State Farm, Allstate Mobilize Catastrophe Teams to Gulf Coast

September 2, 2008

Two of the largest insurance companies in the U.S. have mobilized their catastrophe teams to aid policyholders in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav.

State Farm, the largest insurer of homes and autos in the Gulf Coast, initiated Catastrophe Services operations to begin helping its customers. Centralized Catastrophe Services are in contact with policyholders who have reported losses, according to James Damm, State Farm assistant vice president, claims.

The claim handling operations located in Jacksonville, Fla., and Dallas, Texas, have been ramped up with additional resources to respond to policyholders. Hundreds of agents and claim employees already in the impacted areas are also servicing our policyholders.

In addition, State Farm’s Catastrophe Team, has been activated and is moving into the affected areas. Catastrophe Services has identified a significant number of Catastrophe Team members for deployment directly into the impacted areas. The State Farm Catastrophe Team also has a fleet of mobile claim handling facilities designed to support the claims handling process.

Technology is also playing a major role in expediting the State Farm claim handling process for significant catastrophes, like Hurricane Gustav. State Farm has a fleet of 33 satellite-equipped vehicles that connect back the company’s home office system. These satellites can be taken anywhere and set up so that they are operational within four hours. The satellites provide incredible flexibility for State Farm’s catastrophe claims operation.

State Farm has 12 mobile office facilities, ranging from a large van to a full-sized tractor trailer (18-wheeler). Five of these are satellite-equipped. All of these vehicles allow claims representatives to set up drive-in auto claims operations wherever there are a number of auto storm claims.

Within the last six to eight months, State Farm has begun setting up what it calls temporary hot spots within 50 to 100 feet of a leased facility or a hotel, thereby allowing State Farm claims reps total connectivity without the need to execute any hard wiring. Most State Farm catastrophe claims staff is equipped with hand-held global positioning system (GPS) devices allowing them to find policyholders even in the wake of major catastrophes that severely damage transportation infrastructure and road signage.

Allstate Insurance Co. on Sunday ramped up its Gulf Coast operations in anticipation of Hurricane Gustav’s landfall, activating more than 1,000 claims adjusters and positioning 15 mobile response units from Texas to Alabama.

The Northbrook-based company that insures 17 million households nationwide said that it will use the response units to expedite claims from storm-damaged areas, Allstate spokesman Mike Siemienas said Sunday, August 31.

Some insurers were criticized after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The Louisiana attorney general has sued Allstate, along with other insurers, accusing the companies of fixing prices, manipulating damage estimates and low-balling claims payments after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Since 2005, Siemienas said Allstate has reduced its exposure in coastal communities.

Allstate’s mobile units include recreational vehicles equipped with generators, satellite telephones and computer equipment, Siemienas said. An Allstate news release said the units will allow adjusters to take and process claims in areas with no electricity or communications.

The adjusters also will be able to write and distribute checks from the mobile units to hurricane victims, Siemienas said.

In the wake of Katrina and Rita, Allstate had 4,000 personnel and 30 mobile units working hurricane-ravaged areas. Siemienas declined to say how long it would take to bring staffing and equipment to those levels again, but did say the company can “quickly rent additional units and bring in more people” if needed.

Sources: State Farm Insurance, Associated Press

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