Iowa Agents in Flooded Areas Meet the Challenges

June 20, 2008

Midwest agents with offices located in flooded areas are facing the challenge of “staying afloat,” so to speak, during the devastation of what some have called the 500 year flood event.

One Iowa agency, Millhiser-Smith Agency Inc., located in hard hit Cedar Rapids, Iowa, relied on a disaster plan it created with professional help some years ago that worked perfectly.

“Our disaster plan included Agility Recovery Solutions to cover all the bases,” said Lottie Miller, director, E&O Compliance and Insurance Resources. “When our electricity went out we had a generator, we had complete back-up for phone and computer files and even a place to relocate if we needed it, through this company.”

“One of the unfortunate aspects of this flooding event is that it was centered on the heart of the city itself,” Miller said. “Like many Midwestern towns, Cedar Rapids was built along the river, a lifeline of transportation and development for pioneer settlers. Then the very thing that provided life and prosperity to a foundling community in those early days, turned on its modern day residents in a manner
incomprehensible to the business and residential communities residing alongside the river today.”

Planning is key
Preparation is key, according to Miller. She emphasized that there are several recovery companies that will help you create a disaster plan and provide the tools to continue to operate your business. She said the important point is to make “the decision to get a plan in place.”

Bob Boyd, president and CEO of Agility Recovery Solutions, is currently working with several agencies in Iowa. Boyd said that his company delivers any or all of the four key elements of recovery, including power, technology, space and connectivity resources.

Boyd said that insurance agencies and other businesses struggle to serve clients when office locations are within the catastrophe area.

“Many agency heads look at the added expense of hiring a company like ours as unnecessary until an catastrophic event such as the flood along the Mississippi really hits home,” Boyd said.

Boyd said membership dues for Agility Recovery run about $250 a month. That fee guarantees that help will be at the agency or business doorstep within 48 hours, often even sooner.

Agents meet challenges
Bob Skow, CEO of the Independent Agents of Iowa, said that many agencies were hit hard but a good many were able to relocate or with the help of cell phones, laptop computers and the back-up of computer files allowed to continue service without too much interruption.

“We have been blessed in that the vast majority of agencies have been spared,” Skow said. He said that towns such Waverly, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids were all devastated by the flood, but many agencies were in higher ground locations and that factor made a difference.

Skow agrees that disaster plans make a big difference and said he knew some agencies in New Orleans survived and thrived because of planning ahead.

Anderson Baker, president of Gillis, Ellis and Baker of New Orleans, agrees with Skow and offered some advice as well.

“Our plan worked flawlessly and we had a mobile facility equiped with all that is necessary technology tools within 48 hours,” Baker said. “We reaped the rewards of good planning and didn’t have to worry about errors and ommissions.”

Baker warned Midwest agents about offering advice to policyholders regarding flood policies and on business interuption coverage.

Baker said that agents should remember that to very careful in their advice to policyholders. “No agent has the ability to settle business interuption claim.”

“You can offer support and advice but that is a far as it goes,” Baker said.

Rebuilding again
For the most part, Iowans and their insurance agents are standing tall and have a positive attitude, Lottie Miller of Millhiser-Smith said.

“Iowans are resilient people. We’ve dealt with much that Nature throws at us for centuries and have always fought back, regaining lost ground,” Miller said. “We must look forward and work, as a community, clean up, rebuild and make our city something of which we can again be proud. I am counting on that.”

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