40 feet that gave way.”

The second report on my app was a preventative warning by the New Hampshire Fire Marshal who cautioned that the danger of collapse can happen with little or no warning. This article should be read by all who have suffered the arctic weather and record snowfalls this winter.

The fire marshal encouraged home and business owners to clear roofs of recent heavy snow and ice. Removing ice and heavy snow is a difficult task, and as explained by the fire marshal, insureds should make sure they stay away from electrical lines, do not damage oil and gas service to a building, and use a roof rake. Having performed many roof inspections in mild and warn climates, I can tell you first-hand that walking on a roof can be dangerous. Add in snow and ice, and the situation escalates. Paying for a professional who is insured to come remove snow from your roof may be a small price to pay compared to having a roof collapse.

New Hampshire’s fire marshal also gave warning signs that your roof may have a problem.

  • Sagging roof steel
  • Leaks
  • Cracks
  • Buckling of interior walls
  • Doors and window that are difficult to open
  • Sprinkler heads being pushed down below the ceiling tiles

If you have filed a collapse claim and have any concerns about the damage calculations or application of insurance policy limitations or exclusions, be sure to have the claim reviewed by an attorney with experience in property insurance collapse cases,