Insurance Industry Mobilizes for Hurricane Irene Claims

August 26, 2011

In addition to advising their policyholders on what to do to protect against Hurricane Irene, property/casualty insurers and brokers are themselves taking precautions—and positioning their claims teams for the aftermath.

Most are publicizing their toll-free claims numbers and online sites for claims, while also making sure their claims people, mobile units and key systems are where they need to be and ready to go once the storm passes.

Some are using automatic call systems to alert policyholders about steps to take to reduce damage, while others are gassing up their mobile vehicles and activating their complex claims teams.

While a few insurers and brokers said they were just too busy to respond to questions about their preparations, Insurance Journal was able to find out what some in the industry are doing to deal with Irene.

Willis

Insurance broker Willis is deploying a dedicated complex property team, more than 100 property field claim consultants, and a critical incident team.

“Our team will be communicating and triaging claims throughout the weekend and weeks to come,” said Joe Picone, chief claim officer of Willis’ Strategic Outcomes Practice.

According to Willis, its Claim Advocacy and Administration Group (CAAG), based in Nashville and Phoenix, is the largest brokerage property claim force in the world. The CAAG unit is a 24/7 unit that Willis says has managed to report 99.9 percent of claims received in less than 24 hours.

Willis’ dedicated complex property team, led by David Passman, handles multi-million dollar losses and complex property claim coverage issues. Field consultants, located throughout the United States, are also available to assist with any type of claims Irene will likely produce.

“This storm has the potential to affect major metropolitan areas, and has the potential to be the most costly hurricane the Northeast of the U.S has ever seen, producing significant personal and commercial property claims,” said Passman.

Arbella

For Arbella Mutual, an insurer headquartered in Quincy, Massachusetts, Irene is bearing down on its own backyard. The company has six claims offices and 14 local appraisal centers throughout New England.

“We are preparing for Hurricane Irene the same way we prepared for the February snow storm and the June tornado. For us, it is standard procedure. We keep a constant watch on the weather reports and projected hurricane tracks so that we can accurately gauge what portion of our New England footprint will be impacted and to what extent. Because we are located here in New England, we have the flexibility to easily deploy our resources to the areas most heavily hit and in the greatest need of our assistance,” said Tracy Hurley, Arbella’s vice president of claims.

Arbella has been reviewing its catastrophe plan checklist, according to Hurley. This includes activating the company’s entire catastrophe team; reaching out to independent adjusters the company uses; and contacting its after-hours loss reporting firm in case it is needed.

The insurer has made sure its six claims centers have the supplies they need to not only respond to the needs of local customers but also provide assistance to its independent agents who may be at risk of losing electricity or access to their offices.

Hurley said the company keeps a stock of manual checks on hand so that it can get funds out immediately to customers who may be displaced from their homes or need to make emergency repairs to prevent additional damage.

Finally, Hurley said her company stays in contact with the insurance departments in the New England states and other government agencies to maintain communication during the storm and subsequent cleanup period.

Travelers

Hartford-based Travelers Insurance said it has taken a number of steps to prepare for Irene, including staging hundreds of claim professionals and its fleet of five mobile claim offices in strategic locations along the East Coast so they can begin helping customers quickly after the storm passes.

The claims professionals are equipped with all of the necessary equipment including laptops and ladders.

In addition, Travelers said it has pre-staged needed supplies to ensure claim representatives are prepared to begin helping customers immediately after the storm has passed.

“We have been monitoring the development of this storm from the Travelers National Catastrophe Center so that we can properly position resources to help customers in their time of need,” said Ray Stone, vice president of catastrophe operations for Travelers. “As families and business owners have been preparing their property, we have also made preparations so that claim professionals can access affected customers as quickly as possible and help them with the recovery process.”

Farmers

Farmers Insurance Group— whose subsidiaries include Foremost Insurance, Bristol West and 21st Century Insurance —has mobile catastrophe claims buses that are 46 feet long and are equipped with state-of-the art satellite communications equipment; seven claims stations; water, supplies; laptop and telephone capability for use by its customers and public; and a built in grill to serve meals to Farmers’ customers and others in need.

“We will strategically position claims adjusters and Farmers mobile catastrophe units near where the hurricane makes landfall,” said Paul Quinn, assistant vice president of claims communications for Farmers Insurance.

The company also has smaller claims vehicles ready to assist with claims and supply needs of customers and others in need.

State Farm

Giant State Farm is positioning key personnel to prepare for Irene’s landfall and ensuring company disaster recovery lines of communication are ready in advance of the storm.

The company is using an automated calling system to contact customers in areas likely to be affected with advice for protecting themselves, their homes, and property.

State Farm said its mobile workforce of claim representatives is ready to respond quickly – and wirelessly. On the ground and in customer support centers, its claims team has been prepped to work with state-based company employees, agents and their staff who are spread across Irene’s potential impact area.

State Farm said it will dispatch catastrophe response vehicles to the most severely damaged areas to support State Farm claim representatives as they begin the claim process.

Additionally, the company said hundreds of claim representatives are ready to take the calls from customers in three national call centers located in Jacksonville, Florida; Dallas, Texas; and Frederick, Maryland

Reporting

Meteorological service firm AnythingWeather Communications Inc. provides customizable reports on the effects of hail, wind and flood events for roofing companies, building suppliers, insurance companies, public adjustors and other industries. It is already busy collecting storm data.

“Our clients demand data quickly so we have a team of 15 people on staff gathering data including four meteorologists analyzing the storm. The claims firms depend on us for data,” said Bill Combes, operations vice president for the firm, which has offices in California and Texas.

Also one of the industry’s key media centers, the Insurance Information Institute, based in New York, is making its team of experts available to journalists all weekend from their homes in Manhattan, Miami, Atlanta, Tampa, New Jersey, even Long Island.

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