What was Boston’s Molasses Disaster?

On January 15, 1919, Boston suffered one its biggest, and strangest, disasters in its history. More than two million gallons of molasses burst out of its holding tank, creating a two-story tidal wave that traveled 35 miles per hour and flooded the streets with sticky, viscous, dark liquid. The wave destroyed everything in its path, including part of the elevated railroad track, and killed 21 people.

This molasses, which was stored in a 50-foot tall, 90-foot diameter tank in Boston’s North End neighborhood, was on deck to make alcohol for the manufacture of munitions, in high demand because of World War I.

What caused the burst?

The tank had been quickly and cheaply erected in 1915, without basic safety tests. The steel used for the tank was only half as thick as it should have been. The tank leaked so badly, the company painted it brown, so the leaks would be less noticeable. Children playing nearby would eat the sticky, sweet treat as it leaked from the tank.

It is thought that the unseasonably warm temperature of that day fermented the molasses which increased the pressure from inside the tank. Unable to withstand the pressure, the tank burst, sending steel pieces through the air, molasses over the ground, and rivets shooting out like bullets. The warm temperature of the molasses inside the tank allowed it to flow rapidly but as it cooled in the open air, it became thicker and hampered efforts to rescue people.

How could a public adjuster help?

In our current day insurance framework, a public adjuster would represent the home or building owners whose property was damaged. The public adjuster would put in a claim through the owner’s insurance company and manage the claim, including arranging alternative housing, handling remediation companies, and getting the insured the best settlement possible.

Why through the individual homeowners’ policies and not the owner of the tank’s?

When there’s a widespread disaster like this one, it’s tough to prove who is liable and sometimes it takes years. Was it the owner of the tank? Was it the company who constructed it? Was it the manufacturer of the parts? It’s faster and easier to have your public adjuster put the claim through your individual policy. Then, your insurance company could subrogate against the other parties if they choose. In the meantime, you’re on your way to rebuilding.

Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc. has more than fifty years in the insurance adjusting field and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. We have adjusted every type of property claim there is: fire, storms, water, robbery, you name it. Licensed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas, we can handle your claim from start to finish. Contact us today via email or telephone 508-588-4243.

Looking for more information on the molasses disaster? Check out Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo. Here’s a clip of the author discussing the flood.

What happened in the Halifax, Nova Scotia explosion of 1917?

On December 6, 1917, two ships collided in the harbor in Halifax, Nova Scotia causing one of the worst explosions in history. The Mont Blanc, which contained a cargo of explosives heading to France for use in World War I, exploded with such force that the 3,121 tons of her iron hull vaporized and shot up more than 2,000 feet. This was followed by a tsunami of sea water that swept over the city. Twelve-thousand buildings within a 16-mile radius were damaged. Almost 2,000 Haligonians were killed by the blast, debris, fires, collapsed buildings, and the tsunami, and possibly 9,000 injured. As if that wasn’t enough, within twenty-four hours, a major blizzard hit Halifax, hampering rescue and relief efforts.

The town before the explosion

Who was at fault?

Investigations determined that both ships were equally responsible for the explosion. Therefore, if this happened today, both ships’ insurance companies would split any payouts. This is called a “third-party” claim since it’s being paid by a third party rather than by the claimant or their own insurance company.

The causes of loss

There are several causes of loss in this case and differentiating them is important to who pays for what. The explosion, which caused fire and debris damage, water from the tsunami, and damage caused by the blizzard. Damage resulting directly from the explosion, including the tsunami, would be covered by the third-party insurance companies. If the tsunami had been naturally occurring, it would not be covered since water traveling across the ground and “wave wash” are not covered by a regular homeowner’s policy.

Any claim resulting from the blizzard that came in the days after the explosion would be covered by the individual homeowners’ policies.

How could a Public Adjuster help in this case?

Third party claims can be hard to collect on in a timely and satisfactory manner. It’s often much easier to file a first-party claim with your own insurance company who will then subrogate against the third party after their own insured has been satisfied. A public adjuster would represent the claimants in this case. A public adjuster can also help with placing a family in an alternative residence for the duration of the claim process and the reconstruction, and a public adjuster can help with remediation vendors. Having a public adjuster manage the claim allows the survivors to move forward with their lives and deal with the trauma of the explosion and its aftermath.

Interesting fact

The Boston Red Cross and the Massachusetts Public Safety Committee sent a delegation to Halifax shortly after the explosion. In appreciation, Halifax sent a Christmas tree to the City of Boston in 1917. In 1971, the gift was revived and has been continued every year since.

