by Christine Quinn, Director of Business and Market Segment Development, Public Sector, Conduent
Every year sees its share of natural disasters, but 2017 was a particularly rough year for U.S. cities and states. According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2017 events causing more than a billion dollars of damage included:
- The widespread wildfires in Southern California wildfires in October caused $18.2 billion in damage, burning more than 15,000 buildings and representing “the most costly wildfire event on record,” as well as causing 44 deaths.
- Hurricane Maria in September was the third of three record-breaking Category 4+ landfalls in the U.S. in a single year. Puerto Rico’s infrastructure was devastated and is still in recovery. Damage is estimated at $90.9 billion so far.
- Hurricane Irma, also in September, caused an estimated $50.5 billion in damage and destroyed an estimated 25% of buildings in the Florida Keys as well as damage throughout Florida and coastal South Carolina.
- Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in Texas in August, flooded the city of Houston and surrounding areas with a devastating 50 inches of rainfall in only seven days, causing damage estimated at $126.3 billion.
These were only the largest disaster events of 2017. The effects of severe weather were spread across the nation, including tornadoes, severe hail and high wind damage in the Midwest; the most costly hailstorm in Colorado history; heavy rainfall and flooding that breached levees in Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois; a March freeze that heavily damaged fruit crops in southeastern states.
Clearly, every jurisdiction needs a strong plan for disaster preparation and recovery. While critical disruptions to technology and communication networks can make providing services particularly challenging in the wake of a disaster, these are often the times when services are needed most.
For example, when a U.S. Gulf Coast state was hit with torrential rains and flooding in Spring 2017, homeowners needed immediate help to start the rebuilding process. While the state’s Disaster Recovery Unit provided an easy-to-use Homeowner Assistance Program application online, many affected homeowners did not have internet access following the flood. The state needed assistance in connecting homeowners with benefits over the phone and fielding questions about the online application process.
When Conduent was called in to help, we implemented a Flood Assistance Emergency Call Center in just 10 days. We hired and trained staff and stood up the phone system, as well as deploying experienced call center professionals to establish working relationships quickly to get the call center online.
During the critical three-month period following the flooding, our call center handled 20,000 calls and completed nearly 7,500 applications. This important project was completed on time and on budget, and homeowners got the help they needed to rebuild. Click here to read more.