Pope Francis two-day visit to Philadelphia this weekend, which will close the Holy Fathers six-day apostolic journey to the US, has a special event policy in place with WR Berkley Corp. and OneBeacon Insurance as lead underwriters, according to a firm that helped broker the coverage.

DeWitt Stern Group, a New York-based broker and a subsidiary of Risk Strategies Company in Boston, said it has been working on the coverage together with Porter amp; Curtis LLC, a Media, Pennsylvania-based broker for the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

There are five insurance companies, including lead insurers WR Berkley Corp. and OneBeacon Insurance, that are underwriting this coverage. The premium was in the range of a couple hundred thousand dollars, with the coverage limit in tens of millions of dollars, according to executives with knowledge of the coverage.

LeConte Moore, managing director of DeWitt Stern Groups Entertainment and Media Division, said he was first contacted by Bill Curtis, a principal at Porter amp; Curtis, a year ago to work on covering this risk.

Porter amp; Curtis is a specialist with archdioceses, Catholic schools and churches. Thats their specialty whereas my specialty is doing event. Curtis said, I am a specialist for unique needs for archdioceses but I dont know how to do these events like you do. Can we partner and do this together? So we agreed to do work on this together a year ago, said Moore, whose clients have included rock stars, princesses and the Presidential Inauguration committees for four US presidents.

In Philadelphia, the Pope will attend the Roman Catholic World Meeting of Families 2015 conference. Dewitt Stern said the policy covers everything from an irreplaceable historical lectern once used by President Abraham Lincoln to deliver The Gettysburg Address in 1863 to Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway event Sunday, where the Pope will say Mass before an anticipated 250,000-plus people. The special event insurance would cover events during Popes two-day visit to Philadelphia as well as affiliated events by the World Meeting of Families, a Roman Catholic group that helped organize the papal visit.

The policy also covers load-ins including preparations for the events such as television cables being run and altars being built and the bleachers being built and all the port-a-potties being delivered.

Sometimes you might have to put the policy in effect two or three months ahead of time even though the major event is the big concern. Things can happen and things do happen probably more frequently during what we refer to as the load-in, he said.

The papal visit to Philadelphia is a very large event, probably larger than anyone I have worked on over 30 years, said Conte, who had previously launched and led Marsh amp; McLennans Entertainment Practice for 20 years before joining DeWitt Stern in 2004.

The Popes visit is similar, however, to Bill Clintons inauguration when he was first president, said Conte. The reason is, the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which throws a party for the president once he is elected, is not a government body. So they raised a lot of money and had a party for the president, he added.

Clinton had a big event at the National Mall in Washington, DC, and had a huge party, he said, and there were no real boundaries as to where the event or the risk stopped and started. So these events for two days in Philadelphia are very much like that, because there is no perimeter as to where the underwriters may get pulled into a claim or not, said Conte.

During the Popes visit to Philadelphia, a claim could come from anybody coming to the event, anybody associated with the event, Conte also added. If I am not even coming to the event and if I fall over some wires or television cables that are around, I could claim that my injuries were caused by the negligence of the Roman Catholic World Meeting of Families and try to present my claim. Thats what makes this risk more concerning perhaps for underwriters than others, he said.

Conte also noted that there is a monoline terrorism policy purchased, so the US liability underwriters are not writing that coverage. He added that while terrorism is always a concern, there is more security at this event than anything hes ever seen. For obvious reasons, the US does not want something to happen on their soil and thats another reason why the underwriters think this is a good risk because you got as much security as you possible can here, he said.

Underwriting Special Events

Conte said that while most US insurers shy away from underwriting special event coverages, it can be very profitable for those that have developed expertise in this area.

The majority of insurers in the country dont want to insure special events and the reason is because its a one-shot deal. They get one chance to make money and the risk is over, he explained. Its not like most other types of insurance, which are annual policies and if you have a bad experience, hopefully you get the renewal, you get the increased premiums and you develop a partnership whether it is with loss control or in other areas with the client. You develop that and you hope for a long-term relationship.

But with a special event, Conte said, its one shot: You cant make an amendment for the next time in loss control.

