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Inside Farmers’ Tornado Disaster Response Strategy

With social media and geo-coding technology, Farmers can better help policyholders after events such as the recent tornadoes in the U.S. South and Midwest.

The catastrophe response team at Farmers Insurance was quick to respond to the series of tornadoes that slashed across the U.S. early this week. Shortly after the first tornadoes were reported, its Mobile Claims Center (MCC) was en route to assist victims.

“The main goal of our catastrophe response team is to get in there as soon as we can,” says Carrie Bonney, director of media relations and former communications and reporting manager for catastrophe logistics at Farmers. “We understand the importance of them being able to get their claim handled.”

The Farmers catastrophe response team is composed of various groups that collaborate to effectively deliver assistance during such disasters. Its logistics division handles communications, reporting, social media and press releases, the deployment group monitors the weather and claims activity, and field services support is available to head out to a vulnerable area at the first sign of a storm.

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Bonney explains that technology has had a tremendous impact on Farmers’ response strategy. “We utilize it first in our monitoring,” she says. “Social media has been a great help in that in the last few years.”

The team monitors Facebook and Twitter to learn about storm reports and damage. Oftentimes, social media posts provide information faster than news outlets, Bonney says. Social media also helps the team better reach out to customers to inform them of potential danger and how they can file claims if necessary.

Farmers has also improved its strategy through geocoding technology, which allows its response team to pinpoint policyholders on a map of the damaged area. In the recent tornadoes, for example, responders could see which customers were located in the most severely damaged areas and deploy the MCC buses to those neighborhoods.

Farmers responding to tornado victims
Farmers responding to tornado victims

The buses were first used in 2006 but have since undergone changes that help workers on board better assist disaster victims. All are equipped with high-speed Internet, in-bus workstations. Video conferencing and high-speed camera feeds are also available.

Each vehicle contains four flat-screen monitors, one of which constantly displays the news. At the beginning of last year, Bonney explains, they implemented a rolling feed that displays general information, such as American Red Cross and animal shelter contact phone numbers, across the bottom of the screen.

Victims have access to public-use computers and satellite phones. The satellite on board the vehicle allows up to seventy people Internet access outside the bus.

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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