USAA's Disaster Innovation Response Team (DIRT) members, from left to right, Eric S., research engineer senior, Manfred A., research engineer lead, and Charles (Doug) C., business strategy and planning director, getting ready to utilize drone technology to track hurricane damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
No power. No air conditioning. No cell service. This was the situation a 62-year member found herself in after Hurricane Ida ripped through her town of Houma, Louisiana.
Fortunately, the USAA Disaster Innovation Response Team (DIRT) is on the ground in Louisiana, already starting to help members and aid the claims team. USAA employee, Daniel D., strategic innovation director, says contact with members has been difficult because of conditions in the area.
“This is probably one of the toughest environments that DIRT has walked into," says Daniel. “The connectivity that our members have is zero, and there is no power."
To get a head start on the claims process, the USAA disaster response team is leaning on technology to serve members before they even call us. One of these capabilities continues to be aerial imagery, which allows our property claims personnel to immediately identify how severe the damage is, no matter how difficult areas are to reach.
“We utilize geospatial tools to clearly understand where our members are located in the disaster area, so we are ready to help them as soon as they file their claim," explains Daniel. “We geotarget the hardest hit areas right off the bat and provide imagery to the adjusters and operational partners to aid in the method of inspection."
Aerial imagery alone provides us ground truth, but Innovation works with the Advanced Analytics & Machine Learning group to understand the severity of the claims.
“My team's job is to understand what's going on in the area and make the most complex losses as easy as possible – when the home is completely gone or unlivable," explains Daniel.
Aside from being proactive for our members, Daniel says utilizing imagery and machine learning also helps our adjusters.
“It helps our field adjusters when they receive hundreds of losses as soon as they arrive," says Daniel. “This gives us the right intelligence about the situation, so they can provide the right member experience."
One of our catastrophe partners, a vender Claims Service, has also been assisting members in Louisiana and Mississippi during the Hurricane Ida aftermath. Derek D., director, business process ownership, says is containing an unprecedented amount of the claims volume associated with the hurricane.
“With this vender supplementing our claims staffing, our employees will have more capacity to focus on our more complex claims," says Derek. “We've been able to inspect some member's homes, pay and close their claim on the same day the loss was reported."
In addition to aerial imagery, Daniel and DIRT are utilizing drones to gather information and take photos of damage in hard-to-reach areas. In the case of our 62-year-member, DIRT was able to assess her roof using drone technology. They were also able to provide her some peace of mind.
“The flight of the drone took five minutes, but to make her feel comfortable, heard and right with the situation, it took 30," says Daniel. “While the technology is what we need to expedite the claims process, our members need us to stand with them and provide that human interaction and empathy. That's the feeling that we need to give our membership when we are the first ones on site."