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Called to CAT duty

How does our on-the-ground claims team respond immediately following a catastrophic event? Brian Harris, National General Adjuster, shares a recent experience.

I recently traveled to Raleigh, NC to assist clients affected by Hurricane Florence. Raleigh was the closest reopened airport and the only area with hotel rooms available, but the majority of homes I was visiting were in Wilmington, NC. Depending on which roads were accessible, the usual two-hour drive often ended up taking closer to three hours.  

Each day, I located my assigned clients and determined proximity to each other. I prepared for being out the entire day by eating a full breakfast and toting lots of water to stay hydrated in the intense heat.  Due to the damage and loss of electricity, we always prepare for the possibility of no food or gas in the area.

During my initial contact with each policyholder, I tried to gather as much information as possible.  I can usually determine if an engineer, building consultant or other expert is needed.  

Once at the home, I listen to the policyholder’s description of what transpired as we walk through each room, even the undamaged ones (that information often helps us down the line).  I photograph everything; on average, I take 60-70 pictures at each inspection.  All affected rooms are measured and notes taken. If an expert is needed, I try to call before I leave the home. Repair resources are usually limited, but we can rely on strong vendor relationships. For example, Eagleview, a company that provides roof and exterior photos and measurements, was in Wilmington after the hurricane. Their reports have been instrumental in preparing roof estimates.

After a full day of inspections, I spend the remainder of the night uploading photos, preparing claim summaries and readying estimates. I spent 14 days in Raleigh, which is a fairly common length of time to be away in this role. Despite these challenges, I feel a great deal of pride in assisting our customers through tragedies that change the course of their lives.