Townsville flood update: Helping customers return home
Townsville is currently a town undergoing a rapid transformation as a result of the devastating February 2019 floods which inundated the town sending whole suburbs under water.
The town is now a hive of tradespeople, restorers and adjusters, many of them locals, who are completely focused on getting people back into their homes.
QBE Insurance is currently working through thousands of claims, the vast majority of which are domestic property claims.
“From day one we were on the ground up here locally, assessing the properties in terms of the extent of damage,” says Ann Mackay, QBE’s Supply Relationship Manager in Townsville. “We were in constant communication with our partners, suppliers, builders, restorers and adjustors to ensure we had adequate resourcing to meet the demands of the job numbers that we saw initially coming in as a result of the Townsville floods.
“We know it’s very traumatic for our customers to go through this type of event. We’re dealing with people's lives here - they're families, some have got children, some have illnesses, some are elderly.
“It’s been so important to make sure that our customers were looked after, for example, in the days after the flood, if they required emergency funds or help finding alternative accommodation. Those are the sorts of key things that we felt was important to try and give some sort of normality back in an extraordinary situation.”
Working with our suppliers
QBE is continuing to work closely with our preferred suppliers – builders, restorers and adjusters – to get our customers back into their homes as quickly as possible, says Peter Pearce, QBE’s Repair Quality Service Manager.
“What’s really come to light with us being on the ground up here in Townsville is that because we have such a great relationship with our adjusters, restorers and builders, they are making sure we know about any red flag claims early on,” he said.
“For example, it means we know if we have a customer that has become unwell and needs some additional assistance and this means we may need to push some repairs through a little bit faster.
“When there’s so much volume of work, we’re also finding out early about any other issues that might slow us down and addressing those immediately.”
Insurers have received more than 27,300 claims to date, with losses estimated at $1.132 billion, as a result of the devastating floods, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.
Townsville resident Belinda Powell, who is also the Queensland State Manager at Sedgwick, QBE’s preferred loss adjuster, says the flood were completely unparalleled.
“It started out as rain, which turned into the most unprecedented event we’ve ever seen. As someone who calls Townsville home, I know the community here were just so shocked by it,” Powell says.
“As a loss adjuster, I’m appointed by QBE to go out and establish what's happened, assess the damage and work with QBE, their suppliers and the customer to get everything back to normal as quickly as possible.
“We just want families back in their homes and businesses back working as soon as possible. That’s what this is all about."
“From the very beginning, the day after the flood, we had a representative of QBE in our office here in Townsville giving very clear directions on what they required from us. That was the best thing that we could possibly have to know exactly what we needed to do.”
Loss adjusters also worked closely with restorers.
“As restorers, we go into buildings after fires and floods and do all the cleaning and drying to get things back to what they should be before the loss,” says Peter Cowan, the Managing Director of Cowan Restoration Services, a restorer partnering with QBE to get people back in their homes following the Townsville floods.
“In Townsville, not every house is completely damaged - some have just had rain come through the gutters and inside the house. But this can cause mould, which you don’t want anyone, especially families, living with.
“We did one home where a young disabled boy in a wheelchair lived. We couldn’t find suitable accommodation for the family to move to so we got everything happening very quickly for them. The family wrote us a letter to say thank you and that gave us all a very good feeling.
Once restorers have finished their work, QBE’s preferred builders come into a property and get the building work done to make it ready to be lived in again.
“No one expects or is prepared for an insurance claim on their property, let alone half a metre of flooded water through their house,” says Brett Ambrose, managing director of Ambrose Building, one of QBE’s preferred builders.
The trauma of having to make an insurance claim is recognised by another of QBE’s preferred builders.
“When you're doing a renovation for a homeowner, they're excited about that process, but when you turn up after a catastrophe event like the Townsville floods, the homeowner is devastated,” says Ben Campbell, owner of Ben Campbell Building Group.
“We come in unsure of what’s happened when we turn up at the door but in most cases someone’s going through a very traumatic event themselves so you show compassion and you've got to be empathetic to what's happened to them.”
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