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The Connected Business of Insurance

West, Texas – Looking Back a Year After the Explosion

April 17, 2014

by Tommy Muska
Tommy Muska, Mayor of West, Texas, and insurance agent.

West, Texas Mayor and insurance agent Tommy Muska

A Day I’ll Never Forget
Last year, on April 17, two fertilizer plants exploded, and life changed in West, Texas. Nearby houses, the plants and the school were all on fire within minutes, and more than 200 homes were damaged or demolished that day.

I serve as mayor, a fireman and an insurance agent in West. As a fireman, I was at the plant immediately after it exploded. We had to totally evacuate the north side of town, so as mayor, I opened the football field and led the evacuation, and started running triage and search and rescue. It is a day I will never forget.

Fortunately, My Agency Had a Business Continuity Plan
The following day, it was insurance time. We used my wife’s antique shop as a claims center. Fortunately, my agency did have a business continuity plan in place and accessed Applied TAMOnline to service customers. As the calls came in, we looked up clients. We actually began pre-processing all of our clients on the north side of town because we knew they would be coming in with claims very soon. We proactively pulled their files and started the process.

It was an emotional experience meeting with clients – some had lost everything. They were shocked, dismayed and confused. They didn’t know what to do. So we took them by the hand and walked them through the process. If they lost their home, we got them a place to stay. We approached customers one at a time and personally walked them through everything. There were a lot of tears. The explosion and resulting fire did $250,000 worth of damage to my house, so I could relate to everyone who came into the office with home claims. Luckily, everyone had coverage and felt assured because of the policies we had put in place for them.

We Helped People Get Their Lives Back on Track
It was critical that we had a business continuity plan in place. I’m so thankful that we had already considered what to do in the event of a disaster and the technology was already there. Because we were able to access our agency management system through the cloud and stay operating during this tragedy, we greatly helped the people of West deal with the aftermath and get their lives back on track.

Do you have a business continuity plan in place? How do you help your customers safeguard and protect what matters most? Share your comments below.

Tommy Muska, Mayor of West, Texas and Insurance AgentTommy Muska, Mayor of West, Texas, is an insurance agent and volunteer firefighter. Following the April 17, 2013 West Fertilizer Co. explosion, he restored the small Texas town back to normalcy. Muska began his insurance career at Walla Insurance Agency in 1978 and in 1991, he purchased the business. In 1998, the agency incorporated and the name was changed to Muska Insurance Services, Inc. Muska holds an ACSR designation in commercial and personal lines.

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