Christmas Tree In Boston

For more information 

This is a great little video illustrating the lead-up to the disaster. https://youtu.be/OSuX9RvLq54

A great book about the disaster and its aftermath is Curse of the Narrows: the Halifax Disaster of 1917 by Laura M. MacDonald.

Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc. has more than fifty years in the insurance adjusting field and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. We have adjusted every type of property claim there is: fire, storms, water, robbery, you name it. Licensed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas, we can handle your claim from start to finish. Contact us today via email or telephone at 508-588-4243.

Cocoanut Grove Fire Anniversary

What was the Cocoanut Grove Fire?

Today marks the 76th anniversary of the most devastating nightclub fire in US history, The Cocoanut Grove fire which took place in Boston on November 28, 1942. The popular nightclub, located on Piedmont Street in the Bay Village neighborhood, offered patrons several levels of a tropical party atmosphere with music, dancing, dining, and cocktails. While the club’s legal capacity was 460, there was an estimated 1,000 Thanksgiving weekend club-goers there the night of the fire.

The fire, which was deemed of “unknown origin,” started at about 10:15 pm and spread quickly through the Melody Lounge on the lower level of the club. Materials used in the club’s décor and the structure of the building created a perfect environment for the fire which moved faster than the patrons could escape. Non-functioning or hidden exits, and the single revolving door at the front of the building which became inoperable as the panicked crowd charged the exit, made escape almost impossible. Many guests were overcome by smoke while still in their seats. Four-hundred and ninety-two people lost their lives.

Insurance implications

As a result of this incident, fire safety laws in Boston and throughout the US were changed to ensure the wellbeing of nightclub patrons. If this happened today, and the owners of the Cocoanut Grove had fire mitigation in place but a fire broke out anyway, the building losses would be covered. Any damage to surrounding and adjacent buildings would be covered by their own insurance policies.

How could a public adjuster help?

A public adjuster could represent any of the building owners in their building damage claims, including the owners of the Cocoanut Grove. A public adjuster would estimate the extent of the damage and the degree of coverage and act as the building owner’s representative to the insurance company. A public adjuster would also help manage remediation vendors, including emergency board-up the night of the fire. If business interruption is an issue, the public adjuster could manage that part of the claim as well.

Get more information about the Cocoanut Grove fire

Here’s a little video of experts discussing the fire: https://youtu.be/Q0BMsefS8fY

If you want to read more about the fire, check out a book called Fire in the Grove, by John C. Esposito. It’s a great book with highly detailed accounts of the people involved, the club, that night’s events, and the aftermath of the fire.

Interesting facts

Along with several other safety laws enacted as a result of the Cocoanut Grove fire, a lesser known law is that no club in Boston can ever use the name Cocoanut Grove, forever.

Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc. has more than fifty years in the insurance adjusting field and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. We have adjusted every type of property claim there is: fire, storms, water, robbery, you name it. Licensed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas, we can handle your claim from start to finish. Contact us today via email or telephone 508-588-4243.

How To Catalog Your Stuff

Catalog Your Stuff: Create a Home Inventory List Before You Need It

Imagine your home is destroyed by some catastrophic event. You can take some comfort knowing your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy covers the contents – in other words, all your beloved your stuff. A contractor or public adjuster can go through your house and estimate the damage to the building, but, it’s pretty difficult for an outsider to list every item that once occupied your house. It’s going to be up to you to make sure the list is comprehensive, so you can collect what you’re entitled to in your insurance claim.

As public adjusters, we recommend creating a list of your personal property and storing the list in a safe place. Your list should include photos, a description, where and when you purchased the item, and what you paid for it. 

Do it before you need it.

Imagine having to list every single item in your home from a pencil and can of shaving cream, to furniture, wardrobe, personal papers, and books after a fire has destroyed everything. It’s time-consuming and emotionally draining. The photo above was once a beautiful family room. Can you tell what all of the contents used to look like? That’s why it’s best to do the contents list before you need it.