The ones that do it, such as WR Berkley Corp., the American International Group and OneBeacon to name a few, understand the business, he said. They understand that they only got one shot at this. They make it a specialty of what they do, and it runs for most of them very profitably because they write a lot of the businesses and spread their risks out, said Conte. Many of these risks have minimal losses. The special event business, while it looks on the outside quite scary, can be and typically is very profitable for insurance companies that know how to underwrite it.

However, he added, you cant just dip your toe in the water in this business because if you write only one risk and if it goes wrong it could be just one simple trip-and-fall depending on where it is and who it is, it could be over $100,000 and the premium isnt going to be that.

Conte also clarified that writing these special event risks profitably does not mean putting a whole bunch of exclusions on the policy.

Many underwriters try to put exclusions on the policy that we would negotiate off, he said. For example, they would exclude collapse of temporary structures, any injuries from fireworks, any collapse of bleachers, things like that and you have to negotiate those exclusions off the policy. If you are going to protect your client, at the least get the defense costs if something tragic happens.


The trust fund that helps pay for disability insurance under Social Security is on track to run out of money next year, a shortfall that would trigger a 19 percent cut in benefits. To avert these painful cuts, policymakers should overhaul the program by dropping the progressive benefit structure and replacing it with a flat benefit that will keep recipients out of poverty.

That point was no more apparent to me than when I had the opportunity to sit down with two local agents, Michelle Schaefer and Joan Curtis of Farmers Insurance in downtown Edmond. The pair outlined what you need to think about: what you might never have thought about when it comes to protecting your beloved family in the worst of times.

Life insurance

This is the biggie. Maybe you are about to skip over this and head to the next point because you think you've got it covered, but don't be so hasty. If you're the breadwinner and you've got life insurance on yourself, don't think the buck stops there. Now is the time to sit down with your agent and figure out if you have enough life insurance. If you pass away, will your spouse have enough money to take time off before looking for a job or going back to work? Can you ensure that a stay-at-home spouse can continue to do so? What if you are a stay-at-home mom?

Don't undervalue yourself. If something happens to you, your spouse will need time to grieve (which means time off work), and then he or she will be responsible for filling all those childcare needs you handle every day.

If you are divorced, have you considered the importance of having a policy that will cover child support in the event that you ex-spouse has a new family or leaves no money behind?

And finally, seriously consider a life insurance policy for your children ... a permanent policy that they can keep forever (and even access for retirement funds). Do this before any health issues or life events make getting life insurance more difficult or impossible for them, and your children will have the opportunity to protect their own family down the road.

Liability insurance

This is another big consideration. Maybe you got your car insurance policy when you were in college or working an entry-level job and you weren't worth much at the time. But things change and maybe you and your family are much better off these days. In this sue-happy society, it's best to make sure that if someone wants to take you for all your worth, you have what you need. Your agent can help you determine that figure, and generally, the payment is pennies (or less) on the dollar. Totally worth it.

College Savings Plan

Yep. Some insurance agencies can even help you set one of these plans up. The account is in your control but in your child's name, keeping you from paying taxes on its earnings, and your child can use it for a variety of educational expenses. And if your child runs off and wants nothing to do with education? Never fear. You can change the beneficiary, even to yourself, as long as the money is used toward education.

Pet insurance

This is something to consider, especially if you're a parent of a soft-hearted kid. We all have to make the best decisions we can for our pets considering quality of life and quantity of life, but pet health insurance can ensure that this decision is less about finances and more about humane animal treatment. And sometimes, a little more time with a pet due to good medical care can give a child the chance to properly say goodbye.

Umbrella policy

No, this has nothing to do with reminding you to keep one in your car on rainy days (where does mine go half the time?). This is a policy attached to a primary insurance policy you hold, but it can cover you up to several million dollars. This type of policy is especially important to talk to your insurance agent about if you have a swimming pool or trampoline, or any property feature that could make you liable for heavy damages.

Finally, agents Schaefer and Curtis both emphasized the value of having a local agent, not only because they know you and can sit down with you for a policy review in person, but because that money stays local. And make an appointment at least every two years to sit down with your agent and review your policy. In the end, you might save some money, but you'll definitely be saving yourself heartache.

MM COX is a former journalist and public relations professional who is now a full-time mom, author and blogger.