On the afternoon of May 20, 2013, a powerful tornado touched down in Moore, Oklahoma, leveling entire neighborhoods and leaving a path of destruction over 17 miles in length. As the alert came across the newswire, the Safeco’s Central Claims leadership team watched the live helicopter broadcast of the devastation as it progressed.
Team members immediately went to work on a plan to respond to agents and customers first thing in the morning with the help of Safeco's local Distribution team and the National Catastrophic Claims Unit.
There are many stories of employees who worked overtime hours and volunteered to travel from other regions to assist. “Everyone jumped right in to be there for agents and customers, regardless of their personal circumstances,” said Sheri Maddox, interim region claims manager. “I’m very proud of the true nature of caring shown by our team, but I’m not surprised. This is what we do. We help people put their lives back together.”
And claims employees did it all with professionalism, compassion and dedication. Take Jim Fulwood, part of the catastrophe field team. He traveled from Texas and made it to Moore within 24-hours of the tornado to secure a location for the Liberty Mutual Catastrophe Response Vehicle which serves Safeco® and Liberty Mutual personal lines customers. When Jim found a location he thought would be most visible and accessible to customers, he slept in his van to save the spot until the vehicle arrived.
As Diane Starling, a large loss adjuster from the Northwest Region, traveled to Moore, she prepared payments for customers who would need advances to help cover anticipated out-of-pocket costs such as food, clothing, housing and personal items. Even before the mobile response vehicle was on site, Starling issued more than 20 of those payments to Safeco policyholders.
Andy Bilbrey, an auto field adjuster, encountered several Safeco customers who had only photos of their damaged cars on their phones. Still, Bilbrey worked with each of them to collect the photos and general locations of the vehicles, and move the process along to the National Auto Center for valuation and completion of the total losses. When Placido Vasquez, an auto field team manager heard of this, he took the information Bilbrey had compiled and drove through the worst hit areas to find the vehicles and help confirm total losses.
In the middle of it all, one customer took time to send an email to Safeco after working with Frank Cortez, auto field adjuster for the Central Region. She wrote: “I just wanted to pass along what an incredible experience it was to have Mr. Cortez as my claims adjuster. He was a pleasure to work with and did an incredible job walking me through the next steps. It is difficult to go through these situations but your company and representatives have made it so much easier!”
Ongoing response and support
Although the mobile claims unit location is now closed, our claims professionals are available on the phone 24/7 and there is still a strong staff presence in the area. In the coming weeks, the Safeco Claims and Distribution teams will continue to work closely with agents to assess the community and customer needs and deliver on our promise to be there when we’re needed most.
Pictured below: Tracy Ainsworth, property loss field specialist and Ron Williams, property claims team manager in the field helping a Safeco customer understand the total loss process.
There is more to insurance than the cost of the policy – just ask anyone who has been involved in an accident, fire, or catastrophe such as the tornado in Moore.
Safeco’s reaction to the catastrophe in Moore: This is what you pay for when you write your checks to the insurance company. I believe Safeco has made another great statement – through its actions – as to why it and the other Liberty Mutual personal insurance companies are the fastest growing writers of car, home, and landlord insurance in the nation.
Safeco comes through when it matters. As Sheri Maddox said, “ . . . This is what we do. We help people put their lives back together.”.
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