Brokers face long hours and lost homes in forest fire aftermath

Brokers face long hours and lost homes in forest fire aftermath | Insurance Business Canada

Brokers face long hours and lost homes in forest fire aftermath
It has been trying times indeed for the displaced residents of Fort McMurray, who must now rebuild – and navigate the insurance claims process – following the massive wildfire outbreak that claimed their city.

But dealing with the aftermath of the fires doesn’t just land on the shoulders of residents and emergency service teams; local insurance brokers – some of whom have lost their own homes – have been among the first, and ongoing, response.

Bruce Rabik, COO of Rogers Insurance, which has locations in Fort McMurray and Calgary, says the emotional and physical toll on his team has been enormous.

“It has been a massive hit to us in terms of the cost on people,” he says. “We’re really caught in between trying to help our clients and the fact that our people are going through their own devastating circumstances.

“Lots were staying in RVs and campgrounds, and lots of them have kids and school has been disrupted. Their experiences are exactly the same as all the residents in Fort McMurray.”

He says that two of his staff lost their own homes to the blaze, with other suffering varying degrees of damage. Many of his team were scattered across the country following the evacuation, or unable to work – just as a surge of 3,000 claims flooded in, the majority of which were fielded by his Calgary office.

“We brought in a counsellor for our Calgary staff because of the hundreds and hundreds of phone calls we were getting,” he says. “Every second one was somebody who had lost a home, or wasn’t sure if they’d lost a home – they didn’t know what to do, they needed emergency living expenses, they were running out of money – a lot of them are very emotional, and our staff were listening to that all day long.

“Now we’ve been rotating staff from Calgary and Red Deer up to Fort McMurray, and a lot of people are now spending a week up there. That means they’re away from their own families, and they’re up there dealing with pretty emotional things.”

He adds that because the government has asked staff to keep area hotels free, many of those on site are staying on camp sites, making the long commute into the city each day and working 12-hour shifts.

However, Rabik says, the company considers itself lucky, as its local branches avoided the worst of the flames when others have lost so much.

“At both our locations the most we had to deal with a little bit of smoke and smell,” he says. “We had to do some serious cleaning of the office, restart all the computers, deal with the utilities and everything – but that’s the same as other area businesses. We were pretty lucky that way.”


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