Rebuilding Joplin Together
Farmers Insurance has a long and proud history of taking care of our customers and the communities where our agents, district managers and employees live and work. Following disasters, the Farmers claims team is often on the scene within days or even hours, ensuring that our customers’ claims are settled fairly and quickly. In many cases, our employees volunteer their time to serve food to anyone who is hungry and hand out teddy bears to frightened children.
It was no different following the EF-5 tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo., in 2011. Farmers claims team was first on the scene, and we settled close to 100% of our claims within 90 days, but after three months, our claims adjusters and volunteers returned to their homes and daily lives, along with other insurance carriers. However, we soon became acquainted with a small non-profit, the St. Bernard Project, which had partnered with a local charity, Rebuild Joplin, to begin the recovery work of the hundreds of families who were uninsured, underinsured, faced unscrupulous contractors or were forced to pay down mortgages before rebuilding.
Shortly before the 2-year anniversary of the storm, Farmers was greatly moved by the rebuilding effort, the 35 families who remained in FEMA trailers, the hundreds of additional families who had no home to return to and the resilient community determined to recover more quickly than originally predicted. What impressed us most about the work was the recovery model that began in New Orleans following Katrina, and was replicated in Joplin. We knew we could not only impact the community of Joplin, but other communities who might one day be faced with the same ominous task of recovery.
Beginning in 2013, Farmers sent employee from around the country to volunteer for two-week volunteer opportunities where they helped rebuild and repair homes. To date, more than 230 employees have donated over 10,000 hours, helping to bring over 30 families back home. Farmers is committed to helping bring all families home by the end of 2014, and volunteers will remain embedded in the community throughout the year.
Disaster Recovery Playbook
During the same time, Farmers began working on a Disaster Recovery Playbook, a guide based on the best practices developed in New Orleans, Joplin and New York/New Jersey following Superstorm Sandy. The purpose of the Playbook is to provide disaster-impacted communities the tools to recover promptly, give residents clear action steps, and disaster recovery organizations a standardized and adaptable model for post-disaster recovery.
The Disaster Recovery Playbook enables future recoveries to stand on the shoulders of past recoveries, dramatically reducing recovery time and offering insight into the best practices every community should know about, including:
- Establishing and communicating a recovery plan in the first seven days resulting in faster access to resources and funding.
- Understanding community leadership’s role in recovery and recognizing that those coming in to help are in for the short-term vs. the long-term.
- Running a recovery as if it were a business --- establishing clear goals, clear accountability and clear language.
By using the model and process outlined in the Playbook, Joplin is years ahead of original outside estimates for its time to recovery. Immediately after the May 2011 tornadoes, estimates from respected organizations like FEMA called for a recovery of up to seven years. But by using the Playbook’s model, a philosophy originally brought to life in New Orleans by the St. Bernard Project and perfected in Joplin with the creation of Rebuild Joplin, the homeowners originally displaced by the tornadoes are expected to be back in their homes by the end of 2014, nearly three and a half years ahead of schedule.
To date, the Disaster Recovery Playbook has been endorsed by The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Mike Seibert, Mayor of Joplin, Mo.
Farmers is proud to stand side-by-side with St. Bernard Project and Rebuild Joplin to share the work we all know will impact communities for years to come. The Disaster Recovery Playbook is also available online at www.disasterrecoveryplaybook.org, and we encourage you to read the Playbook and share the information with community leaders around the country.