100 Years of Catastrophe Response
State Farm has its very own Storm Chasers
“Necessity is the mother of invention.” - Plato
Here at State Farm®, necessity doesn't automatically drive innovation because we strive to anticipate, and stay ahead of, expectations. Especially for our customers.
However, there was time, a very important time, in our history that it did. But we'll get to that in a minute.
Let’s begin with how we respond to catastrophes today.
Currently, our catastrophe claim team monitors potential severe weather events around the clock. This allows us to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. If the former happens, our Deployed Claims Specialists can be on the ground within hours after the storm dissipates, our in-office teams stand ready to assist, and our agents are embedded in the community.
We organize a force of thousands across the company within hours and stay until recovery is complete - which in some cases, can mean weeks or even months. The technology available for tracking weather and claim handling is leaps and bounds over what it was when State Farm was founded 100 years ago. This technology and our amazing Weather and Catastrophe Services team make it possible to for us to get to our customers and help them recover, faster.
Was it always like that? No. However, necessity drove the invention of the National Catastrophe (NATCAT) team. Why? Because we saw a need. We learned. We innovated. We changed.
Let's look back to 1969, when Hurricane Camille hit the Gulf Coast.
Camille was a beast. She did $1.4 BILLION in damages ($11.2 BILLION in today's dollars). At that time, we used independent firms to respond to catastrophes. When Camille hit, those firms couldn’t handle our high volume. They didn’t have enough people or resources to commit to recovering from a storm like Camille.
Necessity: Take care of our customers like a good neighbor.
Innovation: Create an in-house staff that deploys fast.
In 1971, State Farm created the Special Disaster Services (SDS) team which used on-staff claims personnel from across the country that reported for temporary assignments to catastrophe areas. SDS responded to catastrophes such as the 1974 Super Outbreak of tornadoes, the Great Lakes Blizzard of 1977, and the eruption of Mount St. Helens. They did their job, and they did it well.
However, in 1992 everything changed when Hurricane Andrew hit the gulf coast, impacting every state from Florida to Texas. As a Category 5 hurricane, it caused more than $27.3 BILLION ($56B in today's dollars) in damages. It was the worst hurricane recorded to date. State Farm alone had 361,000 claims from Hurricane Andrew. The destruction was so widespread, even getting into the area to survey damage and begin rebuilding was a huge mountain to climb.
Another obstacle we faced with Andrew was the need for claims personnel specifically trained in total loss estimating. Because of how SDS was set up, identifying and deploying personnel with the right training was difficult. In some cases, resources were not ready to deploy for more than a week. The structure of a non-dedicated catastrophe staff created challenges for those who were deployed and for those who remained at home. It put a lot of stress on everyday claims operations because we needed so many claim handlers to assist with Andrew, all who had responsibilities their home teams filled while they deployed.
Necessity: Highly trained, specialized resources who deploy on a moment's notice
Innovation: State Farm National Catastrophe Team
In 1997, State Farm created the NATCAT team. This team was filled with hundreds of people who were hired specifically to respond to catastrophes. A requirement of the position was they commit to travel on short notice. This team was trained in total loss of auto and buildings and in weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, and wildfires.
Over the years, NATCAT evolved into a bigger operation beyond only those who deploy. Now named Weather and Catastrophe Services, the team includes people from across the company who track weather events, organize deployments, set up on-site claims and assistance centers in impacted areas, in-office support for claims handling, philanthropy, public affairs, and management services needed to serve our customers.
Over the past 25 years, we've taken this approach and utilized the industry's best catastrophe response personnel to ensure we reach our customers fast and with the best customer service available. This team plans, tracks, organizes, deploys, and assists our customers, no matter the time or day. To this very day, the Weather and Catastrophe Services team is evolving to better serve our customers. We use new technology to offer virtual service options, claim handling, and claim filing to help our customers start the road to recovery, faster.
“There is no harm in repeating a good thing.” - Plato
Here at State Farm, we couldn't agree more.
For over 100 years, the mission of State Farm has been to help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected and realize their dreams. State Farm and its affiliates are the largest providers of auto and home insurance in the United States. Its more than 19,400 agents and 67,000 employees serve over 91 million policies and accounts – including auto, fire, life, health, commercial policies and financial services accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for renters, business owners, boats and motorcycles, is also available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 44 on the 2023 Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit http://www.statefarm.com.