TD Insurance Supports Members During Fort McMurray Ordeal | APEGA

TD Insurance Supports Members During Fort McMurray Ordeal

The APEGA Member Benefits provider goes beyond the letter of its obligations, paying temporary living expenses without requiring receipts. So far, more than $21 million been paid in claims and expenses.

Like thousands of Fort McMurray evacuees, Aman Gill, E.I.T., fled the wildfires with only the clothes on his back. He was fortunate in one regard, though – when 88,000 people were evacuated May 3, he was already 40 kilometres south of the city at Nexen’s Long Lake oil sands facility, where he worked in operations.

Mr. Gill was able to spend the night at Nexen’s camp. The next day, he headed to Calgary with a carload of stranded co-workers. He didn’t know when he’d be able to return to Fort McMurray or whether he’d even have a home when he got there.

An unexpected call from his insurance company provided some peace of mind. “TD contacted me and asked if I needed any assistance. I was quite surprised,” Mr. Gill recalls. “It made me feel kind of special that they cared enough to call.”

TD Insurance is an APEGA affinity partner. The member discounts it offers on personal home and auto insurance are arranged through Engineers Canada.

Two days after the evacuation, the company wired Mr. Gill enough money to cover his immediate living expenses – no receipts required. TD Insurance continued to check in with him in the weeks that followed, to ensure his needs were being met and to answer any questions he had about coverage on his condo.

Says Mr. Gill: “It was one less thing to worry about during a really stressful time. They took good care of me.”

Helping customers feel safe during a difficult time and keeping them informed was a priority for TD.

“Speed matters in these types of situations,” says Craig Richardson, the company’s vice-president of claims operations. “We wanted to be very proactive and demonstrate to our customers that we were there to stand with them when they needed us the most.”

By May 4, more than 30 TD Insurance employees were on site at Edmonton, Lac La Biche, and Calgary evacuation centres, providing advice and support to thousands of customers. Another 500 employees were supporting customers remotely.

The company also dispatched two mobile response units – one from Calgary, one from Toronto – to evacuation centres in Lac La Biche and Edmonton. The units are customized RVs equipped with desks and computers, making it easier for evacuees to meet with adjusters to get timely support.

“It was really important for us to have a presence at the evacuation centres and to be with those customers that were impacted by one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit Canada,” says Mr. Richardson, who flew in from Toronto to support his teams on the ground.

Customers were called weekly during the month of May to see if they needed help. TD also waived deductibles and extended its mass evacuation coverage from two weeks to one month. The company quickly issued cheques or wired money directly to customers.

When residents began returning to Fort McMurray on June 1, TD sent a team to the community to tackle thousands of home inspections. The goal: to help customers, and the community, get back to normal as fast as possible.

“We really wanted to make sure we inspected all the homes as quickly as we could and, where it was feasible, get the repairs completed right away,” says Mr. Richardson.

In total, APEGA Members made 782 residential claims and 438 auto claims. To date, TD has paid out over $21 million to APEGA Members for temporary living expenses, and residential and auto claims.

About 85 per cent of claims by APEGA Members and other TD customers were relatively minor, for things like smoke damage or replacing appliances filled with rotting food due to power outages. Most of those claims were settled shortly after residents returned home.

The remaining 15 per cent of claims are still being processed. They are for homes that were significantly damaged or destroyed. It’s hard to estimate how long it might take before rebuilding or repairs can begin and the claims are settled.  “A lot will depend on the capacity of contractors in the region to complete the repairs,” says Mr. Richardson.

Progress also depends on how the municipality moves forward with redevelopment, especially in hard hit communities like Abasand, Beacon Hill, and Waterways. Work has begun, though. The first rebuilding permit was issued in August, and 240 reconstruction permits had been issued by the end of October.

How a Catastrophe Playbook is Written

Hailstorms, fires, floods. In recent years, weather-related disasters have been on the rise – an increase researchers connect to the effects of global warming. Insurance companies have had to adapt, and TD is no exception.

When major flooding hit southern Alberta in 2013, more than $5 billion in damage resulted. Thousands of people were forced from their homes. TD and other insurers had a difficult time responding effectively to customer needs on such a large scale.

Lessons were learned. And TD used those lessons to create what it calls its catastrophe playbook.

“It’s what we turn to when we have severe weather events. It clearly outlines the steps we need to take to ensure we’re having a timely and effective response,” explains Mr. Richardson.

The addition of the two mobile response units and a full-time catastrophe response team has also helped TD provide better service to customers in the wake of severe weather events.

That service is highly appreciated by customers like Mr. Gill, who was able to return to Fort McMurray in mid-June. Houses burned down just blocks from his condo, but he was fortunate to only have minimal smoke damage. TD’s inspection of his property was quick and hassle-free, and the company paid for the clean-up, says Mr. Gill.

“They have earned my loyalty,” he says.