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Crashed cars, garage fires and drones: Inside Travelers' Claim University

Aaron Task
Editor in Chief

You probably know Travelers is one of the nation's largest multiline insurance companies, a Dow component and can often be seeing sporting a red umbrella. You might even know Travelers wrote life insurance policies on the crew of the Apollo 11, the first-ever policies for space travel.

But you might not know the company is also in the business of higher education.

Specifically, Travelers operates its own Claim University in Windsor, CT. There's no football team, no leafy commons with undergrads debating philosophy and no Spring Break. But they do have a year-round student body of 7500 at the roughly 200,000 square foot facility, as well as online classes that add up to about 300,000 hours of training annually.

Claim University is "focused on ensuring that all of our claim professionals have the right skills and expertise to support our customers in their time of need," says Travelers senior vice president Pat Gee, who says nearly all of the company's roughly 12,000 adjusters come through the facility -- some more than once.

"Some people are hired directly out of school or from other businesses, so they might go through a longer program," he says. "Other people might just be building their expertise over time. Many of our claim professionals might start in our auto line of business and be interested in our property line of business.  And we really encourage that from a cross-training perspective."

In other words, the school has the equivalent of bachelor's, master's and PhD students.

The use of new technologies in homes and cars is another key reason why claims adjusters come to the University for continuing education, as the recent hack of a Jeep demonstrates.

"We didn’t have much in the way of connected devices 5 or 6 year ago and that’s all changing," Gee says. "There are telematics in automobiles. There are telematics in homes -- connected devices that might sense is there water leaking...automatic devices to maybe raise or lower your garage doors or to lock or unlock you doors.  All those devices are starting to work together and so we need to be at the forefront of how those work so that our claim professionals can understand that, assess that if those are damaged in losses."

The facility has a full automobile laboratory -- think of it like a showroom for damaged cars -- where adjusters learn how to assess damage as well as learn the latest techniques in body repair. Travelers also has full-scale replicas of homes and businesses where adjusters learn how to process claims related to anything from a flood, to roof damage from hail to a kitchen fire and pretty much anything else you can imagine.

Claim University also has drones, which Gee says can be employed to roof inspections "much more efficiently, effectively and safely."

FAA requirements that a licensed pilot with a spotter be used for each drone flight mean it's currently "not as cost-effective as we need to be for wide-scale deployment," Gee admits. But he's confident the government will announce some "special regulations" for the kind of micro drones Travelers uses in the next year or two which will "allow us to deploy on countrywide basis," saving the company money and adjusters from being put in potentially dangerous situations.

In addition to being a teaching facility, Claim University also serves as 'mission control' for Travelers' response to natural disasters, like Hurricane Sandy. The company brought 5000 people to respond to Sandy, a dramatic example of how the company can expand its capacity in reaction to events, as you'll see in the accompanying video .

Aaron Task is Editor-at-Large of Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at atask@yahoo-inc.com.