Technology to control the weather
remains deep in the realm of science
fiction. But new technology to track
the effects of severe weather, in great
detail, is very much reality.
The National Insurance Crime
Bureau (NICB) has been conducting
highly detailed aerial mapping across
the country for several years. In 2015,
after a cluster of nine tornadoes
struck in and around Coal City, Ill.,
the mapping capabilities were used
to detail the storm damage. Since
then the effort has been expanded
and formalized into the Geospatial
Intelligence Center (GIC).
Ryan Bank, managing director
of GIC, led the creation of the
consortium behind the center,
including Vexcel Imaging, a global
aerial imaging company, and Esri,
a worldwide provider of software
for mapping and spatial analytics.
GIC came of age in 2017 when it
was able to shoot, process and send
to constituents 360-degree, three-
dimensional, survey-grade maps of
Harvey, Irma and Maria.
“The first full-scale use was for
Harvey,” said Bank. “We were able
to process and deliver the images
24-hours after wheels down on the
collections flights. We were then
deployed for Irma and Maria, as well as
the wildfires in California.”
GIC has a fleet of 150 contract
aircrafts on call, mostly twin-engine
turboprops. They are fitted with
cameras worth $1.5 million each.
“NICB is in every command center in
the country,” said Bank. “We fly before
Beyond the ultra-high-resolution
cameras, GIC uses artificial
intelligence and machine learning to
determine damage. For comparison,
maps used by the Federal Emergency
Management Agency for disaster
planning are accurate to within 10 feet.
The GIC maps have a granularity of
7. 5 centimeters.
“This changes things,” said Bank.
He said commercial underwriters and
government agencies now have much
better information to work off of in
underwriting or providing aid.
For example, two identical adjacent
homes may appear on maps as similar
risks, but the foundation of one may be
five feet higher. That makes it a lower
“This drastically reduced the time
needed to collect, process and produce
imagery after a catastrophic event,” said
Alexander Martonik, industry specialist
for financial services and insurance
at Esri. “Led by Ryan, the coalition
acquired and published high-resolution
imagery for nearly 24,000 square miles
across Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and
California, leveraging tools from us
Martonik detailed that “the
coalition rapidly processed and
published 100 terabytes of source data
from aerial imagery, providing key
context to stakeholders in the days after
the [events]. To put this in perspective,
using traditional workflows, it could
take weeks or even months to process
this data and create a set of orthophoto
mosaics,” a seamless aerial view over
wide geographic areas.
— Gregory DL Morris
Critical Cat Data at the Industry’s Fingertips
Ryan Bank leads a coalition that’s helping insurers and government
agencies better understand severe weather risks.
Growing up on a 385-acre tobacco farm
shaped Kevin Farthing’s unflinching
work ethic. The central Kentucky
sun was relentless. The 20-hour days
maddening. The physical labor intense.
“It’s hot, miserable, tough work, but
it taught me about work ethic, problem
solving, how to handle urgency and
how to prioritize,” he said. “That
training was more valuable than my
Now Farthing is bringing that
same drive to Sparton Electronics
in De Leon Springs, Fla., where he
serves as environmental health and
safety manager. The 600-employee
company manufactures sonobuoys for
the navies of the world — but faced
a high number of musculoskeletal
injuries and annual workers’ comp
claim costs exceeding $500,000.
Despite multiple modifications to the
production processes and attempts to
control ergonomic risk factors, nothing
seemed to work.
Farthing knew where the answer
was, so he dug through filing cabinets
for injury data, built spreadsheets
and searched for trends. Were older
workers more susceptible to injury?
Were certain job tasks more dangerous?
Then a eureka moment — he found
that 40 percent of the musculoskeletal
injuries were occurring during the first
three years of employment. Sparton was
hiring candidates who were previously
injured or not capable of performing
the physical tasks required.
That led him to partner with
BTE Workforce Solutions to design
specific post-offer, pre-employment
tests to make sure candidates were
up to the physical challenges. They
tested for all the tasks that required
high force, awkward posture and high
grip strength. Initially, the failure rate
was 50 percent. Rather than lowering
the demands of the tests, he identified
which tests individuals were failing most
and modified the actual work tasks they
corresponded to. For example, they no
longer require employees to manually
move certain types of heavy loads.
“We took that test completely out
of the equation, and my plant is safer
because of it,” said Farthing.
In another instance, he tested a
banding cutter personally and realized
the incredible grip force required to do
“I took them to a maintenance shop,
took them apart and threw them in the
garbage,” he said.
“Two days later, we had an electric
banding cutter in there.”
Buy-in from senior management
took serious tenacity, but that didn’t
stop a risk manager as determined as
“He didn’t let a ‘no’ stop him,” said
Connie Miller, the BTE vice president
of Business Development.
After two years of implementation,
the program has seen excellent results.
A two-year investment of $174,000 has
yielded an expected savings of more
How Farm Life Shaped a
Tenacity for Risk Management
Growing up under the Kentucky sun trained Kevin Farthing for any risk and
equipped him with a go-getter work ethic.
“NICB is in every command center
in the country. We fly before the
roadblocks are lifted.”
— Ryan Bank, managing director, Geospatial
Intelligence Center, National Insurance Crime Bureau
“[Farm life is] hot, miserable,
tough work, but it taught me about
work ethic, problem solving, how
to handle urgency and how to
— Kevin Farthing, environmental health and safety
manager, Sparton Electronics