Bi-monthly newsletter from the MJ Insurance | Sorority Division.
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Cindy Stellhorn
Executive Vice President, MJ Insurance

As I sat to write my section for this edition of the News & Notes, I reflected upon the messaging that I consistently share with the national leadership of your organization. I immediately thought, "shame on me," for not sharing these thoughts with the chapter and house corporation leaders and volunteers who are so critical to the management of risk within their organizations!

We begin to see a serious deterioration in the profitability of the Sorority Program's results in the 2009-2011 time frame. Profitability for an insurance company simply is that they want to pay out less dollars in claims than they collect in insurance premium with allowance for operating expenses. It was at this time that our insurance company underwriters had to use increased rates for the coverages to get back to profitability; hence why you may have seen some increase in your rates due to your organization's results over the last several years.

I am very pleased to say that this increased rate action is indeed taking hold, and the Sorority Program results to see improvement each year since 2012. However, rate increases alone cannot completely arrest the trend. We are confident that two other dymanics have been developing during that time:
  • members are being held accountable for their actions (or inactions)
  • management of the property has received more necessary attention
To all of the local volunteers, leaders, and members of your respective women's fraternity or sorority, we salute you and your commitment to your organization! We appreciate your hard work to create safe environments for all members and guests. Maintaining your organization's profitability will ultimately help keep the insurance premiums at a reasonable level. The Sorority Division applauds your success!

Increase in Attic Fires: The Need for Heat Sensors

Year end 2015, the MJ Sorority Department was very pleased to see that we now have seventy-three percent (73%) of our chapter houses under the additional protection of a fire suppression system. The leadership of the women’s fraternities and sororities are to be complemented on this attention to safety for their members and the preservation and protection of their property.

The goal of having a fire sprinkler system is twofold:
  • To reduce significantly or entirely the risk of fatalities in a sorority chapter house due to fires
  • To reduce significantly the ultimate property damage of the claim and disruption to your operations

As a reminder where a fire sprinkler system is installed, the property owner or house corporation has the benefit of a forty percent (40%) credit to their property insurance premium, which is a substantial financial benefit to the property owner.

Those chapter houses that are sprinklered were generally following the NFPA Code 13R, which required sprinklers except in the attic space. There was the assumption that there would be limited access to the atticspace and the attic would be clear of storage and of any other use. The cost advantages of the NFPA 13R code over the prior code of NFPA 13 are substantial, ranging roughly 40-60 percent less. This is due to several reasons:
  • Pipe material can be plastic instead of steel (product cost and installation costs)
  • Attics do not have to be sprinklered if limited access and use

A trend has emerged with more fires occurring in the attic which has caused the property insurance underwriter some concern. Since there are no sprinklers in the attic, a fire that begins in the attic burns for a period of time undiscovered. It is only when the roofing is burned through and/or burns through the ceiling of the floor below that the building fire is detected. Valuable time has been lost where the fire department has not been notified as the sprinkler system goes off only after the fire burns through another area beyond the original origin site. The fire results in more dollars loss per fire, it is harder to detect, it becomes larger in size and causes more widespread flame damage. Water damage also affects the dollar loss per fire since the fire is attached at the highest level by the fire department, affecting all of the floors below as opposed to a fire that is attacked on lower floors only. 

We have considered how to address this exposure from a risk management stand point and offer up the two recommendations (applies to both sprinklered and non-sprinklered buildings):

1. Careful attention needs to be given to any electrical devices that may be operational in the attic, such as electric fans, humidifier, etc. Electrical malfunction is the leading cause of attic fires; three out of four of the largest fires in the MJ Sorority Department were due to electrical malfunction.

Any time that work is being done on these electrical devises, it is important to use contractors that have adequate insurance in case a claim occurs that arose out of their work on the item. Should the contractor cause the fire, then the insurance company would have recourse against the contractors own insurance coverage to pay for the damage to your property. See for more details on this matter.

It would also be wise to pay particular attention to the attic space after the work has been done to insure that the completed work appears to be functioning as intended.

2. Install a heat detection/sensor or rate of rise detection/sensor, which is hooked up to your fire alarm system to give quick notice to the fire department of a fire in the attic and the occupants of the chapter house
so they can evacuate. These devises can alert fire projection when the temperature in the area spikes up from a fire starting in the space. These sensors are relatively inexpensive and are connected to the fire alarm system. You need to contact your fire alarm system company to get more information of the additional risk management tool.

We are aware of a company, tattletail, who distributes these important fire safety tools. Tattletale is also a business partner with Travelers Insurance, the property and liability insurance company for MJ Sorority
clients, which enables MJ Sorority clients to have access to preferred pricing. These units are hooked up to the existing fire alarm system and are very reasonably priced.

Of our top four largest claims, three of the four started in an attic and the floors below were indeed sprinklered. As you can imagine when a fire occurs, the liability insurance company underwriter is very pleased that there has been no fatalities; however, the property insurance underwriter is less pleased because with an undetected attic fire, the cost of the ultimate loss is direct damage and loss of use claims are far more substantial than what they would have been if the attic had been sprinklered.

In order to preserve the 40 percent credit, we have two options as we see it:
  1. Install a sprinkler system in your attic, which would be outrageously expensive and impractical or
  2. Install the two or three rate to rise detectors/sensors which has a very reasonable price tag
We urge you to review your system and if the attic is not sprinklered, make arrangements to get the rate-to-rise detectors/sensors installed. We do believe that in a fairly short period of time that the only way to
maintain your forty percent credit will be to have these detectors/sensors installed in your attic.

