Over the past several weeks Accurate Group has been closely monitoring, preparing and implementing appropriate responses to the COVID-19, Coronavirus challenge facing our nation. At this time, we want to assure you Accurate Group is prepared to provide uninterrupted services to our valued partners while continuing to focus on the health and safety of our employees, appraisers, inspectors, notaries, abstractors and all other members of our team across the country.
In order to prepare ourselves for potential business interruptions such as those involved with the COVID-19 virus, Accurate Group performs an annual Business Impact Analysis and has identified critical services, roles and number of employees required to meet SLAs. Based on this information, each department has a plan for augmenting staff if we fall below the minimum required roles or staffing needs. Pandemic planning relies on our ability for employees to work remotely, the ability to move work to geographically diverse office locations and temporary staffing; taking into account any required training. In addition, Accurate Group has Agility Recovery Services on retainer. Agility provides mobile and brick and mortar office locations, office equipment, telecommunications, internet, generators and other services to meet our disaster recovery and business continuity needs.
As it relates specifically to recent conversations around COVID-19, Accurate Group has been focused on the possibility of regional disruptions since the CDC released guidance on February 25, 2020, stating it is only a matter of time before a COVID-19 outbreak would occur in the U.S. Our operational team has the advantage of operating out of 4 separate facilities, in different geographic regions of the country: Chicago, Cleveland, Charlotte and Houston. We maintain the ability to utilize each of these sites as a redundancy site for the others if necessary. Additionally, Accurate Group has the ability to shift to a fully remote environment, with employees in any of our offices changing to a work from home model should the need arise.
We have also raised our employee and partners awareness around the steps that they can take in order to protect themselves from viral outbreaks such as COVID-19. Materials focus on maintaining a healthy work environment and was distributed to our team February 28, 2020 – see below for a high level summary of the key elements. The information addressed specific actions our employees and partners in the field can take to minimize risk to themselves, their families, our clients and the office in general.
Best Practices to Maintaining a Healthy Work Environment:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after every inspection
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze – if you have a tissue available, use that; if you don’t have one, cough or sneeze in the bend of your elbow, NOT your hands. Wash your hands immediately with soap and water after you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough
- Politely decline to shake hands and consider social distancing whenever possible
- Regularly clean and disinfect areas that are frequently touched . Germs love surfaces such as desktops, tables, cell phones, counters, door handles and office equipment. You can use disinfectant wipes on your desktop keyboard and mouse, but do NOT use wipes on your computer screens or laptops
What to Watch For:
- Flu – fever, cough, body aches, fatigue, sometimes vomiting and diarrhea
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Respiratory or flu-like symptoms such as a fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. People with heart and lung disease or weakened immune systems, as well as infants and older adults, are at higher risk for lower respiratory tract illness
- Both may be prevented by frequent, thorough hand washing, coughing into the crook of your elbow, staying home when sick and limiting contact with people who are infected
- If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early
- Call your physician immediately if you have recently traveled to one of the high-risk areas outside the U.S.
- If you do have a fever, medical professionals are likely to recommend that you stay home for 24 hours after your fever has broken (without the use of fever-reducing medication)
Additionally, Accurate Group has aggressively tested our employee’s ability to work from home, with 97% of our staff ready to work remotely. In fact, a significant number of our team has already shifted to working remotely until the crisis has passed.
Finally, Accurate Group has initiated a travel ban between our physical offices and while not prohibited, all other travel requires management approval, in an effort to minimize potential exposure to, and transmission of, the COVID-19 virus to our team.
Below are several questions we have received from our clients that we thought would benefit the majority to see:
- What Accurate Group work activities or services are required to be performed in your offices?
