Skip to content

Disaster Response Plan: Has your broking business got one?

Recent historical events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasingly common Weather Catastrophes across Australia have forced businesses, including those in the insurance industry, to operate under exceptional conditions. Insurance Brokers and Principals have been forced to reassess their capability to maintain operations and ensure they can provide their clients with continued insurance advice and, more importantly, claims support during these challenging times.

If recent times have taught us anything, it’s that business owners need to be ready for the unexpected. From devastating pandemics to unprecedented tornadoes – insurance businesses need to safeguard their ability to operate in all scenarios in order to assist their clients during times of need. What makes it even more challenging for insurance brokerages is that during circumstances that don’t allow your business to operate as normal (such as your premises being flooded during a wet weather event) – your business may also receive an influx of claims from clients who have experienced the same disaster – on top of your renewals and other urgent client matters. Unfortunately, for brokers, it’s not a matter of ‘closing up shop’ and lodging a business interruption claim.

Ensuring you have an up-to-date Disaster Response Plan ensures when the worst happens, you and your staff are prepared, calm (as can be) and ready to continue supporting your clients.

What is a Disaster Response Plan?

Disaster Plans can be as simplistic or technical as you care to make them. A Disaster Plan is a documented, structured approach with instructions for responding to unplanned incidents. This plan includes strategies to minimise the effects of a disaster so your business and staff can continue to operate or at least resume business-critical functions. The primary purpose of a disaster response plan is to protect your business in the event that all or part of your business is rendered unusable (such as your office).

Aside from you putting this together, the most important part of the whole plan is that your staff are familiar with the plan and are equipped and adequately trained to respond as needed.

This article provides insurance business owners with questions to inspire some thoughts about how your business would handle such an event and provides a basic guide to help you prepare your own Disaster Response Plan.

Here are 2 scenarios an insurance business might encounter – what would you and your staff do?

  1. A severe weather catastrophe affects the suburb in which your premises are located, as well as neighbouring suburbs. Your premises and neighbouring streets are completely flooded, and you can’t gain access. There is no electricity, and due to the severity of the weather event, you have lost access to phones, internet and electricity.
  2. Your business emails get hacked, and you face a major cyber security breach, forcing you to shut everything down immediately.

 

Consider these questions:

  1. Can all staff work from home should your premises be uninhabitable without warning? What if their homes are also affected?
  2. If you and your staff lose access to emails, how do you communicate with clients, other staff or insurers?
  3. Are your staff able to answer customer calls from home? Do you know how to forward your business phone line to a mobile phone?
  4. Do you and your staff have access to client data and business-critical information from home? i.e. from a Cloud-based IT system.
  5. Are staff who are on leave able to come back early to assist with the large workload or work from their location/holiday?
  6. Are staff familiar with the emergency repair contacts? You can view Ausure’s list of emergency repair contacts here.
  7. If you are uncontactable (ie/ loss of power), do your clients know what to do to lodge a claim? Ausure’s claims page allows clients to notify us of a claim, if you are part of Ausure, you can direct clients to this page on the Ausure website – make a claim here. We suggest sharing this on your social media platforms and website. In the event of a large influx of emails, you may consider including a link to this page in an automated response for all incoming emails.
  8. If you or your staff lose power, can you relocate temporarily?
  9. Can your Broking Licensee Group support you and your business? Ausure provides support and guidance to ARs in these scenarios through their Claims and National Service Team. Depending on the severity, we can assist with phone calls, claims lodgement, IT support and broker processing.

Managing a disaster on top of your existing claims and upcoming renewals is usually a big issue to consider, so having a plan for how your team approaches this balance is essential. Eg/ if renewals are within X% premium increase, can you renew as is?

 

“When a catastrophe occurs, it’s worthwhile to take a moment to think about a workflow plan for the other existing work, such as upcoming reviews and renewals. Each business can run differently, so there isn’t one solution that’s correct. But still, think how the work (outside of claims) can be triaged effectively and discussed with the team so everyone is on the same page. And another point to think about is assessing whether you put a stop on any new business. The end result is that while a catastrophe will significantly take a lot of your attention, other work activities still need a plan or general approach.”
– Mick O’Bree, Head of Operations at Ausure

How to create a disaster response plan:

Elements to Include in a Disaster Response Plan
Risk Assessment: Start by identifying specific weather catastrophes most likely to affect your business based on your geographical location. Understanding the potential impact is crucial for tailoring your plan effectively.

Resource Allocation: Allocate human and technological resources to handle claims efficiently. Consider hiring temporary staff or outsourcing claims processing during peak times. Setting up a dedicated claims email address, such as claims@ausure.com.au, that all staff can access if needed will allow you to share the workload. You can also consider creating an auto-reply advising clients that you are receiving an influx of laims and include details of emergency repairers.

Communication Strategy: Establish clear communication channels to keep clients, insurers and staff informed.

Data Management: Ensure data security and access to critical information. Implement systems to capture and store claim data efficiently. For example, you may consider setting up a ‘Claims Notification’ form on your website – this will allow you to include specific required fields, including the ability to upload photos – and will provide you with enough information to triage the claim and begin lodgement. Cloud-based solutions can be invaluable for remote access during crises, such as Microsoft Teams for staff communication and meetings or Salesforce to store your client’s details. Insight, the broking platform that Ausure uses, can also be accessed from anywhere.

Client Support: Offer emotional support and empathy to policyholders who have suffered losses. Provide information on available resources, such as emergency services and disaster relief programs.

Claims Processing Workflow: Develop a streamlined workflow for claims processing that includes clear steps, responsibilities, and timelines. Prioritise urgent claims while maintaining fairness and consistency.

Contingency Planning: Identify backup locations and alternative service providers in case your primary office is affected by the catastrophe for an extended period of time.

Staff Training and Support: As mentioned above, the most crucial part of your plan is looking after your staff. Ensuring they are up to date with the plan, know how to log in remotely, and have the knowledge to assist clients with claims and lodgement will play a primary role in how well your business responds to a disaster.

What have Ausure implemented as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • All staff have the ability to work from home when needed for an extended period of time; this means ensuring everyone has a laptop (rather than a PC) and a work-from-home setup, including using a cloud-based phone system so that staff can answer phone calls from their laptops.
  • It is a requirement that staff take home their laptops every night, ensuring we are always prepared if we can’t work in the office.
  • As a result of the pandemic and subsequent work-from-home arrangements, management implemented regular Teams company meetings, including Senior Staff meetings, Company updates and department meetings on work-from-home days.

Ready to start your Disaster Response Plan? You can find additional information and some great templates on the internet, depending on how formal or informal you want it. Smartsheet has a vast collection of templates here or you can view a template from the Australian Government here.

Mick O’Bree
General Manager of Operations and Underwriting
Email: mick.obree@ausure.com.au
Follow me on LinkedIn

Contact us for an obligation free chat

Prefer to speak with someone? Give us a call on 1300 587 225. 

Request a Call Back

Simply enter your details below, and we’ll give you a call right back!