These devastating storms offer powerful lessons on how insurance agents can help clients deal with natural disasters.As Texas and Florida begin their long rebuilding efforts following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, insurance agents stand ready to help their clients recover from the catastrophes. With estimated insurance losses as high as $200 billion, agents and their clients are faced with the stark reality of restoring ruined homes and businesses.
Whether your agency is located in Texas, Florida, or elsewhere, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma offer some important lessons on dealing with natural disasters. These four takeaways highlight some measures that agents and their clients can take before and after the event to prepare for potential damages and rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
Develop a Disaster Plan
Before a disaster hits, agents and business-owning clients must prepare a guide to restart operations as soon as the storm passes. Above all else, they need to back up vital data, policy information, and contact information for employees, partners, and suppliers. If this information cannot be easily accessed while power is down, print out insurance policies beforehand so a copy can be presented to the insurer. Once it’s safe to return to the property, take photos and videos using a smartphone to document the damage.
File Claims ASAP
Policyholders should contact their insurance provider as soon as possible. In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, some insurers have proactively reached out to their policyholders. Travelers Insurance, for instance, has established mobile claims centers in Florida and has sent “hundreds of people” to its Orlando and Tampa offices, Travelers SVP for Claims Patrick Gee, told CBS News. The sooner your clients initiate the claims process, the sooner they can resume their lives and business operations. In addition to insurance, your clients can register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance.
Many homeowners impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may not hold flood insurance because their houses sat outside flood-prone areas or were not built along the coastline. Unfortunately, a typical homeowner policy only covers wind wreckage, not flood damage. Policies may also be subject to what are known as “hurricane deductibles,” meaning that the homeowner is responsible for paying for a certain percentage of the damage costs. Insurance agents, therefore, must thoroughly review policies to learn what is covered — and what is not. It’s also an opportune time to discuss changes in coverage that will better insure your clients against another natural disaster. Homeowners in low-risk regions may want to consider buying flood insurance, but other options are available. For example, homeowners can attach a drain backup insurance rider on their homeowner policy, which covers damage from storm water or sewage overflowing from storm drains, for a minimal cost.
Even if they aren’t directly affected by a hurricane, your business clients may find their supply chain stalled if their suppliers were located in the storm’s path. In that case, contingent business interruption insurance provides coverage when a disaster disrupts a vital logistics line.
Beware of Scams
Unfortunately, natural disasters sometimes bring out con artists looking to deceive victims. Warn your clients about people posing as contractors or government officials who ask for upfront fees to provide a service — a red flag signaling they’re scammers. Soon after Hurricane Irma swept through the state, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation released a bulletin warning residents to refuse any repair deal that “sounds too good to be true.” The agency also urged Floridians to report any possible fraud, work only with reputable contractors, and promptly notify insurers so they don’t miss filing deadlines.
Recovering from a natural disaster is never easy for insurance agents or their clients, but agents can make the process smoother by quickly jumping into action to aid their clients. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma underscore the important role agents play in shaping their clients’ risk safeguards now and in the future.