Our mud army | Liesel L’Estrange on leading our response from Brisbane
Suncorp employees reflect on what it was like responding to the Queensland floods ten years ago – the adrenaline and the heartbreak – our own mud army.
Suncorp’s Liesel L’Estrange distinctly remembers watching the Brisbane River rise from the window of Suncorp’s Brisbane office.
“I remember I was in the office, and we had just finished a meeting, and I looked out the window and the river was just phenomenal. There was a pontoon floating down the river.
“And I remember getting photos from colleagues who worked in our Contact Centre in Toowoomba and they were very shocking. We knew this was going to be big.”
Leisel said the office was evacuated as people were sent home. But as a key member of Suncorp’s Event Response team at the time, her work was far from done.
“I got home – and it was chaotic. I had friends who lived at Caboolture; my mother couldn’t get to her house, so our house had suddenly filled with about 15 people.
“But once I was sure they were ok, I needed to go and find a quiet space to sit so I could start organising our response.”
I remember getting photos from colleagues who worked in our Contact Centre in Toowoomba and they were very shocking. We knew this was going to be big.
Liesel L'Estrange remembers the Queensland floods
She was back in the office as soon as it was safe, part of a team tasked with figuring out how to best support customers through this large-scale disaster, with the floodwaters right at our doors.
This included coordinating an army of assessors and claims specialists across Queensland – to Bundaberg and Roma earlier in the piece, and now to South-East Queensland.
Just a couple of years earlier, Liesel and her colleagues had come up with a new concept of creating “Customer Response Teams” that could be swiftly deployed in the field following a natural disaster. The teams would be quickly mobilised to the worst-affected areas as soon as the roads were clear to provide on-the-ground, face-to-face support to as many people as possible in the immediate aftermath of an event.
While the CRTs had been trialled through smaller weather events, this was the first time they were really put to the test across multiple sites.
“Having our Customer Response Teams at the sites really helped our customers understand we were there to help them through this,” Liesel said.
“When we put together the teams, we specifically looked for people who had a great deal of empathy, and who would listen.
“We are Queensland born and bred, and we were there on the ground helping them through their time of need.”
Ten years on, our Customer Response Teams are still a core component of how Suncorp responds to events. Liesel said she’s proud to have helped create a legacy that is still used today.
“Whenever I see our teams on the news, with the Suncorp shirts and the Suncorp tents, I look back and think: ‘that was me’.”