Canadian Underwriter

Mobile app offers an ounce of prevention to P&C insurance consumers

March 22, 2018   by Jason Contant

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As Canada’s wireless providers prepare to provide mandatory smartphone alerts for natural disasters and other emergencies, Desjardins General Insurance Group (DGIG) will soon allow its customers access to a severe weather alert system through mobile apps.

This week, the Canadian Press reported that Canada’s wireless providers are preparing for an update to the national public alerting system that will force smartphones to sound an alarm when an emergency alert is triggered, including Amber Alerts, fires, natural disasters, terrorist attacks or severe weather. Wireless providers have been given one year to implement the system, with a deadline of Apr. 6, 2019 “to be ready to go live.”

In the meantime, starting in May 2018, Desjardins’ members, clients, and clients across Canada who use the Desjardins Insurance Home-Auto, State Farm or The Personal mobile apps will have access to a severe weather alert system for hail, windstorms, torrential rains and, eventually, hurricanes and tornadoes.

“These alerts give people a heads-up so they have the opportunity to take steps to protect their property from potential damage,” DGIG said in a press release on Monday, adding that this will make Desjardins the “first property and casualty insurer in Canada to offer this kind of detailed information alert service.”

Related: Desjardins’ weather alerts: sign of a preventative insurance model?

Desjardins’ spokesman John Bordignon told Canadian Underwriter that “our clients, like many people, spend a lot of time on their mobile devices” and the alerts provide them with tools that focus on safety, prevention and mitigation. “One of the reasons we did this is because it can help to educate and keep our clients and their families safer.”

Users will be notified if there’s a severe weather event within 500 metres of any five locations of their choice. “Five locations seemed fair for an average user based on our client’s profiles,” Bordignon said. They could include home, office, and cottage locations, among others. “We may add more options and/or locations at a later date,” he added.

Users need to opt-in by adding locations they want tracked within the app and the type of event they want to follow. Communication channels to the app user are dictated by what they choose within the app account settings (SMS, push notifications or emails).

There are also specific thresholds for the alerts based on the type of event:

  • Hail – Greater than two centimetres in diameter in the next 30 minutes
  • Heavy rains – 50 millimetres of rain accumulating over a three-hour period
  • High winds – sustained winds over 80 kilometres/hour (continuously sustained, 10-minute intervals) over a 12-hour period
  • Hurricanes – 75% chance of a hurricane hitting a location within 24 hours
  • Tornadoes – Serious risk of a tornado hitting the location (warning provided by Environment Canada) within 30 minutes.

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