Allstate uses drones to survey storm damage

Allstate Insurance Drones inspecting hurricane matthew damage

[Editor’s Note: Charlie Urban, a member of Allstate’s National Catastrophe Team, shared that drones will allow for work to be done without needing a ladder team to access the roof.]

This post originally appeared on http://businessinsavannah.com/bis/2016-10-14/allstate-uses-drones-survey-storm-damage.

It will likely been a while before Isle of Hope resident Tami Smith is able to sleep in her own bed. A tree slammed through the roof of her second story bedroom during Hurricane Matthew leaving behind a large hole in the roof, pieces of insulation and a large amount of debris.

“The first thought that went through my mind was, ‘If I was in that bed I would not be alive,’” she said surveying the damage Friday afternoon.

“This is the one room that was affected, you just never know. It was one room, one tree and it can take a life just like that.”

Smith’s brother is a river boat pilot and had advised the Smith, her mother and children to evacuate early last week.

“We didn’t even take clothes. We just got out of here,” she said. The family returned to their damaged home Monday afternoon after spending nights in Macon and Atlanta, she said.

Smith has homeowner’s insurance with Allstate and on Friday their team used a DJI Inspire Drone operated by Kenny McLean of CDS Aviation to get a closer look at the damage to the roof. McLean flew the small white drone over the downed trees in the yard and over the roof to get a bird’s eye view of Matthew’s damage.

It was the first time the company had used the technology to survey damage from a natural disaster.

Allstate’s drone program has been in the works for the last few years and by using a drone it not only makes conditions safer for adjusters that have to climb onto steep roofs, but also speeds up the claims process.

“If the roof is particularly steep we might even have to have a rope and harness.”

“We already have special shoes for walking on steep roofs and a lot of technology to help us, but you can imagine to safety risks,” said Charlie Urban, a 17-year member of Allstate’s National Catastrophe Team, which travels year round to assist local offices in areas hit by catastrophic events.

“In the future we’re going to be able to use the drone to do the work instead of having to bring a ladder team out to access the roof. … It allows us to give better service and that’s what we’re trying
to do.”

Other companies, including Travelers Companies Inc., are also using drones to survey damage caused by Hurricane Matthew. Travelers launched its drone training program last spring in anticipation of the FAA’s commercial drone regulations, which took effect in August. The company has drone teams and their Catastrophic Response Team deployed in Georgia, South Carolina and other states affected by the storm.

While it’s too early for an official Allstate number of claims in the area, there has been a definite spike and the company’s mobile office at the Home Depot on Victory Drive has had a consistent flow of customers since opening earlier this week, according to Justin Herndon, a member of Allstate’s media relations and issues management team.

Even with the overwhelming number of claims the company is facing Smith said the service she’d received from Allstate had been phenomenal.

“I felt so lost and scared and when I called them yesterday they immediately got me a claim number and were just kind,” she said.

“It’s scary because there are a lot of people with scams going on and there were a lot of looters our here, so that was something else to worry about. When something catastrophic happens like this, you can have people come who want to help you, but you can also have people come and want to exploit
you.”

Smith said she was overwhelmed with emotions upon returning home to the damage, which also included a downed power pole in her backyard and water damage inside the home, but above all, Smith said she wants her story to be one of warning for people in the future.

“I wanted to cry out of frustration that it happened, but then I wanted to cry for gratefulness,” she
said.

“I want people to see this. Get out of your house. … It cut through the roof like a knife. You have to protect yourself and everything else is intact except for that one thing and that’s all it takes is that one
thing.”

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