Sound overwhelming? It is. But there are a few tools that can help you out:

  • Microsoft Excel templates: Open up Microsoft Excel, go to File>New from Template. Then type Home Inventory into the template search.
  • Look at some samples: This will give you an idea of what one should look like. Here’s one from our favorite site, United Policyholders.
  • Hire a personal property inventory specialist. Google it and find someone in your area. A little team will show up at your house with a voice recorder, go through all of your stuff, and type it all up including dollar values. As public adjusters for one of our clients, we used one of these organizations to list a total loss and there were thousands of items on the list. This service cost about $2,000 which wasn’t cheap, but was well worth it for that claim. But even though we did that, our client still had to go through that list with a fine-toothed comb to make sure everything was listed and correct.
  • There’s an app for that! United Policyholders created an app for your home inventory. It’s pretty cool. You can store photos and everything.

Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc. has more than fifty years in the insurance adjusting field and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. We have adjusted every type of property claim there is: fire, storms, water, robbery, you name it. Licensed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas, we can handle your claim from start to finish. Contact us today via email or telephone 508-588-4243.


What is Overhead and Profit?

When you receive the adjuster’s breakdown of your insurance claim, look for the line items Overhead and Profit. Commonly known as O&P, this covers the cost of a general contractor to oversee your reconstruction.

Depending on the size of your claim, your repairs may take several tradespeople to complete. Examples of tradespeople are painters, wallpaper hangers, carpenters, masons, electricians, and plumbers. If your reconstruction needs at least three trades, a general contractor is considered necessary to coordinate and supervise the job. Whether you want to hire one is up to you, but you’re entitled to be paid for the expense.

O&P covers the general contractor’s time and expenses and is usually calculated as a percentage of the overall cost of the job. Overhead covers the cost of equipment, facilities, and operations for the job. Profit is how the general contractor earns a living.

We often see the O&P omitted and if you don’t know you’re entitled to it, you won’t know to ask for it. Take a look at the adjuster’s summary, usually on the last page of the estimate, and check for the line items Overhead and Profit. If you don’t see it and can’t find it anywhere else in the estimate, ask the adjuster to add it. This is a legitimate expense and you are entitled to collect it.

Contact Us Today!

At Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, we offer many services, and can truly help you throughout the course of your claim. We’ll make sure you get your O&P and everything else you’re entitled to. Contact us today via email, or by giving us a call at 508-588-4243.

Should I Hire a Public Adjuster or an Attorney?

Public adjusters’ area of expertise comes into play during the life of a normal insurance claim. Public adjusters have experience in all aspects of all types of insurance claims and will create a strategy for your claim that will bring you the best possible results.

What Does a Public Adjuster Do?

A public adjuster is a licensed insurance claims professional who advocates for the insured. Public adjusters have many responsibilities to your claim:

  • Determining whether your claim is worth presenting to the insurance company
  • Preparing a comprehensive estimate of damage
  • Managing the claims process including communications with your insurance company and their adjuster
  • Negotiating on your behalf to get you the best settlement possible

I’ve been handling the claim myself, but the insurance company is not giving me satisfaction. What now?

It’s not too late to hire a public adjuster. He or she can take over the claim and usually will bring about a satisfactory settlement.

When your public adjuster’s efforts have been exhausted, and the insurance company is still denying your claim, your only recourse may be legal action. Only an attorney can represent you in court – not a public adjuster. Taking the insurance company to court is uncommon, but it does happen. But generally, a public adjuster will be able to handle your claim from start to finish.

Contact Us Today!

At Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, we offer many services, and can truly help you throughout the course of your claim. Contact us today via email, or by giving us a call at 508-588-4243 .

Don’t Let a High Wind Deductible Blow Your Claim

As we work through all of the claims that came in from March’s Nor’easters, we have had to share disappointing news with some of our clients. Some policies have a separate deductible for wind claims, which is higher than the regular deductible. You may not even know that you have a different windstorm deductible. You don’t want to find out after a loss.

Why Do They Do This?

When there’s a big wind event, like March’s Nor’easters, insurance companies won’t just have a claim from you; they’ll have one from practically everybody else in the affected area. Higher wind deductibles offset the financial burden that comes with having to pay several losses all at once.

How Do You Know If You Have A Higher Wind Deductible?

Look at your declarations page, usually the first page of the policy – the one with your name and address on it. You’ll see your regular deductible and nearby, the wind deductible if you have one. Your wind deductible may be a flat figure, like $2,000. Or it may have a percentage of 2%. The percentage is of the limit of liability for your dwelling. For example, if your dwelling coverage is $200,000, your 2% windstorm deductible is $4,000.

Check your Policy.

