March 18, 2020 by Greg Meckbach
As most Canadians are being asked to leave home only when necessary, how will the property and casualty industry deal with a large catastrophe, such as a major wind storm, while still taking precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission?
“The challenge about layering in a catastrophe right on top of a business continuity event is a real one,” Crawford & Company (Canada) Inc. chief claims officer Greg Smith said Tuesday in an interview.
“The business we are in has us always wondering what is next,” said Smith. He was asked about how the precautions taken to avoid the spread of COVID-19 might affect a response to an unrelated catastrophe that happens around the same time.
“In what I could call a traditional catastrophe, if we are deploying adjusters to one side of the country to respond to a whether event – absent something like coronavirus – we are always load-leveling to make sure not all our adjusters are concentrated in one region,” said Smith.
The Canadian Press reported early Wednesday a total of 611 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada. Precautions to reduce the opportunity for transmission include mandatory shutdown in Ontario of bars and restaurants and large numbers of employees being told to work from home – as well as major restrictions on crossing the border.
“We have a business continuity and pandemic plan that we have activated to make sure that we can continue to handle claims,” said Smith. “With a significant weather event like a wind storm or hail storm or something like that – we would call on our global network of catastrophe adjusters.”
Most of those are based in the United States, so the response would be slower than normal due to delays in crossing the border, said Smith.
“Those are all factors that we have as part of [Crawford’s] daily operations briefings during this [COVID-19] event, to see what we need to do today and what we might have to do tomorrow.”
For her part, ClaimsPro president Lorri Frederick said Tuesday her company is ready to help its clients in the current environment and if a catastrophe occurs.
ClaimsPro is able to minimize or eliminate person-to-person contact using photographs and videos to assess damages remotely, said Frederick.
“ClaimsPro staff have the ability to work from home,” she said. “As a paperless organization, ClaimsPro is not dependent on physical bricks and mortar to operate. All of ClaimsPro’s technology platforms – from its web-based claim system to cloud telephony solutions – support remote access and are location-agnostic.”
If adjusters must visit a property, they should ask whether anyone is displaying cough, fever or shortness of breath, says ClaimsPro. The protocol also calls for the adjuster, if they have to visit a home in-person, to ask first whether anyone at that home (or anyone who has been there within the past week) has been travelling outside of Canada.
Crawford has a similar protocol in place.
“Before we attend the site, whether it is a home or business, we will ask some screening questions to find out whether there are some health or safety concerns,” said Smith. This would include whether the occupants have symptoms such as cough, fever or shortness of breath.
“We have told our adjusters that if they have an assignment that they are at all uncomfortable completing, they are under no obligation to complete it. We would deal with that through our management channels.”