Insurers Harness Data To Prep For Hurricane Claims

Sep 8, 2017

Insurance companies are still in the midst of settling claims from Hurricane Harvey. Now they must prepare for possibly an even bigger impact from Irma. 

The insurers may have gotten off lightly in last year’s quiet hurricane season. Not so much in 2017.

“Certainly, when you’re confronted with two big hurricanes back to back, it’s all about preparation,” said John Kinney, the Chief Claims Officer for The Hartford.

He’s pulling in claims specialists from as many as 30 states to help in this effort. Currently, he’s staging a team in Alabama to await possible deployment to Florida if Irma makes landfall.

But he said that in recent years, there are ways in which his job has gotten easier.

“To be honest with you, we started thinking about Irma seven days ago, and five years ago, I don’t think I could have done that,” he told WNPR.

What’s made the difference is the availability of data -- lots and lots of data -- and the ability to analyze it.

"It starts with knowing where you have insurance policies, and being able to - the term they use is geocode - where you have the risk," he said. "And then layer in things like flood maps, and elevation, and then be able to very meticulously plan the various paths that the storms are taking, and then start to model against the probabilities of claim."

Texas National Guard soldiers arrive in Houston to aid residents in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey, Aug. 27, 2017.
Credit 1st Lt. Zachary West / Texas Army National Guard

The Hartford has a focus on small business, with more than a million small business customers around the nation.

It’s advising businesses in Florida to use the cloud to store financial data, customer contacts, and vital documents like insurance policies. Having that information readily available in the wake of Irma will help them get back on their feet more quickly.

But The Hartford’s Lynn LaGram warns even businesses far away from Irma’s path may still feel the effects.

"If you think about a small business owner -- even in Connecticut, our home state -- who may rely on businesses in Florida, say, for critical supplies to run their business, those Connecticut businesses could be impacted as well," she said.