Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Insurance Companies Mobilize Staff to Begin Claims Process in Fort McMurray

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Insurance Companies Mobilize Staff to Begin Claims Process in Fort McMurray

Article excerpt

Insurers prep for Fort McMurray fire claims

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As the wildfire situation in Fort McMurray, Alta., appeared to stabilize Sunday, insurance companies across Canada have already begun deploying mobile response units and flying in personnel to the province from across the country to prepare to assess the damage.

Most companies have natural disaster and crisis units that were deployed to emergency centres soon after all of Fort McMurray was placed under a mandatory evacuation order last Tuesday. More than 80,000 have left the community.

Some 16 insurance companies have established temporary claims offices at the Northlands evacuation centre in Edmonton, and 10 have set up further north in Lac la Biche, said Bill Adams, the vice-president for the western and pacific region for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Staff in the centres have been opening claims files and issuing emergency cheques for evacuees, he said.

"Some didn't have identification except what's in their vehicles. They don't have access to their bank accounts, they have to reapply for their basic information," he said. "So to be able to demonstrate with a vehicle registration that they are in fact who they are and to have funds given to them is a very emotional experience."

A spokeswoman for Intact Insurance said the company has a catastrophe team that works year-round. It set up temporary claims centres "within hours" of the evacuation order.

Rosa Nelson said the company has opened offices in Edmonton, Lac la Biche and Calgary where agents are beginning the claims process and issuing $5,000 emergency cheques.

Craig Richardson, the vice president of claims operations for TD Insurance, says the company has sent about 30 people to work at shelters with evacuees,. It also mobilized 500 people internally across the country to help with anything from answering phones to flying out and assessing fire damage.

"I think speed matters a lot, and when you have these type of devastating and traumatic events customers need to understand we're there to stand with them when they need us the most," he said.

The company has also dispatched its two "mobile response units," which are RVs customized to serve as satellite claims offices. …

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