Progressive announced it has opened a permanent catastropheresponse center in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, close by the insurer'sMayfield Village headquarters.

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The company said it created the new facility to make its claimsprocessing more efficient and accessible for customers.

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Creation of the response center, Progressive said, enhances theabilities of its “inside operations” team (administrativerepresentatives who handle the calls and process claims) and“outside operations” team (the field adjusters).

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In the past after catastrophes Progressive said it would set upinside operations in temporary offices in or near a storm-strickenarea. This team is responsible for calling customers, verifyingcoverage, and scheduling appointments and other administrativefunctions as needed, the company explained.

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Scott Snapp, national catastrophe response director forProgressive, explained that after the 2004 storm season, thecompany saw an advantage in establishing a permanent catastropheclaims center.

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“It was clear we needed to do something long term,” he said.

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The advantage of having a permanent center, said Mr. Snapp, isthe flexibility to quickly build-up staff when a catastrophestrikes and handle the upsurge in claims, and still maintain aclaims presence over an extended period of time as the claimnumbers wind down.

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“In the advance of a storm, we can bring in the number ofresources necessary and respond accordingly,” said Mr. Snapp.

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He said when customers pick up the phone and try to reach thecompany in a time of need and catastrophe, “we want to be there; wewant to answer the phone.”

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The center is housed in a building that became available as thecompany shifted other divisions to larger facilities. The facility,said Mr. Snapp, can accommodate up to 400 claimsrepresentatives.

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The center will handle customers for both Progressive direct andDrive Insurance, sold through independent agents.

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Mr. Snapp said the company has also increased the number ofclaims people in its organization. Progressive said it employs morethan 13,200 claims people in more than 460 offices throughout thecountry. It also operates more than 26 claims service centers in 12states.

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Claims adjusters, Mr. Snapp pointed out, are placed in threetiers. There is the full-time team available for all types ofclaims. There are also secondary or primary responders who join thecompany in times of crisis and are there for as long as the companyneeds them. The third layer consists of secondary responders whorotate into catastrophe areas when the need for adjusters is at itsgreatest.

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Asked about Progressive's ability to respond to anotherHurricane Katrina-like event, he said the carrier is certain of itsability to respond.

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Mr. Snapp recounted that in the aftermath of the devastationthat hit the Gulf states, the company became creative in makingcommunication between carrier and customers available, includingthe use of text messaging, e-mail and developing alternativenumbers for customers to call.

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“When you have a company the size of ours, with the resourcesand planning we put into place, confidence is always very high inboth our planning and our ability to execute and respond,” said Mr.Snapp.

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