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Independent Adjuster

Understanding the Property Claim Services (PCS) Index: A Guide for Adjusters in Times of Disaster


When devastating and widespread disaster strikes, catastrophic (CAT) claims adjusters play a crucial role in helping individuals and businesses recover their losses. The Property Claim Services (PCS) Index serves as a valuable and important tool for CAT adjusters who are assigned to manage catastrophic claims.

If you want to work as a CAT claims adjuster, you’ll need to understand how to use the PCS Index. So, let’s dive into the details…

What Is Property Claim Services?

Property Claim Services (PCS) is a unit of the Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO). Essentially a data aggregator, it investigates, analyzes and reports on catastrophic events.


  • is a recognized authority on property losses from catastrophes in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • is committed to serving the insurance and reinsurance industries
  • has more than 60 years of experience identifying catastrophes and compiling proprietary catastrophe loss estimates
  • provides insurers and reinsurers, through license agreements, use of PCS catastrophe information to help with their financial needs
  • offers all PCS catastrophe information through a single, easy-to-use subscription service (ISOnet PCS).

The PCS mission statement is stated as follows: “Property Claim Services is committed to serving our customers and supporting the global insurance industry through catastrophe identification and the provision of reliable, accurate, objective, and timely catastrophe loss estimates.”

What Is Considered a Catastrophe?

In general, a catastrophe is considered to be an infrequent event that causes severe loss, injury or property damage to a large population. While the term is most often associated with natural events, it also is used when there is concentrated or widespread damage from man-made disasters (e.g., civil disorders, explosions, and human-caused fires). 

The types of natural events that can be considered catastrophes include:

  • hurricanes
  • tornados
  • winter storms
  • severe weather
  • freezing
  • hail storms
  • wildfires
  • earthquakes
  • volcanic eruption explosions

READ MORE: 6 Types of Residential Property Claims Handled by Independent Adjusters


However, PCS defines the word “catastrophe” in terms of a dollar amount: It is an event that causes $25 million or more in insured property losses and affects a significant number of policyholders and insurers. 

Even so, it’s worth noting that many individual insurers establish their own company thresholds for defining a catastrophic loss. An insurance company may choose to utilize internal criteria to determine whether an event is a catastrophe, as it relates to its specific clientele, even if the event has not been labeled as a catastrophe for the industry as a whole.

How Does PCS Categorize Catastrophes?

It uses a proprietary index – or coding system – that applies to loss events in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

What is the PCS Coding System All About?

PCS monitors industry loss reports and assigns a catastrophe serial number (code) to an event if it meets PCS rules (i.e., its own catastrophe criteria). The serial number usually is released within 24 to 48 hours after the event occurs, and it allows insurers and reinsurers to track losses related to that single, discrete event.

Can Anyone Access PCS Catastrophe Codes?

PCS catastrophe serial numbers are an industry standard available to all PCS service subscribers, including any adjuster who has a current subscription.

How Does the PCS Catastrophe Code List Benefit the Insurance Industry?

PCS’s long-standing reputation for accurately defining and tracking catastrophes helps to reduce disputes between primary insurers and reinsurers, saving the industry millions of dollars in staff and legal expenses each year.

How Can Adjusters Incorporate PCS Codes in Claim Documentation?

It’s just a matter of inserting the appropriate code in a reporting document. This is easy to do if you create reports with a floor plan app like magicplan. This type of app is an ideal tool for documenting disaster damages quickly, and then developing and sharing structured reports with sketches, photos, notes, and, of course, appropriate PCS codes.


Does PCS Offer Other Services That Can Help Adjusters?

Yes. If adjusters subscribe to ISOnet PCS – which is a core service provided by PCS – they can stay on top of important data and keep track of weather changes and catastrophes that are underway.

ISOnet PCS provides:

  • Daily severe weather summaries — descriptions of severe weather with current data, including conditions, forecasts, and satellite and radar maps
  • Catastrophe bulletins — the latest details on recent and past catastrophes, with the ability to select information by date, state, peril, or catastrophe serial number
  • Storm and event tracking reports — up-to-date data on tropical storms and events occurring on land but not yet declared catastrophes by PCS
  • Catastrophe news (estimate updates) — catastrophe loss summaries and periodic bulletins on issues affecting the insurance industry’s response to catastrophes
  • Catastrophe History Reporter — five detailed reports to help anyone compare and analyze the effects of catastrophic events
  • Claims information services
  • PCS help bulletins — guidelines and procedures for claims adjusters
  • Catastrophe claims-handling regulations — catastrophe-only information about state adjuster licensing laws, valued-policy laws, acts concerning unfair claims practices, and other laws and regulations

How Much Time Does an Adjuster Need to Spend on a Catastrophic Claim?

There is no set answer to this question. Catastrophe claims vary in the amount of time they take to investigate, document and estimate, based on a variety of circumstances. But use of software tools can definitely help streamline the overall process! 


All CAT adjusters must have a solid understanding of the PCS Index, so that they can code claims appropriately after disasters strike. This helps ensure that catastrophe claim documentation is correct and thorough, to help ensure efficient claim processing. So, if you are planning to become a CAT adjuster, take time to get more familiar with this important coding system.




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