Controlling the aftermath of the bushfires

Controlling the aftermath of the bushfires | Insurance Business Australia

Controlling the aftermath of the bushfires

With over 12 million acres devastated by bushfires in Australia, the scale of the crisis has been unprecedented. In this article, Scott Shepherd, head of Crawford Claims Solutions, Australia, explains how the company has been controlling the aftermath.

“The fires were so widespread across multiple states,” Shepherd stated, “that every single member of Crawford Australia’s team is to varying degrees involved with managing the claims activity. Our efforts are being coordinated at the national level, with Mark Mellor, national catastrophe manager and Queensland operations manager, liaising with various state and operations managers across the affected regions.”

The teams are currently handling an unprecedented number of bushfire claims – notifications rose sharply following the extensive damage occasioned in the first week of January. Given the nature of the disaster, claims are wide-ranging, extending from losses to dwellings, fences, machinery and commercial premises, to business interruption-related claims covering denial of access and loss of gross profit.

“Our primary focus is on triaging the claims appropriately at present,” he continued. “We have to ensure that priority is being given to those in most need. We are providing support to people immediately affected in the form of temporary accommodation and emergency funding.”

The teams are working closely with insurers to ensure adherence to the particular reinstatement and claims settlement processes specific to each organisation.

“All of the insurers we are working with,” he adds, “are making an incredible effort to make emergency funds available as quickly as possible to affected policyholders, as well as securing temporary accommodation, which is a major challenge, particularly in some of the more remote areas.”

Crawford also has personnel attending the Local Government evacuation centre in Melbourne, to assist insurers and their clients with any claims enquiries and provide any assistance that is required.

“This is an extremely challenging and emotional situation,” he added. “Our employees are dealing directly with individuals, businesses and communities that have lost everything.”

As firefighters gain control and put out fires in some of the areas affected, Crawford has been able to conduct a number of onsite assessments.

“We have a number of adjusters who have travelled interstate primarily from the west coast to the affected areas to carry out initial assessments where we now have access. It’s far too early to get any real sense of the potential volume of claims that we are dealing with, particularly as many people have not yet been allowed to return to their homes and premises. At present, we have the capacity to manage the volumes that we are receiving; but should it be required, we have Crawford employees in New Zealand on standby to support us.”

The safety of our employees is paramount, and all steps are being taken to ensure this.

“All of our on-the-ground employees are kitted out with the necessary safety equipment, not only to deal with the fire conditions, but also to address the risks of hazardous materials such as asbestos,” he said. “We’ve also supplied teams with satellite telephones as the networks are down in many of the affected regions. We are also currently assessing opportunities to deploy drones to secure footage of hard-to-reach areas to help expedite claims settlements, as well as employing on-site 360-degree imaging cameras and livestreaming capabilities on some larger, more complex losses to speed-up loss evaluation processes.”