Meet Richard: Our Resident Gray Sky Guru
Disasters, like hurricanes and tornados, are so monumental, their trajectory can change people’s lives.
Homes destroyed; livelihoods lost – the impact can be devastating.
That’s why we believe it’s critical to capture the full scope of damage after a severe weather event – so the area, and people’s lives, can be restored as quickly as possible.
My name is Richard Butgereit. I’ve seen it all in terms of natural disasters, having been part of emergency management for over 24 years.
As Director of Catastrophe Response for the GIC, my role involves monitoring severe weather and activating our pilots to take high-res imagery after a disaster.
Each day, I track and monitor weather patterns, keeping an eye out for any disaster that could possibly hit our activation thresholds.
I check everything from NOAA and news outlets to USGS and twitter and map out the data using our software.
When the threshold is met, our pilots fly with our specialized cameras and sensors to capture imagery of the disaster’s aftermath.
It can feel like a 24/7 job – especially when we’re monitoring multiple weather events at the same time – but it’s important and gratifying.
Our imagery provides much needed situational awareness to emergency managers, the public sector, and GIC members.
To me, the Vexcel/GIC partnership, along with the support of the NICB, has been a complete game-changer – helping insurance companies do their jobs and deliver a better service to their customers.
Disaster imagery has taught me just how vulnerable we all are. The strongest walls, the greatest roofs are all still susceptible to being swept out from underneath us at any moment.
I’ll never forget Hurricane Laura and Delta because, in all the years I’ve seen disasters, nothing can compare to seeing how those areas in southern Louisiana were impacted, back-to-back just six weeks apart. It was heartbreaking. But I take comfort in knowing that our imagery helps people.
After the Oregon wildfires, some of our insurer members proactively contacted customers after getting early access to our disaster imagery. They could tell customers if their houses or businesses survived, even before evacuation orders were lifted. As one member put it, “it was a great relief to a number of families. That was immensely gratifying.
It’s critical we all work together to ensure there are safety nets for the most vulnerable, to find how we can build our resiliency that allows us to keep functioning and keep our community whole.
I love the saying, “If it doesn’t change outcomes, it’s noise” and that’s exactly what we are doing, affecting outcomes with imagery that can capture the full scale of the event, and better informing responders and customers.
It’s the greatest joy of mine to work with a team that is committed to putting in the extra effort. And that’s the best feeling: to know that we’ve done a good job, so that our members can help people restart and rebuild their lives.