October 27, 2005
Jewelers Mutual Hurricane Response Teams On Site
With hurricane repairs underway in Louisiana, Texas, and neighboring states, Jewelers Mutual has sent hurricane response teams to visit Florida insureds to assess damage from Hurricane Wilma.
The company is receiving calls for claims related to Hurricane Wilma. "At this time, it is hard for our policyholders to contact us or for us to call them because phones lines are down, and there are power outages in the areas hardest hit by the hurricane," said Ron Harder, the company's CEO. "We have two disaster response teams visiting policyholders who were affected by the hurricane; one team is on Florida's West Coast and the other is traveling along the East Coast," he added.
Jewelers Mutual anticipates claims for property damage, loss of earnings, and looting, similar to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. JM noted that the East Coast was hit harder than expected by the hurricanes. "We'll know more after our hurricane response team has visited our policyholders," Harder said.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
As of Oct. 25, Jewelers Mutual has paid nearly $1.27 million in claims from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Victims of these two hurricanes face challenges finding contractors and building materials to rebuild their businesses.
"Right now, contractors are scarce and those who are available are working to rebuild New Orleans' infrastructure," Harder explained. "We've been told that the state of Louisiana is allowing contractors from other states to help, as long as they have a valid license and meet the state's requirements."
The policyholder losses from Hurricane Katrina represent the single largest catastrophe in the company's history. "While we recognize the unfortunate impact that Rita had on many of our policyholders and their families, damage was not as severe as that from Katrina because the hurricane was less intense and affected less populated areas," Harder estimated.
"Jewelers Mutual's financial strength and claims handling expertise permits us to respond quickly to these losses. Our policyholders know they can contact a claims or underwriting expert 24 hours a day, seven days a week.," Harder said.
Considering the extensive area of damage, policyholders have experienced few losses due to looting, largely because jewelers stored merchandise in safes, vaults, and other secure locations. Retailers were careful to assure that jewelry wasn't visible from the outside of stores. One looting loss that occurred during Hurricane Wilma resulted in minimal loss of inventory, but significant damage to the store.
The biggest lessons policyholders learned from the hurricanes were to allow more time to plan for the disaster and to establish a formal, written plan, according to Harder.
Since introducing its Hurricane Preparedness Guide earlier this year, Jewelers Mutual has received thousands of visits to the guide on its website, www.jewelersmutual.com. "We're hoping that many jewelers were able to use the information from the guide to reduce or prevent losses from the hurricane," Harder said.