The United States remains embroiled in battle against one the most ferocious wildfire seasons on record. In California, the amount of acreage to go up in flames this year has been monumental and has really stretched the resources of the emergency services.
Insurers are also feeling the heat of the wildfires in California, with some choosing to cancel policies and exit the state rather than soldier on amid the smoke. Other insurers, like Church Mutual Insurance Co., have taken the challenging opportunity to ignite new business and find innovative ways to beat wildfire exposure.
Church Mutual is this year piloting its Church Mutual Wildfire Solutions program, which offers a comprehensive approach to wildfire defense, including 24/7 access to wildfire monitoring services, prevention advice from specialized risk control agents, and active fire mitigation services to protect properties and houses of worship in a wildfire’s path.
“At Church Mutual, our goal is to protect the greater good of our policyholders, their congregants, their employees and so forth. Our new wildfire solutions program is just one of the innovative things we’re doing to protect the greater good – both to people’s lives and to properties at risk,” said Tom Kluxdal, director of innovation at Church Mutual.
“This is a pilot program for California in 2018 and is something we want to expand to additional markets in 2019. This year, we have four troops stationed in California – two in the North and two in the South – and they’re deploying to locations throughout those geographic areas. So far, we’re very happy with how the program is running. We haven’t experienced any significant damages relating to this year’s wildfire season and we feel very fortunate that our policyholders have been protected, either by the grace of God of by the use of our service.”
While Church Mutual was offering wildfire coverage before, the additional value-added services that come with the Wildfire Solutions program are a new investment, Kluxdal explained. So far, the firm has experienced positive return on investment for the program, but Kluxdal was keen to stress the “key goal is to protect customers from disruption and destruction.”
The innovative program is a joint venture alongside Church and Casualty Insurance Agency, which is Church Mutual’s largest policyholder base in California. As they look to grow the program and expand into new territories, Church Mutual plans to work even closer with the broker and agent channel.
“As we look to the future, we hope to expand into other wildfire-prone states such as Colorado, Wyoming, Texas and so on, which means we will be reaching out to a larger part of the broker community,” Kluxdal told Insurance Business. “We anticipate that wildfire will continue to be a growing issue for the insurance industry as a whole, and we would like to use our creative thinking to be able to provide greater amounts of protection, especially if fires are going to continue to consume larger swathes of forest areas.”