Higher wind deductibles fall into the bad surprise category, especially if the deductible is higher than the actual claim, in which case, you get zero. Take a look at your policy and find out if you have a wind deductible. If you do, contact your agent to see if there’s any way to lower it. With hurricane season right around the corner, don’t compound the trauma of a loss with the shock of a zero-dollar settlement.

Contact Us Today!

Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters offers many services and can truly help you understand your policy. Contact us today by sending us an email, or by giving us a call at 508.588.4243!

The Perks of Having a Public Adjuster

When thinking about a claim, it’s normal to focus on the bottom line – your final settlement. But we forget that an insurance claim can involve a level of emotion that is akin to grief. While a public adjuster can definitely help you get an appropriate settlement, he or she can also help you through the process of grieving your loss. A public adjuster can also save you a lot of time and headaches. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest reasons you should hire a public adjuster:

  • They will maximize your settlement; and while the public adjuster’s fee is a percentage of the final number, the settlement you get with a public adjuster can be 30-50% higher than you could get alone – sometimes even more.
  • They can help you through the grief. Having your home damaged is traumatic, and grief can make the claims process very difficult, and even potentially cause people to withdraw or not make a claim. A public adjuster gets it – he or she has seen it all before and will make sure you don’t feel like you’re alone.
  • If you incurred a large loss, a public adjuster can help you immensely by setting up a

place for you and your family to stay during the claim and reconstruction, managing vendors like mitigation companies and dry cleaners, and itemizing all of the contents of your home that were lost.

  • Policy language is like a foreign language, but public adjusters speak it and know how to apply it to your claim.
  • Don’t like the work of your insurance company’s adjuster? Or is the insurance company not returning your calls or taking your claim seriously? A public adjuster can help keep them on track. Similarly, if you feel your insurance company is not evaluating your loss adequately, a public adjuster can argue in your favor.
  • Public adjusters are experienced in documenting, filing, and proving claims. Are you? Probably not. This is huge and will help you to get a higher settlement, not to mention save you a ton of time and aggravation.
  • They have the time – it’s their job. While you’re doing your job, taking care of your family, and living your life, the public adjuster will make sure everything goes smoothly with the claim.

At Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, we offer many services, and can truly help you throughout the process of your claim. Contact us today by filling out our contact form, or by giving us a call at 508.588.4243.

“A Robbery, a Fire, and the Steve Miller Band” or “Get Some Renter’s Insurance”

renterBack when I first graduated from college, a long, long, long time ago, the apartment I shared with a roommate was broken into and robbed. After the initial feeling of vulnerability and being invaded had abated, I got down to the business of figuring out what was taken. All of my jewelry, all of my CDs (except the Steve Miller Band one, which kind of offended the friend who’d given it to me – “oh, Steve Miller not good enough for the robbers???”), and some articles of clothing were taken. I made a list, filed a claim through my renter’s insurance, and had a lot of fun shopping for replacement items once I’d received my check. Having a dad who’s been a public adjuster my whole life made me understand the value of insurance at a very young age.

My roommate, on the other hand, did not have renter’s insurance. She’d lost the same amount of items that I had, but she was not able to replace them. I wondered if my policy would cover her things, but that’s not how it works. She’d have needed her own policy. Her dad was a math teacher.


Fast forward to 2017 and my dad and I are working on a fire claim for the Brockton Housing Authority, which manages housing for low-income individuals in Brockton, Massachusetts. Four beautiful townhouses were heavily damaged by a fire that started in a bathroom ceiling fan. As I walked through each unit, I was saddened to see so many personal belongings of the tenants destroyed by either fire or water. Family photos, clothes, furniture, books, electronics – all of this is not covered by the landlord’s policy. I wondered if any of these folks had renter’s insurance.

What is renter’s insurance?

Also called tenant’s insurance, it’s a policy that provides liability insurance and covers the tenant’s personal property against named perils like fire, theft, and vandalism. The landlord is not responsible for any of the tenant’s belongings. There are criteria as to whose property is covered under the policy, like my roommate was not covered under mine, but you can work all that out with your agent. The good news is that it’s a lot cheaper than a regular homeowner’s policy because it doesn’t cover the dwelling.  Here’s a little bit more info.

So the moral of the story is, if you rent, get yourself some renter’s insurance. If you’re a landlord, encourage your tenants to get renter’s insurance. Because some robbers do like the Steve Miller Band, and fire and water don’t care what CDs you have. It could all be gone.



Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters is a full-service public adjusting firm with over 40 years of experience serving all of Massachusetts. We are based in Brockton, Massachusetts.