Best Practices for Independent Agents: Before and After Natural Disasters

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  • An independent agent’s work schedule will be hectic after a natural disaster like a flood or hurricane. You’ll see a spike in insurance claims, and many customers will turn to you for guidance and advice.

    Therefore, it’s important that you’re prepared and ready to respond swiftly.  

    Here are five practical steps you can take to ensure that your office is ready in the moments after a disaster

     

    1. Prepare Email and Social Media Announcements

    Quick communication with insurance customers is vital before and after an event like this. You want to ensure you’re able to touch base and keep them in the loop, leading up to and during the initial stages of disaster recovery. Some of the best mediums for doing so are email and social media and should allow you to reach much of your customer base. 

    There are two key areas to address in your crisis communication — common questions and potential risks. Swetha Amaresan at HubSpot says common questions you’ll get from customers if your office was affected by the natural disaster may include:

    • Was anyone hurt?
    • What’s being done to get things back to normal?
    • How long will it take before you’re up and running?

    You’ll need to provide answers to the best of your ability and send out updates as new information becomes available. 

    You can also inform customers of what they can do to prepare and protect themselves and their property for the weather event. One of the best ways to go about this is to share content pieces from reputable sources that address disaster preparedness.  

    Here are some examples of links you may want to share:

     

    2. Compile a List of Disaster Recovery Resources

    The period right after a disaster can be overwhelming for insurance customers, and some may not know where to turn. As an independent agent, you can help people get back on their feet by compiling a list of disaster recovery resources. 

    For instance, they can visit DisasterAssistance.gov and enter their city or ZIP code to see if their area has been declared for individual assistance. It also offers a vast archive of information on disaster types, how to address immediate needs and how to move forward. 

    They can check the FEMA Evacuee Hotel List to learn about short-term accommodation. Here users simply choose their state, and are provided with contact information of participating hotels and motels. 

    They can also go to Benefits.gov to learn about benefits available to individuals who have become unemployed due to an event officially designated as a major disaster. There are many circumstances in which payment may be received, including being unable to reach their place of work or they’ve been injured in the event and are unable to work.

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    3. Create a Claims How-To Guide

    A lot of money is spent recovering in the wake of natural disasters. Worldwide losses from natural catastrophes in 2018 was more than $160 billion, with the California Camp Fire being the costliest at $12.5 billion, according to reinsurance company Munich Re.

    Although an independent agent will usually only play a minimal role in the claims process, customers need guidance, says insurance quote comparison site US Insurance Agents. Filing a claim can be confusing, so creating a general guide can be very helpful to your customers.

    Home and property insurance claim information resource ClaimsMate recommends that customers start by taking photos and video, if possible, of all damage that occurred. They should also secure the scene as best they can and stabilize the damage so problems don’t worsen. For example, if a person’s roof is damaged because of a hurricane, they would want to place a tarp over the area after the storm has passed to prevent water from seeping in. 

    They would also want to gather the contact information of anyone who witnessed the incident so they can be referenced later on if need be, writes the team at FindLaw. The claim-filing details can vary depending upon the exact type of disaster, but creating a how-to guide that covers the basics can serve as a valuable resource and prevent you from having to answer the same questions over and over. 

    In terms of tools for creating a guide, two worth considering are LinkedIn SlideShare and Flipsnack. Both are free and offer templates so you can create a professional looking guide even with little to no design experience. 

     

    4. Back Up Critical Documents 

    It’s also vital that no critical documents are lost along the way. 

    “Just like their clients, agents are at risk of sustaining damage to their operations in a natural disaster,” explains Robin LaFollette, senior vice president at wholesale insurance provider Swiss Re. “Agents should make sure they have critical documents in electronic form backed up on a remote server or in the cloud so that they can be accessed after a flood.”

    This critical data includes customer contact information, accounting and revenue statements. When it’s off-site or in the cloud, you can still access the information you need even in a worst-case scenario where documents, computers and mobile devices are destroyed.

    You don’t have to be a tech expert or invest a lot of money to take advantage of cloud storage. Several free or inexpensive user-friendly options include Google Drive, Amazon Drive and DropboxBusiness, says technology journalist Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols.

    insurance natural disasters
     

    5. Have a Generator on Standby 

    Power outages are expected during natural disasters. Hurricane Irma, which brought widespread devastation to Florida in 2017, left over half of the state’s population without power, according to Colin Daileda at Mashable Science. So it’s good planning to have a generator ready to go in case there are prolonged power outages in your area. 

    In that way you can prevent major disruptions and manage your insurance agency as usual. Customers can still reach you, you’re less likely to get backlogged with tasks even with the chaotic nature created by the crisis. In many cases, a generator is an investment that pays for itself.

    “Owning your own generator and a reserve of fuel is an investment in business continuity and costs much less than paying the high cost equipment and rental services charge for a generator when there is a regional power outage,” explains Mohit Tater, cofounder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life. “Generators in and of themselves don’t have to cost a fortune, given how many used generators for sale are available today.”

     

    Prepare Your Agency Ahead of Time

    Disasters can strike anywhere at any time and don’t discriminate. As our climate continues to change, we can expect natural disasters to become both more intense and more frequent, environment reporter Rachel Leven points out. 

    Whenever a serious weather incident is expected in your area, it’s imperative that your agency is properly prepared to guide your customers both before and after the disaster. Following the strategies outlined will put you in a position to be able to provide help to your customers as they get their lives back on track. 

     
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