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14 The Official Newsletter of the Maine Landscape and Nursery Association Winter 2008

any health related condition, early identification and treatment will oftentimes correct the problem. If
corrective action is not possible or successful, removal of the tree will eliminate the threat.
Routine maintenance by a professional tree care service, not a landscaper or lawn service, will also
correspond to favorable loss experience during wind storms. Wind storms are often accompanied by
drenching rains which can loosen the soil. Large deciduous (shade) trees are particularly susceptible to
falling in these conditions as their wide leaves can catch the wind, acting like a big sail, and pull the
roots out of the wet soil. It has been proven that regular professional pruning to thin and shape the
crown can reduce wind resistance by 30%. The fact that it also creates a healthier tree by allowing
light to penetrate the crown and removing crossing branches is another loss prevention benefit of
pruning.
Property owners, particularly those in high wind prone areas, also need to be aware of the types of
large trees and shrubs which they locate near structures. The majority of tree losses where no obvious
poor health or other condition is present will involve trees which are genetically inferior vis a vis wind
resistance. Pine trees, for example, are genetically predisposed to wind failures due their genetically
soft wood. Again, removal of these trees may be recommended based on their size, age and proximity
to a home or other property. Pine trees however are not the only species to be wary of, with some
species it is only a matter of time before they fail in a wind or ice storm. A local arborist or
horticulturalist can be helpful in answering questions regarding an appropriate tree or shrub for a
region or specific location on a property.
The apparent climate changes we are experiencing are likely to have a greater impact on future claims
activity due to tree failure. More extreme weather will affect the integrity of large trees in two ways:
first, we are all aware that the number and intensity of storms is increasing. This will affect not only
coastal communities, but also inland areas as hurricanes push farther inland (see Ohio example above)
and thunderstorms intensify. Secondly, more frequent and severe droughts, extreme heat and even
increased flooding, which are all predicted as a result of a warmer climate, will weaken trees ahead of
the storms. All of these factors point to the need to for immediate and positive action to protect
insurers and property owners.
A Solution for the Insurance Industry is to Acquire Information about the Health of Trees
During the Underwriting Process
The evidence is overwhelming that property owners and the insurance industry could save hundreds of
millions of dollars each year, not to mention the risk of personal injury and death, by understanding
and managing the health condition of large trees near structures. When comparing the risk from tree
failure against other risks which insurers do manage with their clients, such as burglaries, house fires
and personal injury, it clearly warrants additional attention and focus. Certainly, the emotional trauma
of having a 40,000 pound tree crash through your home must compare to the trauma of a burglary or
home fire. Regarding the cost comparison, the average burglary loss is just $1,700, which is likely far
less than the average tree loss claim although as already stated, this data is not available.
Many arborists and tree care professionals believe the majority of tree losses can be avoided with the
identification and treatment of pre-existing symptoms and routine maintenance. For the insurance
industry, there are now ways to proactively identify and mitigate the risk of future loss from trees
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