Bill Dalton, Property Claim Director at Fireman’s Fund in an interview on the claims adjustments and the extent of the damage done by hurricane Irene.
Mr. Dalton, what were the first concrete steps taken by you after Irene hit the US east coast? How did you attend the customer?
Bill Dalton: Our dedicated catastrophe team was ready to respond as Hurricane Irene made landfall in North Carolina. We had our catastrophe field adjusting professionals staged in North Carolina, PA, Virginia, and NY ready to respond immediately to landfall and movement of the hurricane upward north on the east coast.
Our inside Claims Center St. Louis staff and First Notice of Loss team members were ready and worked through the weekend as the Hurricane made landfall on Saturday morning. We did deploy our field property adjusting professionals also to assist with field volume. In addition we have dedicated independent adjusters who will supplement our field staff, as appropriate.
Our water mitigation vendors and other support services were ready to dedicate teams to FFIC policyholders. Over 60 staff members assisted leading up to and over the weekend of landfall to prepare, respond, complete field phone calls, and set up claims, to ensure resources on the ground were in focus areas and resources were ready to assist with our heavier volume which began on Monday.
Although we made callouts to over 2,700 policyholders in coastal areas, we also communicated our services to our policyholders through Texting, Facebook, and Twitter. We also reached out to our agents through callouts and Agent Desktop to update them routinely and encourage them to direct policyholders to these channels.
By end of day Sunday following Saturday’s landfall, we were up to 200 claims, primarily due to minor wind damage, fallen trees and sump pump failure. As of this writing, mid-day Tuesday, we are up to 1,100 claims, with 90 percent of them being Personal Insurance related and 10 percent Commercial related. Most of the claims are in New York, New Jersey and Maryland. Reviewing the loss reports, we note roughly 60 percent of the claims are due to water damage, 30 percent from fallen trees and 10 percent wind only damages.
How will you determine the extent of damage?
Dalton: We are following Loss Reporting closely and our Regional General Adjusters on the ground are providing us initial approximate estimates on the very few potential large losses.
What makes claims adjustment in case of floods so complicated?
Dalton: Mortgage lenders require zones that lie within designated flood zones to be covered by flood insurance. This low-cost coverage is purchased through the federal government. In rare cases will we have a policyholder with a flood endorsement. The real victims of the storm included those living near rivers and streams that overran their banks. Many of these properties were outside of designated flood zones and likely to lack flood insurance.
As our adjusting professionals receive water damage-related claims, the process may take awhile as depending on the extent of the water damage there is a “dry-out” period to prevent mold. This can take several days. Estimates typically have to wait for the dry-out period to end.
Additionally, in this Hurricane and Tropical Storm situation, the water damage is considered a large-scale event, and therefore there may be some delay for the finite number of water mitigation companies to respond in a timely manner.
We have affiliations with two of the nation’s top water mitigation companies, enabling us to provide fast, efficient service that includes a national warranty to our residential and commercial policyholders. By using these vendors, agents can help their customers speed up repairs, reduce related costs, prevent additional damage to their property, and get their lives and businesses back to normal faster.
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