Initial estimates for insured losses resulting from last weekend’s tornados and severe weather, which slammed Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri and Wisconsin, are beginning to roll in and may exceed a billion dollars, according to an estimate from Mathew Nielsen, director model product management for Risk Management Services. Here’s a look at the numbers and the technology that is enabling those relief and customer service efforts.

A spokesperson for State Farm said there have been 7,500 homeowners claims filed in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio related to the November 17 tornados and severe weather, including 3,600 in Illinois, 2,100 in Indiana, 1,200 in Michigan and 500 in Ohio.

“We are here taking claims and people can file claims in a variety of ways,” said Holly Anderson, media representative for State Farm. “We have an army of claims reps taking claims at the Methodist Church in Washington, Ill. They are sitting with customers and writing checks.”

A catastrophe response vehicle is onsite, Anderson said, which has wireless internet connectivity back to the home office in Bloomington, Ill., which is 45 minutes away from Washington, Ill., which suffered the most extensive damage. That connectivity enables the insurer to write initial checks, intended to offer immediate assistance to customers who need rental properties, hotels, food or clothing, Anderson said. “We want to get those people in here so we can help get them back on their feet quickly.”

In addition to onsite claims filing and check disbursement, State Farm offers a variety of technology-enabled ways for customers to submit claims, including online and also through its call centers.

“We also have something called PocketAgent, which is an app we have available for smartphones,” Anderson said. “People can file claims via that app. That’s new for us in the past two years.”

GPS and social media also are playing important roles in the claims process for State Farm agents, claims reps and customers. Street signs have been blown over and GPS helps them navigate and identify properties.

State Farm also is using social media to communicate with customers, offering suggestions about how to locate and hire reputable contractors and how to do reference checks on them through the local homebuilders’ or roofers’ associations, for example. Based on interactions with customers, State Farm has been Tweeting answers to frequently asked questions, such as whether customers should put tarps on damaged roofs, or wait until inspectors show up.

“We’ve been talking with customers and listening to what their questions were, so we thought that’s something a lot of people have questions about, so we made sure to put that out on social,” Anderson said. “We’re Tweeting that you need to do those things and keep your receipts, so we can reimburse you for any temporary repairs that you make."

American Family Insurance anticipates more than 2,100 claims totaling more than $30 million in damages, said Steve Witmer, spokesman for the insurer. As of Thursday, November 21, AmFam had received 1,346 homeowner’s claims from southern Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio. The claims were almost entirely residential.

“I was down at the remote office vehicle yesterday. They have satellite uplinks and it’s a fully functioning office. Our adjustors have technology in their vehicles so they can process to the point of producing a check onsite and hand it to the customer.”

American Family currently has 40 staffers to help local adjusters handle claims in central Illinois, 40 elsewhere in the state and 20 more helping in Indiana.

“We are very active on Facebook and Twitter and we have been communicating with customers, reminding them how to file a claim,” Witmer said, either through their agent, call center or online.

For more on mobile claims technology and catastrophe response, see: "Mobile Claims Apps: From Front to Back."

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