Time flies.

I wrote a blog entry about “hell planning” a couple of weeks ago, right after Sandy hit and before I’d actually run into seniors affected by the storm.

Then, the following weekend, I actually volunteered for relief efforts and found that the picture came into sharper focus when I got into the middle of the glossy black picture.

Anyhow, a few more thoughts about hurricane planning and the long-term care and senior market products communities. 

First, some kinds of disasters — fires, earthquakes, snowstorms and influenza, to name a few — can and do affect anyone.

Hurricanes may be somewhat more likely to affect the kinds of middle-income and upper-income retirees and near retirees who will dominate the typical financial advisor’s client list because hurricanes affect people who live in coastal areas. Some of those people may be low-income people living in shacks or inconveniently located highrises, but many are people who are or, at least, in their younger days, were, affluent.

When I went to donate a plastic bag of batteries, flashlights and non-perishable food to a shelter in a historic National Guard armory, one of the first desperate pleas I got was not for crackers, socks or underwear, but for a copy of the Wall Street Journal.

Some of the other people I know who were severely affected by the storm are small business owners and, as far as I can tell from what’s published on the Web, probably the children of great estate planning clients. People affected by hurricanes may really be your people.

Second, your clients can never have too many flashlights, transistor radios and batteries. Some of your clients may have been shivering in the cold and dark for days, not understanding  that rescuers were available to take them to warm, well-lit shelters, or even nice hotel rooms or guestrooms, for want of a few dollars in batteries and transistor radios.

Third: our disaster communications infrastructure is pretty terrible, even in big, densely populated buildings.

I know that the idea of “socially conscious” investing has gone somewhat out of style, in an age in which asset managers have to engage in “scraping up some little tiny bit of miraculous yield conscious” investing.

But it would be nice if life insurers could take advantage of what I imagine are big general account stakes in telecommunications company bonds to ask the telecommunications companies to put in cell phone backup power systems that last more than 12 hours.

Maybe the Million Dollar Round Table and single-company sales reward organizations could help improve the disaster communications infrastructure by making a fetish out of satellite phones.

In the past, of course, successful producers might earn overrides on top of their commissions, and trips to training seminars in nice cities.

Regulators and a soft economy seem to have made the world of sales incentives a colder, grayer world. But what if — maybe with the fervent blessing of the same regulators who tsk tsk at the idea of incentive travel — insurers and organizations could reward top producers with satellite phones that could be used, with no out-of-pocket cost for the producer, a little bit during ordinary times and around the clock during emergencies?

Think about it:

  • Great producers are great communicators and great networkers. They are the people who know everyone. They know if Mrs. Smith, a long-term care planning client, is stuck alone in a highrise without electricity and running water, and that John Doe, a furniture mover who applied for a disability policy awhile back, could easily get a couple of his men to move her to a guestroom in (advanced planning client) Ada Jones’ giant house. They could be the human backbone of a great elder care communications network.
  • If the great producers who received the satellite phones could occasionally use the satellite phones for free, they would be more likely to know how to use the phones and be able to locate the phones in an emergency. 
  • If great producers knew that they could dial 9-1-1 or an equivalent number for free during a true emergency and get a line in to FEMA, or even, say, to someone high up at America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) or the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), then we would have a way to break through the communications problems that seemed to keep most of us from understanding just how serious the problems were in places like Staten Island and Far Rockaway for way too long. 

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