The trauma and triage of Debbie

June 26, 2017

For Pantaenius Sail and Motor Yacht Insurance, Tropical Cyclone Debbie was very much a case of careful and considerate triage and trauma management. There were raw emotions to deal with, which required large amounts of compassion. So what was it like through their eyes, both as the first team on the ground, and in an office where the phone rang white-hot?

“We knew it was on the way, but maybe not quite prepared mentally for just how big it really was. On the preceding Friday night we sent an email out to all our clients advising them that we were with them all the way, and to take all the necessary precautions”, said Michaela Backes.

“On the Monday it was clear it would hit soon, so another email went out in this busy time delivering the latest intelligence from the Bureau of Meteorology, and to remind our clients to stay safe, look out for neighbours and friends, follow warnings, and use common sense. We also advised them that if they did not need urgent help to use the link to download our claim form and then send it in with pictures.”

“It was eerily quiet on the Wednesday and even Thursday morning”, said Dani Blackmore. “Perhaps it was because a lot of the phone and Internet services were down, but after that we got our downpour, and what a torrent of stories and emotions it was! It was very evident that everybody needed to express their own unique story and experiences, and these just had to be told.”

Blackmore then added, “Normally a call is four or five minutes long, but we were having them easily last 20 minutes each. This pattern continued over onto the following Monday and Tuesday, as well. I really had no idea of the amount of calls we took, for we simply were never off the phone. I do know I had a sore jaw and was drained from the emotion, but we did get a real sense that our clients loved having someone to talk with!”

In terms of memorable stories out of the many that arose, Blackmore recounts, “A liveaboard couple in their fifties were one the first to call in. They were down at their boat in the Port of Airlie after staying ashore in a hotel. On arrival, they found their sloop was pinned between two huge fishing trawlers, and were making tea on board as they assessed the damage, which included the loss of the rig. Even though they had completed thorough preparation of the craft, the roof of trawler had come off, and taken away their mast with it.”

“As they set about cleaning up their boat, the expressed how they were happy to be afloat, but the finger of the wharf to which they were all still attached was upside down, and the oysters on the trawlers were now creating an awful stink. They were concerned that there was a lot of rubbing on their steel hull, and it was adding to their sense of helplessness, for they could not get the large commercial boats off them. They were upbeat from talking with us, and that was very touching, however.”

“There are so many in my mind that it is still a huge compactus of information. I remember talking with one remotely located owner who was part of a group of three in a row at Abell Point who had their furlers completely taken off. There was another who had taken their boat out of the marina, and across to Hook Island, where it got smashed up on the rocks. It was all so sad”, said Blackmore in conclusion.

Backes added, “Overall, they did not really want to talk cover, but more where they hid, and describe the noise levels. Our customers really wanted to explain it and tell you about it. They wanted someone to listen to them, so we made sure we were all very patient. It was hectic, but it was terrific to be there for them, and to confirm their choice to be with us as the crew who know boats and stand by them.”

“So we just listened, and asked questions like, how was it, where did you go, and how did you cope? They loved that we spent time with them so they could get it all out, which also meant we could explain relative nature of claims; a scratch versus laid up on the beach, and how prioritisation was the key. It was terrific to feel how it calmed everyone down.”

“One of my most memorable conversations was with an experienced liveaboard couple. They had been through two previously, and they were listed as Cat5, but to their minds, Debbie was far scarier, even though only slated as a Cat4. Showing compassion was essential, even if they had not correctly prepared their boat, and this understanding and caring helped them get through it much better”, said Backes.

So yes there are a lot of claims, and they have now all been categorised and placed in a queue, like any good triage centre. “We are now we getting our quotes in, and ensuring it all fits with what we need for compliance and to provide detail to our underwriters. We have a claims process we must follow, but we do feel that by being proactive from the outset has made it as workable and quick as it can be.”

Backes conclude by saying, “This was the first cyclone that Pantaenius has dealt with since arriving in Australia five years ago. Having boaties in the office really does help, and with all the information we have provided, our clients are happy. Next time I feel we should look at having extra resources to work with our customers and process the claims. Most tell us how proud they are that they chose us, and that is the best measure we could ask for!”

To see how the water born, all-risk and easy to comprehend policy from the crew that know boats can benefit you, go to or call +61 2 9936 1670 today.