As a property owner, the safety of your resident members is one of your biggest responsibilities, and we believe that these additional risk management recommendations will help you control your risks. 

Share this article in its entirety here and for more specifics from Travelers Insurance click here.

MJ Sorority: Press Release

MJ Insurance is dedicated to inspiring the success, fulfillment, and wellbeing of each person we serve. That includes giving back to the communities where we live and work, and supporting local organizations that are making a positive difference. Our associate volunteer service hours and charitable donation matching programs are designed to reinforce and encourage our culture of giving back to the community. 

In an effort to support one of our own team members and live out our mission, the MJ Sorority team participated in a work day with Project Eden. Sara Sterley, Director of Risk Management Education, started Project Eden with her husband and several other people in 2013. Project Eden’s mission is to reconnect people with creation and restore broken ecosystems. They do so via many various ecological restoration projects, education initiatives, and nature immersion activities around Indianapolis. One of their most popular projects is their organic vegetable garden located in Noblesville, Indiana. The Project Eden Gardens grow thousands of pounds of organically-grown produce for the Grace Care Center choice food pantry.

The MJ Sorority team split the day between helping stock goodie bags for school children for the food pantry and preparing several garden plots for the upcoming season. With MJ Sorority’s time and help, Project Eden will be able to grow more food for food insecure individuals and families living in Hamilton County.

To learn more about Project Eden or to give a tax deductible donation, check out their website at

Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014, Indianapolis-based MJ Insurance exists to inspire the success, fulfillment and well-being of each person it serves. Today, MJ Insurance is a leading property-casualty and risk management agency specializing in various commercial sectors, including a department dedicated solely to providing integrated insurance and risk management consulting to women's fraternities and sororities. The MJ Sorority team offers specialized knowledge, industry expertise, competitive pricing, unparalleled service and access to the best carriers in the industry. Additional information may be found at
The Department of Labor has recently announced important updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act. MJ Sorority sponsored a webinar with a noted non-profit employment law expert. Review the recorded version here for more information.

Claims Corner: Traveling To and From Events

Heather Cox, Claims Services Manager

We are seeing an increase in the number of claims arising from members and guests going to and from official chapter events. Here are a few examples:
  • The chapter held an event at a hotel. All members and guests were supposed to ride the bus to and from the event. A guest at the event left early due to a disagreement with the bartender. The guest did not ride the bus back to campus and was found deceased in a field the next morning. The temperatures at the time were below zero.
  • A guest at an event left early. It is unknown why he left. It is believed he was attempting to walk back to campus. While crossing the road in front of the venue, he was struck and killed by a truck. 
  • The chapter held a philanthropic event. One of the chapter members arrived at the event intoxicated. She was driven back to campus and dropped off at her residence. The member ended up being locked out of her residence and was sexually assaulted while waiting to get into her room. 
  • The chapter held an event off campus. The members were supposed to ride the bus to and from the event. There was a drop off at the student union. A guest at the event requested the bus driver drop him off prior to the drop off point. The guest was walking on the side of the road back to campus when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver.
  • The chapter held and event off campus. There were two buses to take members and guests to and from an event. One of the buses had a security guard and the other did not. The chapter’s event manual indicated that security guards should be on all buses. An altercation broke out on the bus without the security guard. A guest sustained facial fractures as a result of the altercation and made a claim against the sorority for improper security. 
As you can see from the claim examples, it is critical that your chapter follow your organization's event planning risk management policies. When your organization's policies are not followed or are followed haphazardly, accidents are more likely to happen, and
accidents are more likely to be severe in nature.

Additionally, when accidents do occur and your organization's policies were not followed, it puts more onerous on the organization (and their insurance company) in defending the claim. 

Review your organization's event planning guidelines on a regular basis, and please contact us with any questions or concerns. 

Newest Resources

Concealed weapons are a hot topic on college campuses these days. Check out our new position paper on the topic here.
Is your chapter house on a historic property register? If so, be sure to learn more about the historic property coverage we offer to ensure your property is adequately insured.
There are some important changes to the Crime Coverage. If you haven't already, review the recorded version of the webinar on the new Compulsory Controls. 
We are revamping our website beginning this fall. Email Sara Sterley, Director of Risk Management Education, with your suggestions!
We have 50+ frequently asked questions answered at the FAQs section of - check them out and let us know any that we've missed.
We have recently updated the Important Terms for Housing Agreements resource. Be sure to check it out and compare to your Housing Agreement before the next school year.

Q: What is your risk management position on 15-passenger vans?

A: Because of the severe risks associated with 15-passenger vans (more prone to rollovers and imbalances and subsequent severe injuries) and the driver selection and training requirements, we discourage the use of 15-passenger vans for any activities.

For many more frequently asked questions, check out our FAQs on our website.

MJ Sorority Division: Who To Contact

If you're planning an event or have a Certificate of Insurance requests, please contact Ruth Akers.
For all claim questions, please contact Heather Cox.

For contact changes, please contact Jessica Gunter.
For educational resources and website related questions, please contact Sara Sterley.
For all other questions or requests, please contact your organization's Client Executive.

Help Us Spread the Word

This email is sent to the contacts that we have on file from each organization's headquarters. Please forward it onto your colleagues who might find the information helpful.

Have a Claim?

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Keep Up With Us


Additional resources all the time

We are constantly updating our existing resources and developing new resources, so that we can enable our clients to proactively address trends before they become problematic.

Be sure to bookmark our website at - the premier place for all things women's fraternity and sorority risk management.

Contact Sara Sterley, Director of Risk Management Education, with your suggestions.
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