Winter weather and the holidays have arrived. Technically, winter is considered a slow period in the adjusting world. Hurricane season ends at the end of November, and hail season doesn’t really get going until April. Tornado season is usually thought of as spring and early summer. Winters can be tough without the right planning for certain adjusters.
While we don’t usually think of winter as catastrophe season, there is increased claim volume in other areas, such as fires, burst pipes, and traffic accidents that lead to losses during the cold winter months. It is possible to still remain quite busy during this “slow period.”
Winter Storm damage : Photo Credit Adobe Stock
As many as one-third of all residential fires occur during the winter. Cooking, heating, holiday decorations, and especially candles are the biggest culprits for starting fires. Then there are winter ice storms, issues with frozen pipes that burst and ice dams that cause water damage. Slips and falls also increase due to inclement weather.
There is something about the holidays that just makes all these tragedies, big or small, a little harder to swallow. The holidays are already a stressful time of year. Can you imagine losing a whole living room full of wrapped presents, or even worse, losing everything, while so many others are celebrating? It’s really tough.
Christmas candles starting house fire: Photo credit Adobe Stock
Truth is, if you're a catastrophe adjuster, it is possible to be deployed over Christmas and not get to go home to be with your family. Just because hurricane season has ended, that doesn’t mean all those claims have been closed. It’s possible to still be doing a lot of reinspections this time of the year.
Back in 2011, I was deployed over Christmas to New York City. Hurricane Irene had come through in late August and there were still a lot of reinspections going on. There were four other adjusters up there with me who were all married and had kids. I was still single at the time, so I volunteered to stay while they went home to their families.
I ended up having an inspection in Trump Tower Christmas morning. The insured was Jewish and not celebrating the holiday. So, why not? He had a toilet overflow in the unit above him that leaked down into his apartment, causing some damage.
Let me tell you, Christmas day is the best day to drive around New York City. There was no traffic, no cabs and hardly any people. It was awesome, and I actually got to see and appreciate the city.
During this deployment, one of my inspections was for an elderly lady whose son had recently passed away and she was going to be all alone for Christmas. I ended up spending time with that lovely lady on Christmas, and it really meant a lot to me to be able to do that. I was far away from my Kentucky home, but I was making the best of it in New York. It felt good to put a smile on her face just by being there and giving her someone to talk to on Christmas. These are the memories you don’t forget.
Christmas New York City: Photo Credit Loco Steve
It’s at this time of the year that I think of my friends that are either heading home, getting ready to head home, and especially the ones that might not make it home to spend the holidays with family. Thinking of them always reminds me of a certain poem. It was written by my friend Doug Spurling, a fellow adjuster, and is titled “Adjuster’s Life.”
His poem reminds me of why we do what we do, especially when times are stressful and the winter nights are long.
Written by Doug Spurling:
Adjuster’s Life—don’t do it for the money
It’s not for everybody
Staying up late
Getting up early
One eye on the weather channel
One hand on the suitcase handle
Always ready to go
Cuz you never know
Or for how long
You just know, you gotta go
Like a cowboy's call to a rodeo
Or a Fireman’s call to smoke
You don’t do it for the money…
Well, some do.
But a real adjuster knows
It’s really more than that.
It’s being there when the smoke clears to offer a ray of hope
With and for
Those who survived
And all the things they call natural disasters…even though there’s nothing natural about a person’s world being turned upside down.
The unseen destruction above every policy limit, is the stress and worry and fear that blows stronger than any storm that ever blew them in.
It’s more than a paycheck—more than just a job.
It’s a rescue mission.
It’s a people business.
It’s saving the message
From the man who called
Months after the storm—so long you’d all but forgotten.
How you stood in his ram-shackled kitchen
His heart broken beyond what writing an estimate could repair.
Surrounded by color crayon pictures his daughter had drawn
His quivering voice echoed off walls once filled with laughter, back before the storm, back when that broken down house was a home…back before dark clouds settled and sent mother and child running from it all.
You remember how he walked down the hall and tenderly touched the pictures of his wife and daughter.
How he told of spending every Christmas together, in that house.
How he didn’t think he could handle spending one alone.
He said, thanks, when you told him everything would be okay.
He wiped his eyes and couldn’t speak when you told him you’d pray.
And then, months after it all
He’d saved your number. Remembered your name. The money was spent. The repairs were made.
But that wasn’t the reason for his call.
His voice held that same quiver, but this time it wasn’t sad. He laughed as he said his wife and daughter were back home and he just wanted to say thanks, because after that day in the kitchen when you offered a kind word, and told him everything would be okay. It changed his life, his heart, gave him hope.
Because, it could’ve been different.
It wasn’t what he’d planned.
The revolver was loaded and sat in the drawer of the night stand. But you offered more than just help with the restoration of a house—you offered hope for the restoration of a home.
So now, every now and then, when the days get long and the nights get short, and it seems every person in the world has turned to greed. You click through the messages and find the one you need. The smile in your heart returns, and you remember the reason why you do what you do, when you hear that shaky voice say,
“I just want to say thanks Mr. Doug…it’s gonna be a great Christmas after all.”
Wasn’t that great? It’s just so touching and perfect. Don’t lose sight of why we continue to be adjusters. Focus on the good, not the bad. Use the season as an opportunity to show your level-headedness, compassion and sound reasoning to others trying to get through stressful times.
You can find more great posts by Doug on his blog at http://dougspurling.blogspot.com. He also has a few published books you can check out. I would suggest Adjuster's Life - how to do insurance adjusting from resume to payday for any newbie insurance adjusters out there.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays,