Hurricanes Provide Lessons for Agency Disaster Planning: ACT (IIAA)

ACT Publishes New Agency Guide for Disaster Management

ALEXANDRIA, Va., March 29, 2005 – The unusual 2004 hurricane season provided the catalyst for the Agents Council for Technology (ACT) to assemble a work group of affected independent agents and other industry participants to improve the disaster planning process. The product of these discussions is ACT�s newest report, Key Considerations in Disaster Planning & Management for Independent Agencies & Brokerage Firms.”

This report draws on the experiences of independent agents and brokers living through disasters of all sorts, whether they be natural or man-made,� says Ed Higgins, principal at Thousand Islands Agency in Clayton, N.Y., as well as the chairman of the ACT Disaster Planning Work Group. �Our discussions drove home the point that disaster planning and management is an imperative for every independent agency and that the plans developed will help assure the agency�s ability to continue to serve its customers following the disaster, whether the disaster is a fire, an ice storm, a virus attack on the agency�s systems, or the result of the release of hazardous material in the area surrounding the agency.”

“The key is for independent agents and brokers to plan for these events well in advance and then to practice for given contingencies regularly,� says Jeff Yates, ACT executive director. “The ACT guide provides a detailed checklist for agents to use to perform this analysis and is divided into three major sections: Steps to Take Well Before a Disaster, Steps to Take When a Disaster is Imminent, and Steps to Take After a Disaster Strikes.”

The ACT guide focuses heavily on advance planning and preparation, protecting agency data and systems, planning for alternative communications, making sure all employees know their specific roles to perform should a disaster strike, and being sensitive to the emotional toll a disaster can have on employees and customers. The guide also includes references to additional resources for agencies to consider as they build their disaster plans.

“One of the key lessons that emerged from the work group�s discussions,� Higgins adds, �was that the agency makes the disaster plan in today�s world, with today�s technology, and that world may be significantly changed or gone after a disaster strikes. Hence, it is critical for the agency to be flexible and ready to adjust its plan to the situation it finds itself in following the disaster.”

“What struck me from our discussions,� Yates says, �was the opportunity for agencies today to make arrangements in advance with vendors to continue vital agency and customer services during and following a disaster. These arrangements include remote back-ups of the agency�s data and storing this data out of the region; providing remote access to the agency management system and the agency�s data through the Internet; and switching agency calls to an off site provider with access to the agency�s database to provide continuing service to customers when the agency�s phones are down.”

The report points out that we are likely to see more technology firms, user groups, and associations provide their agency customers and members with emergency services in the future, such as a help desk, on-site assistance, and even equipment to help agencies get back up and running after a disaster.

To download Key Considerations in Disaster Planning and Management for Independent Agencies & Brokerage Firms, please visit www.independentagent.com/act; the report is available on the home page.

For more information, please contact Jeff Yates at (800) 221-7917 or jeff.yates@iiaba.net.

Established in 1999 by IIABA, ACT provides a candid, action-oriented forum for agent and industry associations, user groups, companies and vendors to address critical technology and workflow issues facing the independent agency system.

Founded in 1896, the Big “I” is the nation�s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance�property, casualty, life and health�as well as employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com.