FEMA, in particular, is starting to use data following disasters in ways that can provide valuable lessons for insurers handling claims.
The federal government is likely not the first place you would look for innovative inspiration and lessons on implementation. The old stereotypes of stacks of paper gathering dust in corners, outdated technology and endless processes still exist to some degree, but the government is making huge strides in the digital space, and insurers can take note.
Recently, I read an article from Yahoo Politics about some new features on FEMA’s (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) mobile application. The app has been around for nearly three years, but in the last few months FEMA has rolled out social media features and geo-spacial weather alerts that allow the app to be customized to users’ own experience before, during and after a disaster.
Claims organizations can learn these lessons and offer some of these features to customers. For example, following a disaster, the FEMA app now has a “Disaster Reporter” tab where survivors can upload pictures from their phone and also view other photos or damage or loss of property. If applicable, companies could offer the same services for its customers following a major disaster; it could build a sense of community and also offer insurers valuable information shared directly from the disaster source.
Not only would insurance companies benefit from having this capability for their own use, but now they can also leverage information being gathered and publicly accessible directly from FEMA. Claims organizations can also verify data being uploaded from a disaster zone to filed claims. This capability is part of a systemic change in claims where data can be gathered and analyzed from both internal and external sources. In addition, because FEMA is taking a step to modernize its messaging through mobile applications, the agency is making the country more prepared and more resilient, which equates to less risk of loss of property after a disaster.
The government will only continue to modernize its public services. While they don’t move at the same rate as private enterprise, what we are starting to see is unique sets of public data gathered by the government that can be repurposed in insurance. The privacy and verification of taking data from the government remains to be seen. But for now, the playing field looks promising to capitalize on these opportunities.