When addressing natural hazards such as oil or chemical spills, every second counts. A disaster response plan activated within 30 seconds to five minutes of an emergency can minimize the impact of environmental damage and save thousands of dollars.
ACE Group created the ACE Alert app to accelerate the process of environmental disaster response. The platform originated as a Web-based tool but was recently developed as a mobile app to accommodate customers in the field.
“We went down the path of a mobile app to quickly and efficiently report situations with hazardous materials,” says Bob Winterburn, assistant VP of ACE Environmental Risk. “We insure risks such as pipelines. If one of our insureds has someone along the pipeline and sees there’s a release occurring, they can use the app to report the spill.”
Most situations that require ACE Alert are emergencies and occur during periods of transportation. The tool is designed to help customers identify contractors, assist with regulatory reporting requirements, and coordinate a response plan. When a policyholder connects with ACE through ACE Alert, the insurer can identify nearby resources that will help address the problem.
The development of ACE Alert kicked off in April 2013 as a pilot program for policyholders, most of whom were transportation accounts. The insurer received technological assistance from Spill Center throughout the process. The environmental claims management company coordinated with several ACE groups during app development, and served as a backbone to provide support for the system and its databases for regulatory reporting requirements and contracts.
One hurdle during the development process was giving policyholders the option to send internal alerts to customized lists of individuals within their organization in the event of an emergency. This involved handling information from a wealth of databases, Winterburn explains, which proved a challenge. Now, when policyholders enroll, they can establish groups that receive emergency messages with the push of one button.
After about six to eight months of recording mock spills and customer feedback, the insurer launched ACE Alert in April 2014 to all of its environmental risk customers. “So far, since we have activated the system, users have submitted approximately 30 spills.” Through addressing these emergencies in a timely manner, the insurer has seen about 20% to 25% cost savings.
ACE Alert was put to use just a couple of weeks ago, when an aboveground oil tank released 400 gallons of crude oil. Though it was not a dire emergency, ACE was able to distribute contractors efficiently in order to provide quotes and ensure the problem was being addressed effectively and efficiently.
The insurer continues to collect feedback through an electronic survey that is distributed within the two days after a customer reports a spill. Policyholders share their experiences in accessing the system and coordinating a response, and whether there were problems along the way.
“We always want to make it better,” says Winterburn in regards to ACE Alert’s future development. ACE is currently working with Spill Center to develop QR codes that customers can scan to report incidents and exploring opportunities for contingency planning and international exposure.
Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio