Canadian Underwriter

In preparing for a pandemic, insurers must go beyond having a business continuity plan

September 22, 2010   by Canadian Underwriter

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The insurance industry is not prepared for a pandemic and does not know what to expect, Bob Krywiak, executive general adjuster at Crawford Global Technical Services, told delegates of the National Insurance Conference of Canada (NICC) on Sept. 21 in Montreal.
During the session, ‘Managing Through a Pandemic,’ Krywiak asked delegates to raise their hand if they have handled a pandemic claim. No one did.
Kirsty Dunn, Member of Parliament for Etobicoke North, also spoke during the session.
She asked delegates to raise their hand if their organization had a pandemic plan. A vast majority of the crowd did.
However, when Dunn asked how many of those plans had been reviewed since the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, fewer hands were raised. None were raised when she asked how many had actually conducted drills to test their pandemic plan in the wake of H1N1.
“You need to drill those plans and get educated about what we’ve learned that’s new from H1N1,” she said, adding it is no longer acceptable to simply have a business continuity plan in place. “You need to get compliant with the legalities.”
“You can’t say this is an act of God anymore,” she added. “We have been warned and warned, and you have to be ready. If you’re not, are you legally responsible?”
Dunn stressed the need for insurers to go beyond the legal principles of having a pandemic plan in place and develop an ethical framework.
To develop such a framework she suggested starting by answering a series of questions, including:
• If it’s a bad pandemic, what are the benefits and compensation packages?
• When should you evacuate your employees?
• Should you provide Tamiflu to your employees or your employees and their families?
• Do you provide financial assistance to employees during a serious pandemic?
“Any action or inaction on the part of the employer [during a pandemic] can and will be questioned,” Krywiak said. “There is a distinct likelihood that decisions will be reviewed after the pandemic and accountability will be imposed in hindsight.”