First Deployment: What an Eye-opener!

This is the story of our first deployment and what we learned from Hurricane Sandy. Nothing can fully prepare you for that first storm, but Mile High Adjusters did a great job of giving us the survival tools we needed to succeed.

Our new career path as adjusters started in the spring of 2012, when we found ourselves the victims of the economic downturn. After searching for something my partner, Margaret, and I could do together, we attended the Mile High Adjusters information seminar and were quickly sold on the idea of becoming insurance adjusters. We decided to enroll in the licensing course. What a great decision! Mile High Adjusters provided an excellent foundation for our new career. We got our licenses, attended the Mile High Boot Camp and took additional Xactimate courses. Throughout the summer, we kept hoping for deployment to utilize our new training, but nothing happened. We used the downtime to obtain additional licenses, pass Levels I & II Xactimate tests, and spent three days in Louisiana getting our State Farm Certifications.

In the late fall of 2012, we had resigned ourselves to waiting until spring storm season for our first deployment. No one imagined a hurricane would set its sights on the East Coast in late October. We were on the golf course when we got the call from Worley Catastophe Response telling us to report to Knoxville, TN in two days. Hurricane Sandy was wreaking havoc in New York.

We packed the truck full of our new adjuster tools using the list Mile High Adjusters had given us in Boot Camp. When we drove into the Sheraton parking lot in Knoxville, it looked like there was a roofing or ladder convention going on. Dozens of trucks and campers were there, outfitted with shiny new ladders. Because Hurricane Sandy had knocked out much of the services in the Northeast, and hundreds of adjusters were on their way to the area already, the new adjusters sat in Knoxville for 8 days waiting for futher deployment orders to come. The insurance companies were having trouble getting all the adjusters outfitted and trained. While we waited, we attended State Farm training classes and watched as other adjusters were deployed. While we were anxious to be deployed, it was a blessing to be housed in a comfortable hotel. The adjusters who went immediately to the East Coast were actually stuck in their hotel rooms and not able to do any work.

On the eighth day, there were only about 30 of us out of the original 250 who had not been deployed. We were discouraged. Worley had to close up shop in Knoxville and finally told us we would be going to be team leads even though we had no experience. Worley told us that because we were so well prepared, we would be able to handle the team lead roles. We were excited, but extremely apprehensive.

Upon our arrival in New Jersey, we met other adjusters that had come from all over the country. As team leads, we were assigned eight adjusters each. Our job was to teach the Liberty Mutual Xactimate system and ride with them on their site inspections. The first thing we noticed was that many of the adjusters were not prepared. This included not having the right tools or training for the job. They were unfamiliar with Xactimate, didn't know what sketch was, and could not understand the process. Many adjusters came with ladders shorter than 24' and were unable to get on the tall roofs of the Northeast. This lack of training made our jobs very difficult. We were trying to teach adjusters the workings of Xactimate and were also helping them figure out their claims at the same time. Many adjusters actually quit and just walked away because they had no idea what to do. We were certainly grateful for the excellent training we received at Mile High Adjusters.

When the claims slowed down at Liberty Mutual, we were transferred to State Farm Insurance in Parsippany, NJ for two days of training with the State Farm ECS computer system. We were then assigned to the Melville, NY State Farm office as a 2-story/steep team.

The most difficult aspect of working the storm was finding lodging. Due to the size of the storm and displacement of residents, lodging was at a premium. Adjusters were finding it very hard to locate rooms and were actually trying to fit six or more people in rooms to sleep. Some adjusters were driving over 150-200 miles each day between their hotels and their claims. This made it very frustrating for many as the days wore on. Lodging was also expensive as hotels increased the prices due to the demand. We became very proficient with using the Priceline.com, Hotels.com and many other websites. We found it was best to call them directly to find short term rentals that way. We just didn't know how long we would be there. We were finally able to rent an apartment in Queens for the month of December.

The majority of our claims were in Brooklyn with some scattered in Staten Island. Even though Queens is adjacent to Brooklyn, we allowed to 1-1 1/2 hours in travel time to reach our claims. As a 2-story steep team, our job was to inspect the high and steep roofs referred to us by the original adjuster. We carried 24' and 32' ladders on our truck. The majority of the time we needed the 32' ladder to gain access to these roofs. Often the houses were so close together, it was almost impossible to get the necessary distance for the safe ladder placement.

Within a week after our deployment, the Govenor of New York put a deadline of December 6th for all insurance companies to have at least have made initial inspections with the insured. State Farm alone had over 108,000 claims from the storm, and we estimated there were over 500,000 total claims. There were hundreds of adjusters in the State Farm offices scrambling to meet the deadline. It was intense.

Initally, we were inspecting three to four roofs each day. It was difficult to do more because of the traffic and time required to get from one claim to another. Once the deadline passed, it became easier to schedule the inspections further apart. We were even able to jump on the subway and take in a Broadway show one night. Our job included inspecting the roofs, preparing the claims, researching prior claims so that the insured were not paid twice for the same damage, and completing estimates started by the original adjuster. As Christmas came closer, we sensed that the claims were winding down. We were released on December 21st and were able to spend the holidays with our families and friends.

In closing, we were most thankful for the training we received at Mile High Adjusters. We were glad we spent the extra time to take the post-licensing courses they offered. The class that preppared us most for our first deployment was the 7-day Boot Camp. It is a realistic representation of actual deployment. The insurance companies are under the gun and legally obligated to quickly respond to claims. We received about 20 claims to start with, and were under a great deal of pressure to perform. Every adjuster needs to be ready to operate the computer, be knowledgeable in Xactimate, make phone calls, schedule, inspect, write the claim and close in a timely basis. The insurance companies are under scrutiny to make sure that it happens and the insured expect it. It's not as easy as many think, and it's hard work. Despite the first deployment being stressful, we actually had a great experience in New York. We can't wait for the next storm. Our parting advice - keep learning, be prepared, and be flexible.

- Robert W.