Eye of The Storm
Insurance | Julie Levine, Harry Levine Insurance | Nov 6 2019
“We don’t only sell the promise of an insurance policy we sell the service to go with it.”
There is never a boring moment when you’re an insurance agent in Florida. Natural disasters are a fact of life. What is unique to Florida, and my agency, is our history of experience with disaster-related crisis management. From Hurricane Andrew to Dorian, and everything in between, we have been through it all. We currently operate on Applied TAM but our software is the least of our worries when disaster strikes.
Here are some tips our team has picked up along the way that I hope help you and your team prepare in the event that disaster strikes.
Step 1: Basic Preparations
I call this step our “fail-safe” because I recommend using it as an opportunity to be prepared in order protect your agency or brokerage in the event that something unexpected might happen ... and that it might happen fast. We know storms are coming, but many natural disasters come without warning. Consider the following checklist of things to look over before storm season so you have less work to do when the time comes.
- Look into getting a generator. Learn how to use it before you will need it. Before the storm hits we make sure we move the generator to our largest office location so we can support as many people as possible, if need be, after the storm.
- Evaluate office space(s) to make sure you are ready if you need to set up spare workstations or find a temporary space in a nearby city.
- Establish a digital communication tool that can work in as many scenarios as possible, such as WhatsApp or Slack so you can keep in touch with your team.
- Make sure you have current contact information for your team.
- If you have not upgraded your phone system, look into what new technology is out there. We recently upgraded to a VOIP system and were able to transfer calls that looked like they originated from our office.
Then, once you know a disaster is coming…
Step 2: Communication
One of the most important things an agency or brokerage can do is communicate — both internally and externally. Communication can be disseminated through various channels in order to reach the most number of people. Below, I have detailed a few examples of what we do at Harry Levine Insurance.
- External to clients
- Make sure all agents or brokers have set a detailed out of office reply – View Example
- Update the website with hurricane emergency information (the below image is a representation of how we call this out on our website) – View Example
- Post social media tips – View Example
- Post educational blogs – View Example
- Send an email blast to all clients before a storm, giving advice on what to do before, during and after the storm – View Example
- Internal to staff
- Everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to agency operations in an emergency. Obviously, communication through email is easiest, but we highly recommend getting the team together in person. We have more than one office location, so we gather on Skype for video conferencing.
- We use a WhatsApp group chat to stay in touch. Dorian was such a slow storm that we were not sure when we would be open or closed. The app allowed us to easily communicate with staff regarding changes, such as the possibility of people evacuating.
- We make sure everyone understands that their first priority is the safety of their families. Once everyone is safe and secure, it is time to jump into action.
Step 3: Power and Technology Preparations
Fortunately, Applied has the infrastructure to support data security and allow us to access our information anywhere. That is a huge advantage for any agency or brokerage facing an emergency. The 24/7 tech support is also great, especially because storms don’t only happen Monday–Friday. What’s more, Applied Client Network’s community offers a chance to communicate with other agents or brokers we know nearby — especially at our chapter level — should we need to, quite literally, borrow a desk. This is part of our agency's technology emergency checklist:
- Confirm and test your generator.
- Establish a hotel or other evacuation location as a contingency plan
- Make sure that your main software, in our case TAM, is on all laptops and spare computers
- Re-check that emergency phone software is set up for staff on cellphones and that staff are reminded of how to use it.
- Ensure all employees have been added to WhatsApp (or other) group for easy communication
- Lastly, consider other possible scenarios. We all learn from our past experiences and every storm is different.
Step 4: Back Up the Essentials
Being paperless is great, but, backing things up with paper copies is a necessity. It’s often hard to predict whether you might lose both internet and power, so it is prudent to print accord FNOLs along with a paper backup of company claims numbers. With potentially slow internet, having a print-out of your master password list can help speed up the claims taking process.
Step 5: Office Detox
Though it feels trivial typing it up, this step can often be missed while in the throes of crisis management mode: Empty your office refrigerators! I am here to tell you that, after a few days without power, you’ll thank me for mentioning it. Who wants to work in a smelly office when you return?
Also, make sure you place a sign on all office doors noting that you are closed and detailing how clients can communicate with you.
Bonus – Secret Step 6: Post-disaster Relief
Considering the word “detox” in another way, we find it is crucial after a disaster has passed and things have calmed down to show appreciation for your team. The buildup before a storm coming, and waiting for the disaster to hit, can be very stressful. Even something as small as a team lunch — whether a disaster happened or there was just the threat of one — can help the team wind back down and resume normal operations.
Julie is the agency administrator at Harry Levine Insurance. She joined the agency in 2007. She currently serves on the Applied Client Network Florida Chapter board and taught her first class at Applied Net this year. When not at the agency, she loves to travel with her husband and daughter.
Tags: Insurance , Applied TAM , Leadership , Crisis Management