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A roadmap to rebuilding after disaster

April 18, 2024
  • By: Robert Johnson, President of Sedgwick Government Solutions

Catastrophic (CAT) events come in many different forms: hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, man-made environmental events — the list goes on. All of them can have varied but devastating effects on properties and the humans that occupy them. 

There is another common thread among any catastrophic event: survivors need help from experts to guide them through each step towards rebuilding their livelihood. 

Sedgwick’s CAT coordinators and Government Solutions team – as a partner to FEMA responders – are there to take survivors one step at a time through the roadmap to rebuilding.

First response

For any catastrophe or disaster that incurs property damage, the first concern for all organizations responding to the event is protecting the health and safety of the people affected. First responders – including police, firefighters, paramedics, and FEMA – along with other volunteer aid organizations play a crucial role in responding quickly to provide safety services, medical assistance, and restore essential services like power and water to the area. Once residents are evacuated, medical care is given, and survivors are safe, the repair and remediation process can begin. 

Immediate touchpoints

Secondary responders like insurance carriers and adjusters such as Sedgwick field experts may already be on the ground alongside first responders when a disaster happens. It’s critical that credentialed and qualified insurance experts are there to help and offer support as quickly as possible. 

For survivors of a CAT event, the consequences are real, and their experience is filled with unknowns. In such a serious time, survivors aren’t thinking about calling an insurance provider or filing a claim – their biggest concerns are finding food, first aid, safe housing, and information about what happens next. They need caring and empathetic experts who can anticipate their needs and guide them to their next step. Contacting survivors within the first 24 hours is ideal, to provide assurance that help, and support is available.

As of January 2024, the FEMA process will become increasingly streamlined to help survivors get resources even faster: officials have removed the need to submit a mandatory SBA application. Survivors are now able to secure funding and assistance much quicker via the new rules and will deal with less oversight and technicalities which have resulted in delays in the past.  

Temporary housing

When survivors are displaced from their homes due to property damage, they may need temporary accommodations for as short a time as one day or one week, or as long as one year or more.

Insurance industry secondary responders are critical onsite after a disaster, in part because they have dedicated resources and years of experience to guide survivors through the temporary housing process. Survivors can expect individual assistance getting the best available rates and reasonable lease terms while navigating providers’ networks of hotel partnerships and short-term housing options.

Sedgwick Government Solutions has access to unique training, experience, and technology resources to strategically manage temporary housing after an accident or disaster on behalf of government agencies and the people they serve.

Assessment, adjustment, and administration

In the weeks following a disaster, once survivors are safe and settled, insurers and property damage experts work quickly to begin the claims process, helping survivors every step of the way. Trained and qualified inspectors, surveyors, engineers, and loss adjusters within Sedgwick’s team collect data, photos, and evidence to support claims case files to ensure survivors get cost-effective and fair claims handling. As with any step in a catastrophe response roadmap, offering solutions with empathy is a crucial part of the Sedgwick approach. 

In major disasters, FEMA may provide assistance to individuals and communities affected by the disaster. Homeowners may be eligible for grants to help cover temporary housing, home repairs, and other disaster-related expenses that are not covered by insurance. 

Importantly, new updates to FEMA’s guidelines include changes to what types of homes will be considered for assistance. Now, not just homes affected by disaster but those with preexisting issues will also be considered. This change to the regulations will help more people, especially in communities disproportionately affected by disasters.

Digital resources

Though catastrophe response is inherently human-centric, technology-supported strategies from CAT coordinators are a game-changer in getting survivors access to critical resources with immediacy. 

Many survivors still have access to their smartphones following a crisis. FEMA offers mobile resources including an app that helps connect survivors with a host of information, from real-time weather alerts to local emergency shelters nearby. 

Insurance providers also have a host of tech tools to help survivors. Whether success means finding temporary housing faster through digital resources, adjusting a property loss using remote technology, or sending claim data instantaneously for rapid evaluation, technology tools add value to the survivor experience and expedite the claims process. 

The best outcome, at the end of the day, is helping policyholders return home or reopen their businesses quickly and safely. Guiding survivors through this process with empathy, while working seamlessly with first responders like FEMA, is at the heart of Sedgwick Government Solutions’ approach to catastrophe response.