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Disaster Planning

 
Having a disaster plan ready to go and using mobile technology and social media enabled the author’s agency to provide exceptional service to its clients when their needs were greatest. This positioned the agency to get its clients’ claims paid promptly and their repairs made on a priority basis. Carriers too excelled at keeping their agencies in the loop on claims and being “first responders” for their insureds. This makes a great story about the positive role independent agents and their carriers play for their clients in times of need, along with providing some very useful disaster planning tips for agencies and carriers alike.
Several agencies, carriers and associations did an outstanding job keeping their clients and members informed in the East Coast disasters using social media and e-newsletters. This article discusses what these agencies and associations did and also outlines the opportunity the Independent Agency System has to build on what has been done to-date by creating a national disaster communications plan and resources, perhaps through Trusted Choice®, to deliver a coordinated approach and messages that agencies and state agent associations across the country could access during disaster situations.
ACT set up this work group following the horrific disasters in 2005 to assess the lessons learned, so that we could be better prepared for future events. Several agents directly involved in the 2005 hurricanes served on this work group. The report covers a number of different aspects of agency disaster planning and provides helpful tips in each of these areas.
Disaster planning is for every independent agency. Nearby construction can take out your electricity or sever your connections to the Internet, putting your staff out of commission for several days. A computer virus can bring your systems down, resulting in costly down time and an inability to service your customers as they expect to be serviced.
I had the opportunity to visit with independent agents Angelyn and David Treutel at their temporary office this past week in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The thirty two foot storm surge that destroyed virtually all of their community, also took their home, their office building, and all but a few of the worldly possessions that they and their two boys accumulated in over twenty years of marriage. The storm surge did not take their spirit, however. If anything, their spirit has emerged even stronger, as they work seven days a week filing claims, advocating for their clients’ interests, and championing initiatives to rebuild their community.
Several agencies, carriers and associations did an outstanding job keeping their clients and members informed in the East Coast disasters using social media and e-newsletters. This article discusses what these agencies and associations did and also outlines the opportunity the Independent Agency System has to build on what has been done to-date by creating a national disaster communications plan and resources, perhaps through Trusted Choice®, to deliver a coordinated approach and messages that agencies and state agent associations across the country could access during disaster situations.
We hope this report will inspire you to take steps now that will protect the ongoing viability of your agency or brokerage firm should a disaster strike. A disaster can bring your business to a standstill; it can keep you from servicing the needs of your policyholders when they most need it; and it can jeopardize the ongoing viability of the business you have spent your life building.
The charge to our work group was to identify the specific problems encountered in the horrific disasters of the last couple of years and to identify specific recommendations for improvement. We have sought to do that in the report below. We were extremely fortunate to have the active involvement of several agents who directly experienced these disasters, as well as the participation of several vendors and association representatives who provided direct support to agencies that had been dislocated. The full roster of our work group follows at the end of this report. Our next steps are to update the ACT disaster planning tool based upon the information in this report and to present our association recommendations to IIABA and the state associations for their further consideration. We would appreciate any further input from the full ACT group on the report below and would like to receive your approval to publish it following the May ACT meeting.