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Surge events

Good Practice Guides

Publication date:

17 March 2020

Last updated:

08 December 2021


James Moorhouse

How to maintain good customer service when there is a sudden increase in insurance claims.

A surge event is when a sudden incident occurs, such as a catastrophe or natural disaster, resulting in a dramatic rise in insurance claim enquiries. Recent notable surge events in the UK include:

  • 2011: summer riots
  • 2015: flooding in Cumbria, Yorkshire, southern Scotland and parts of Ireland
  • 2018: heatwave
  • 2019: severe flooding in South Yorkshire
  • 2020: Storm Ciara

Surge events can also refer to an increase in domestic claims made during a specific time period, for example theft claims during the Christmas period or property damage-related claims during winter months.

The surge refers to the sudden increase in demand due to unexpected or seasonal activity. Some surge events are the result of a one-time event while others fit a predictive model due to seasonal patterns.

A catastrophic event can have a devastating effect on a customer. However, if claims handlers are also overwhelmed by the number of queries they need to process, this can cause a delay in responding, causing the customer further stress.

Circumstances can vary, but the volume of growing calls coming through could range from damaged vehicles to the evacuation of a destroyed property and surrounding area. This is why it is important for there to be a resilient team on the other end of the telephone who can think quickly as well as provide reassurance during a stressful time.

A surge event can also impact the claims team themselves. Therefore, it is important to already have a contingency plan in place in case there are employee absences, or other factors preventing staff from handling claims, during an emergency.


To be able to create an effective contingency plan, this Good Practice Guide explores the following:

  • what a surge event is
  • the impact of a surge event
  • how a surge event could be prepared for
  • what should be done after a surge event
  • other concerns
  • good practice


Read the full Good Practice Guide HERE (PDF)

This document is believed to be accurate but is not intended as a basis of knowledge upon which advice can be given. Neither the author (personal or corporate), Society of Claims Professionals or Chartered Insurance Institute, or any of the officers or employees of those organisations accept any responsibility for any loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the data or opinions included in this material. Opinions expressed are those of the author or authors and not necessarily those of the Society or Chartered Insurance Institute.


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