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Paris Terrorist Incidents, November 13, 2015

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The 1,500-participant, sold-out event in the Bataclan concert hall was sponsored by music production firm Universal Music Group, a division of Vivendi Universal, who had invited a large number of guests, mainly managers and executives from the advertising, media, music, and broadcasting industries.

As soon as Saturday, November 14, most large French brokers and TPAs had set up rapid-response teams and call centers, providing psychological and other support to victims and their relatives, insofar as they were covered by group life-insurance policies. Terrorism/war exclusions were not taken into account, at least as far as assistance services were concerned; payments arising from death and disability covers may turn out to be another story. Assistance is being provided both in French and in other languages, as a sizable fraction of victims were foreigners visiting Paris.

On Monday, November 16, some victim-assistance programs had extended their reach and morphed into bespoke emergency employee-assistance programs (EEAP), helping eyewitnesses, their families and relatives, but also all other employees, cope with the situation and avoid post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). In this respect, time is of the essence as psychological treatment must begin within 48 hours after the traumatic event in order to be most efficient.

The challenges for the employee-benefits industry began with the sheer number of casualties (all figures are approximate): 130 dead, 350 wounded including 100 life-threatening cases, and an unknown number of eyewitnesses in need of support. Here, owners and operators of large medical networks were at a distinct advantage compared to second-tier players who must rely on the former, and who lack flexibility and capacity in such extreme instances. Other challenges included the high proportion of foreigners who did not speak French, also an issue for first-responders, including firefighters, emergency medical teams, and police.

The occurrence of the event at 10 p.m. on a Friday night made it more difficult to raise assistance team members who were not on duty. Identification of the casualties was often very difficult, due to the nature of the wounds and to the frequent absence of IDs in the victims’ belongings. In addition, initially most requests for assistance came from third parties — parents, friends, relatives, employers — making it difficult for assistance teams to make on-the-spot decisions and separate legitimate from unwarranted, even legally questionable requests.

Traumatic events such as these underline the importance of assistance and health / life insurance programs for all employees, whatever their status: traveling, on secondment, expatriate, local. Points to consider in today’s context should include the availability of quick-response capabilities and terrorism / war exclusions.

The story of how the employee-benefits industry responded with assistance and insurance services and lessons (to be) learned will be featured in a forthcoming GBV full-length, in-depth article. In the meantime, we grieve for those who were lost and those whom they left behind.

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