JM responds to Hurricane Wilma victims

With hurricane repairs underway in Louisiana, Texas, and neighboring states, Jewelers Mutual has now sent hurricane response teams to visit Florida to assess damage to policyholders from Hurricane Wilma, the Neenah, Wisc.-based company said in a statement.

“At this time, it is hard for our policyholders to contact us or for us to call them because phones lines are down, and there are power outages in the areas hardest hit by the hurricane,” said Ron Harder, the company’s CEO. “We have two disaster response teams visiting policyholders who were affected by the hurricane; one team is on Florida’s west coast and the other is traveling along the east coast.”

Jewelers Mutual anticipates claims for property damage, loss of earnings, and looting, similar to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The company noted that the east coast was hit harder than expected by Wilma, adding that they will learn more about the damage caused to jewelers’ businesses once the response teams meet with them.

As of Oct. 25, Jewelers Mutual said it has paid nearly $1.27 million in claims from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The problem right now for these businesses is finding contractors, the company said.

“Right now, contractors are scarce and those who are available are working to rebuild New Orleans’ infrastructure,” Harder said. “We’ve been told that the state of Louisiana is allowing contractors from other states to help, as long as they have a valid license and meet the state’s requirements.”

The policyholder losses from Hurricane Katrina represent the single largest catastrophe in the company’s history. “While we recognize the unfortunate impact that Rita had on many of our policyholders and their families, damage was not as severe as that from Katrina because the hurricane was less intense and affected less populated areas,” Harder said.

Jewelers Mutual has published a Hurricane Preparedness Guide and and has made it available for free on its Web site (www.jewelersmutual.com ).