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Catastrophe Claims: Hard Lessons From Brutal 2011

Insurers learned some hard lessons from a brutal catastrophe season that are shaping current best practices in claims response.
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Image of Destruction Improves Claims Response

By Paul Quinn, AVP, Claims, Communications, Farmers Insurance (Los Angeles)

During the Alabama tornadoes this year, we were denied access to certain areas because of emergency operations being conducted by authorities. We wanted to get into these areas to assess damages without disturbing the critical work of the emergency first responders. We created a process to geocode our policies in force so that we could begin to triage our losses.

Using GeoEye (a Herndon, Va.-based provider of geospatial information), we created map layovers of our policies and known loss information with real-time satellite imagery. We then were able to assess damages to all customer homes in the area. We were able to start the claim process for those customers and effectively triage severity of damage. Using this technology, our claims team was not only able to estimate how many losses we would have but was able to determine how significant the damage was going to be so that we could have the right people in the right places.

We are continuing to employ this technology and improve our capabilities by using drone photo layovers when the weather does not make real-time satellite imagery practicable. This was the case in Joplin (Missouri) when the skies were overcast for numerous days after the tornado hit.

We also have built a relationship with GeoMAC (Denver) to utilize heat signature mapping overlays to determine possible customer fire losses during wildfires. We used this technology during the Bastrop, Texas, fires in September. This technology has allowed us to safely determine the number and severity of losses so that we can begin the claims process for our customers quickly and safely.

Peggy Bresnick Kendler has been a writer for 30 years. She has worked as an editor, publicist and school district technology coordinator. During the past decade, Bresnick Kendler has worked for UBM TechWeb on special financialservices technology-centered ... View Full Bio

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