Multiple large-scale fires burnt out of control as Australia battled one of its most devastating bushfire seasons. As evacuation orders were issued across badly affected areas such as Kangaroo Island and Batemans Bay many communities are reaching breaking point.
“Some of the most significant damage was around regions including Batemans Bay in New South Wales, Mallacoota in Victoria and across Kangaroo Island in South Australia,” says Scott Shepherd, head of Crawford Claims Solutions, Australia. “We were able to secure early access to Kangaroo Island where the situation changed hour by hour.”
With over 12 million acres devastated to date by the bushfires, the scale of the crisis is unprecedented.
“The fires were so widespread across multiple states,” Shepherd states, “that every single member of Crawford Australia’s team is to varying degrees involved with managing the claims activity. Our efforts are being coordinated at the national level, with Mark Mellor, national catastrophe manager and Queensland operations manager, liaising with various state and operations managers across the affected regions.”
The teams are handling an unprecedented number of bushfire claims – notifications rose sharply following the extensive damage occasioned in the first week of January. Given the nature of the disaster, claims are wide-ranging, extending from losses to dwellings, fences, machinery and commercial premises, to business interruption-related claims covering denial of access and loss of gross profit.
“Our primary focus is to ensure that priority is being given to those in most need,”
he continues. “We are providing support to people immediately affected in the form of temporary accommodation and emergency funding.”
The teams are working closely with insurers to ensure adherence to the particular reinstatement and claims settlement processes specific to each organization.
“All of the insurers we are working with,” he adds, “are making an incredible effort to make emergency funds available as quickly as possible to affected policyholders, as well as securing temporary accommodation, which is a major challenge, particularly in some of the more remote areas.”
Crawford also had personnel attending the Local Government evacuation center in Melbourne, to assist insurers and their clients with any claims enquiries and provide initial assistance that is required. “This is an extremely challenging and emotional situation,” he adds. “Our employees are dealing directly with individuals, businesses and communities that have lost everything.”
“We have a number of adjusters who have travelled interstate primarily from the west coast to the affected areas to carry out initial assessments where we now have access. We have the capacity to manage the volumes that we are receiving; but should it be required, we have Crawford employees in New Zealand on standby to support us.”
The safety of our employees is paramount, and all steps were taken to ensure this.
“All of our on-the-ground employees were kitted out with the necessary safety equipment, not only to deal with the fire conditions but also to address the risks of hazardous materials such as asbestos. We also supplied teams with satellite telephones as the networks were down in many of the affected regions. We are employing on-site 360° imaging cameras and live-streaming capabilities on some larger, more complex losses to speed-up loss evaluation processes.”