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State Farm Disaster Team Readies for Hurricane Gilbert With PM-Hurricane Gilbert, Bjt

September 17, 1988

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) _ Insurance disaster teams armed with a truckload of computer equipment, claim forms and blank checks left for Texas as State Farm Insurance braced for heavy losses from Hurricane Gilbert.

The nation’s largest home insurer sent about 60,000 blank checks, 88 personal computers, 50 rooms of office furniture, 20 copy machines, 12 generators and enough paper folders and claim forms to handle 100,000 claims to south Texas in anticipation of extensive storm damage.

″It’s a sizable operation and it’s something we’ve done before so we’re ready,″ said Dave Hurst, spokesman for State Farm at company headquarters in Bloomington.

″We have 500 people around the country on stand-by duty ready to move in as soon as possible after the storm to handle claims.″

An office in San Antonio will serve as the staging area for State Farm’s disaster team and 37 people were setting up earlier this week as the hurricane ripped across the Caribbean. The storm, however, weakened considerably after it hit the Texas-Mexico coastline and headed north today.

The staff at the nerve center will mushroom to 260 by the middle of next week as State Farm agents, claim adjusters and managers begin settling claims.

Most insurance companies, including State Farm and Allstate, stopped writing storm-damage coverage by Wednesday morning. And homeowners gave up the idea of buying new flood insurance after learning that a new policy would not take effect for five days.

Hurst said space has been rented in seven coastal hotels for emergency offices and phone lines already have been installed in some locations.

″We’ve got some office furniture and phones in place but most of its is being held back in San Antonio until after the storm passes,″ Hurst said. ″As soon as possible after the storm, we’ll move in start processing claims.″

Generators are sent because power often is knocked out for long periods of time due to large storms. The company sent a handfull of cellular phones to ensure communication lines remain open and even 25 floor fans were sent to keep computer equipment ventilated.

Losses were expected to be heavy in Texas, where State Farm is the largest single insurer of homes, Hurst said. In the Brownsville area, the most heavily hit, State Farm insures about 8 percent of all homes.

″We think this storm will not be as bad Hurricane Alicia in 1983 which hit Houston and Galveston,″ Hurst said. ″In that storm, we paid $150 million in claims. It was the worst storm we ever had. But we’ll still have quite a few claims this time.″

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