Advisers must step up for Harvey’s aftermath

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We’ve all seen photos and video footage of the flooding and devastation in coastal Texas. An industry contact in Houston told me that the media often exaggerates the severity of the damage in natural disaster situations, but not this time. He said circumstances are worse than is being reported. And the region is bracing itself for another 25 inches of rain. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected and we hope that all in the storm’s path remain safe. We also offer a special prayer and thanks to all the first responders, emergency workers, medical professionals and volunteers for their commitment to the search, rescue and treatment activities.

What might we expect over the next two to four weeks in the aftermath of the storm? Between Hurricanes Katrina and Ike we likely have some parallel situations that offer us some insight.

The damage and loss of human life from the impact of those storms and the flooding were catastrophic for certain. But for those that lived through those circumstances, the next several weeks were perhaps even more challenging. Whole regions were without power, television, radio, telecommunications, and internet connectivity for weeks. Homes were uninhabitable; sections of road infrastructure were destroyed and impassable; and medical treatment facilities and workplaces were unable to function. In the greater New Orleans region, roughly 40% of the small businesses went under in the six to 12 months following Katrina. Hopefully, the recovery from Harvey will be quicker and more complete.

If you are an insurance professional, what steps can you take to secure your own practice and be of assistance to your clients?

Family first, then clients
Clearly the safety and security of your family, neighbors and business colleagues is the priority. And if it’s possible, making contact with your clients to learn of their situation is essential.

Reach out to clients
Depending upon your circumstances, establishing a communication protocol on a regularly scheduled basis has proven to be helpful during other natural disasters. Many of you are part of an organization that also has a property and casualty business unit. Consider coordinating your client outreach efforts. There certainly will be P&C claims activity, but your clients’ employees may need assistance with health insurance ID cards, coverage verification, claims and other service requests. Your organization needs to function as one cohesive team in times of distress.

Back up client data now
If your office is located in an area that has been impacted, make sure that your business and client files are backed up remotely or find a service to migrate your files to the cloud for safekeeping. In the days after Hurricane Ike, one voluntary benefits firm temporarily relocated their office and call center to San Antonio to maintain their business operations.

Companies should divide up responsibility, develop a communications plan, contact their insurer and be supportive of employees.
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If you have the time and resources, consider mobilizing your team to help in community relief efforts. It will benefit your community, it’s the right thing to do, and it’s good business.

And by all means, if you are in the Gulf region, persevere. We are a nation of resilient people and our whole nation is here to support you.

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