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Adjuster Catastrophe Deployment

Insurance adjuster Eric Gough, who we featured in the article New Adjuster on the Job Weeks After Receiving License, recently returned from his first deployment. While it was a whirlwind experience, Eric considers his deployment to Lake Charles, LA a successful one. He was asked to stay on longer than the standard term. He earned a nice-sized paycheck. And, perhaps most importantly, he learned a lot.

After his return, Eric wrote some initial thoughts on his deployment for us in 3 Traits of Successful Insurance Adjusters. But like any great adjuster, he paid attention to the details so he had a lot more good stuff to share.

Written by Eric Gough:

After the process of getting on your first deployment, you enter what I would call “the hustle phase.” It’s the period of time where everything starts to move really quickly. As I wrote about in the first article, you need to be ready to roll with the punches because they are going to come fast. Your first deployment requires hard work, diligence, and a whole lot of flexibility to learn the ropes. But it’s worth it when you see the nice-sized paycheck deposited into your account. If you can adapt to the hustle, you can make it.

Here are a few other things I learned while on my first deployment:

1: Take care of your body

When you don’t know where you’re living next week, or when you’ll get a break, and you find yourself generally running around like a headless chicken, it is very easy to eat fast food all of the time. It’s quick, it’s cheap, and honestly, sometimes it’s the only option in a town hit by a catastrophe. But I recommend making conscious decisions about what you eat. A few days of nothing but fast food started to wear me down really quickly. And that started to have a big impact on my performance. I was sluggish and run-down far quicker than I think I should have been.

I would suggest getting a small cooler to keep in the car that you can keep some fresh foods in. I usually had some fruits, bottled smoothies, those cheese and meat snack packs…things like that. A few salads, even from fast food joints, also helped quite a bit. That’s not to say I never had a burger, and it definitely takes some extra effort, but it is well worth it to keep your body strong.

2. Determine what transportation you need

If you can, talk with someone from the IA firm about what transportation you need. I was surprised to learn that there are often specific teams that focus on one or two-story residences. I didn’t expect to see adjusters in sedans with either a Little Giant in the trunk or a mid-sized ladder strapped to the top but there were quite a few. There were also some minivans which, honestly, seems like a great option too.

Having larger ladders might get you a few more claims, but it’s probably not worth you buying an expensive huge ladder only to need a new pick-up truck to carry it.

3: Make friends

Sounds cheesy, I know. But if possible, make friends with other adjusters you come across. Not every one is receptive and that’s fine. But finding a few allies and friends in a cat deployment situation can have multiple benefits.

For example, I saved a lot of money because I became friends with other adjusters and split living costs with them. It may not be something that big, but knowing others in town, in the same situation you’re in, can be a wealth of resources and knowledge. Who has bottled water, where to find a grocery store or decent restaurant that’s open, who still has gas or charging cables or batteries. Remember, you’re likely in a town that’s been battered and bruised and is only partially operational. Pooling your knowledge helps everyone.

There are all sorts of characters in the adjusting field, but you would be surprised how many great adjusters there are that come from diverse backgrounds and how willing they are to work with and help the adjusters around them. It’s really like one big team, but only if you become a part of it. 

4: Read every claimant’s policy

One of the best pieces of advice I received was to briefly review every insured’s policy before starting the claim. It sounds obvious but when you’re moving from claim to claim so quickly, it becomes an easy step to put off until later. Or it becomes the easy thing to cut out when you’re running a few minutes late to the next inspection.

But not knowing the specifics about the insured’s coverage can cause big issues. You don’t want to be put on the spot for binding coverage on property that may not be covered through a particular exclusion. You don’t want to waste your efforts or give false hope to someone who has a wind/hail exclusion on the policy. Those are hard conversations to have regardless, but reading the policy at least ensures you’re giving accurate information.

5. Contractors flock to storm zones

Storms don’t just create work for adjusters. I knew I’d see contractors, restoration specialists, roofers, etc. but I was floored at how many, and how quickly they arrive. It’s so important to be vigilant as some, (certainly not all,) are there solely to ‘make hay while the sun shines.’ With so much happening so quickly as adjusters and contractors flood to storm sites, the relationships between the two can become antagonistic. Some contractors will pressure you to bind coverage on non-storm-related damages. Some take advantage of insureds who just want to find the quickest way to get back into their homes so they’ll pressure them as well.

There is often uncertainty concerning damage, and that will likely go in the favor of the insured. So use common sense, and if necessary, ask someone else for their opinion. There are great contractors out there who are good people trying to make an honest living and help others. But it’s important to keep an eye out and be ready to deal with those that aren’t.

6. Ask questions, but not too many

No one expects a new adjuster on his or her first deployment to know everything. Its ok to ask questions but you need to balance that with resourcefulness so you aren’t seen as needy. I was lucky enough to work for a firm that gave me a lot of support. If you find yourself in the same situation, take advantage of it! But you don’t want to be the person who asks for help on everything, burdening your managers and taking up far more time than your fellow adjusters. You don’t want to be someone who needs verification on every decision, or an adjuster who wants their work checked in real-time.

Managers like diligent employees who make their lives easier. They also like work done correctly so the balance between the two is key. Work hard, learn as quickly as you can, and ask for a second pair of eyes when prudent. 

7. Take care of your mind

I started with taking care of your body so I am going to bookend here with taking care of your mind. Both are equally important in my opinion.

In a cat deployment, especially your first one, there will be chaos. It’s exciting but uncertain. It’s exhausting but fulfilling. You move through each day meeting insureds, inspecting homes, having tough conversations…all under the umbrella of a natural disaster. It’s likely nothing like your “normal life” and it can get emotionally overwhelming.

I think it’s really important to have one “thing” to center yourself, to ground you to reality. If you are a person of faith, take the time to say your prayers or attend virtual service. If you enjoy exercise, set aside 15 minutes to work out. Meditate, do yoga, listen to a calming podcast or devotional…whatever helps you restart and refresh your mind.

It can be an exhausting job with few breaks and little free time so spending the time you do have doing something reinvigorating and centering is important.

There is so much going on and so much to consider during any deployment, but this is especially true for your first time out after a catastrophe. Hopefully, some of the lessons I learned will give you a little insight into what to expect and provide some helpful tips on how to take care of yourself. Best of luck!

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