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Region's Insurers Silent in Sandy's Wake

Few insurers reachable in an area where mass power outages, flooded roads and closed facilities prevail.

How does one measure the impact of Sandy on the Northeast? One can follow news updates and read about CAT modelers loss predictions. But I have found another eerie indicator of the storm's impact: the silence of the insurance industry.

During the typical Atlantic hurricane event, we reporters have plenty of press releases to cull from the news wires and can select from an abundance of P&C insurers to follow up with. Not that there aren't such opportunities in the aftermath of Sandy's landfall, but two things are striking: the dearth of information on the wires and the unresponsiveness of Northeastern insurers. We have attempted to contact many prominent insurers from Philadelphia to Rhode Island this morning and have so far gotten through to only two and received a statement from only one, as I write. It's not unusual to strike out when asking for a response, but it is unprecedented to not even be able to reach so many insurers.

We trust that the region's insurers' business continuity programs have kicked in, that catastrophe management and claims service is underway, but nobody can be reached to tell us about it.

It's not surprising, given our own predicament. As anyone with friends and relatives in the Northeast will already know, millions of people are without power and essentially cut off from the communications grids. Many are without Internet, others communicate only until their mobile devices' batteries run out. I&T's Manhattan offices are closed, and many of our colleagues, within I&T, our financial technology media brands and others within UBM Techweb have lost our East Coast server in Manhasset, Long Island, owing to a backup generator failure. We must now communicate through alternative e-mail and messaging channels. Many editors have no access to our web-based publishing facilities, so we're pitching in to help each other out.

I&T is up-and-running from home offices in the Portland, Oregon area and from high ground in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, but if our friends in corporate communications at insurers have found similar workarounds, it's not showing. We've seen one or two carrier people on Facebook, a few continue to tweet — but not to respond to overtures through those media or otherwise. Perhaps they have higher communications priorities, but if so, that is also a sign of the unprecedented impact of this event. Either they can't talk, or they won't.

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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