The Virginia Bureau of Insurance says it is “confident that insurers are actively preparing for this storm” as the potential impact of Hurricane Florence is anticipated in the state.
“The Bureau’s focus is first – to encourage everyone to prepare – and second – to deal with matters regarding damage after the storm,” a Virginia Bureau of Insurance spokesperson told Insurance Journal.
Indeed, as the top carrier of homeowners insurance in Virginia, a State Farm spokesperson told Insurance Journal its focus is the same. Its claims operation has been trained to handle catastrophe claims and is prepared to go anywhere in the country within hours of being notified, the spokesperson said.
“Catastrophes routinely cause heavy damage to a community’s infrastructure and often leave the area without power, phone service and navigational landmarks such as street signs,” the spokesperson stated. “Our on-the-ground team is fully equipped to respond to our customers’ needs…”
While Insurance Journal reported that Hurricane Florence was downgraded yesterday to a Category 2 hurricane as its maximum sustained winds decreased to about 110 mph, according to NOAA, Florence remains a large and dangerous threat. Storm surge as high as nine feet in some places and extreme rainfall of 30-to-40 inches can be expected, with even a few tornadoes possible, according to NOAA.
Accuweather has reported that Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Va., can expect significant coastal flooding as a result of strong high pressure to the north, which is likely to enhance winds, wave action and coastal flooding farther north along the coast than what would normally occur.
With this in mind, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam stated during a press conference last night that his request for a federal disaster declaration has been granted by President Trump’s administration. This will ensure the availability of federal resources to help Virginia with storm response, he stated during the press conference. Northam earlier issued a mandatory evacuation order for coastal Virginia residents in Zone A – which encompasses the lowest-lying areas of coastal Virginia and the Eastern shore – in advance of Hurricane Florence. The evacuation order went into effect beginning Tuesday, September 11, at 8 a.m.
“Hurricane Florence has the potential to cause catastrophic flooding, especially in our coastal areas,” Governor Northam said in a press release issued by his office. “This evacuation is for the safety of thousands of Virginians living in that zone. But the effects of this storm will be felt statewide, and I encourage everyone in Virginia to prepare now.”
For insurers, James Brown, CEO of enterprise customer communications management provider Smart Communications, says “time is of the essence” when working to respond to a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tropical storm.
“If property and casualty insurers do not already have a customer communications strategy in place well before a major weather event occurs, it is too late,” he told Insurance Journal. “A situation such as this requires a dedicated strategy – timely reminders of coverage limits, policy details and the claims filing process.”
He added that digital communication can be particularly important as evacuations occur, meaning many customers may have left their homes in advance and are only able to effectively communicate through digital channels.
“It is vitally important that the right customers receive the right information as quickly as possible, while also maintaining quality and accuracy,” he said. “Any time a customer needs to file a claim, it’s going to be emotional, but this is even more true during large disasters such as a major hurricane. It is at these times that customers want to feel connected to and taken care of by their chosen providers. The way they are communicated with has tremendous impact on this.”
Tropical Storm Florence was initially formed on August 31 before intensifying over the Atlantic Ocean to become a Category 4 hurricane on September 5 and then being downgraded yesterday to a Category 2 hurricane.
This is a developing story.
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