Currently Accurate Group supports a wide range of clients utilizing multiple service lines within our offices, all of which can be performed outside of our physical offices effectively without impact to service. The lone exception to this is the handling of wet signed documents and packages which is best performed in a secure, physical location. Title Production, Appraisal, NotaryWorks® signing service and ValueNet™ Coordination all can be performed and managed in a remote capacity. Accurate Group has already begun to service many of these products remotely in an abundance of caution and to prevent disruption from COVID-19. As it relates to wet signed documents and packages, Accurate Group has several emergency plans in place to facilitate recording and wet signed document package processing should an impact occur to either of our offices that currently handle this process today. We retain the ability to shift which of our office(s) these documents are routed too, should an individual geographic situation arise.
Additionally, in an effort to further insulate this process Accurate Group has taken additional steps to mitigate potential exposure to these small teams by purchasing disposable gloves and other additional sanitary supplies to ensure a healthy work environment, while also fully implementing remote work for surrounding departments within these locations to further reduce the chance of anyone on this team being exposed.
- What percentage of your relevant staff currently works from home on a regular basis?
Prior to the COVID-19 situation, roughly 1/3 of Accurate Group’s 300+ staff worked remotely in a full-time capacity, with another 1/3 primarily operating out of our physical locations but connected remotely on a weekly or monthly basis.
- What percentage of relevant staff are capable of working from home but not doing so currently?
Of the remaining 100 or so individuals, around 70 have the ability to work from home in a disaster situation, leaving around 30 individuals who do not have the capability to work from home in a disaster recovery situation or their jobs are not conducive to do so. These individuals are primarily production individuals that do not have a home PC and/or laptop with sufficient virus software and systemic capabilities to meet Accurate Group’s requirements for emergency access. Due to the COVID-19 situation, Accurate Group has been releasing computer systems from our inventory to these individuals who have reliable internet at home and “testing home connectivity” in case the need to transition to an entirely remote situation is required. This process is scheduled to be completed mid-next week.
- Are they already equipped with hardware/laptops and tokens/tools to access systems and perform their functions at home?
Yes, all but around 3% of our workforce will be equipped to perform their jobs at home as of mid-next week, with over 90% already capable of doing so as of today.
- Do you have plans to test their ability to do work from home?
Accurate Group has already tested the capability for all but around 30 individuals to work from home, of these individuals 20 are in the process of being provided inventoried equipment and are scheduled to complete testing by mid-next week. The remaining 10 (3% of our workforce) either do not have reliable internet connectivity or perform a task that cannot be performed from home (handling of wet-signed document packages).
- What steps are you taking to increase those percentages of work from home (or capable of working from home)?
As mentioned above, Accurate Group has reached 97% at-home work functionality by distributing inventoried PC’s to those that did not have remote access capabilities already.
- If the service you provide requires in-person customer contact, what steps are you taking to ensure employee/agent and customer safety?
Accurate Group has been working with our notary, attorney, inspector, and appraiser panels to promote health awareness and a safe work environment for both our team members and our customers in the field. This includes guidance as it relates to maintaining healthy practices such as politely declining/deferring physical contact such as a handshake, regularly washing hands and using hand sanitizer before and after customer contact, and encouraging our panels to inform us as soon as possible if they begin to feel ill so that assignments can quickly be rescheduled.
- Who are the appropriate contacts (and backup contacts) in case COVID-19 action plans are enacted and/or need to be adjusted as the situation evolves?
Primary Contact would continue to be your designated sales representative; however, backup contacts are:
Steve Baczkowski, COO / 216-503-1950, email@example.com
Diane Delia, SVP, Client Services Director / 216-672-3614, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gary Schust, Sales Operations Director / 330-421-3190, email@example.com
- What actions or changes to service are you taking in support of other similar clients with respect to COVID-19?
Many of our clients are in the process of reviewing and adopting alternative products to avoid unnecessary consumer, face-to-face, contact wherever possible. These adjustments include the increased use of exterior appraisal products and exterior ValueNet™ solutions. Signing clients are shifting to utilize Fully Remote Online Notarizations (RON) where appropriate to avoid face-to-face signing situations.
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