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DISASTERS TAKE TOLL ON CLAIMS ADJUSTERS

 DISASTERS TAKE TOLL ON CLAIMS ADJUSTERS
 HOMESTEAD, Fla., Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Only hours after Hurricane


Andrew left southern Florida in shambles, the first insurance claims adjusters -- usually specially trained members of insurance company catastrophe teams -- arrived. Typically, insurance companies send in adjusters for one- to three-week periods and then send them home for some much-needed R&R. Claims adjusting, particularly after a disaster, is physically and emotionally draining.
 As a part of Georgia Farm Bureau Insurance's catastrophe team, Ken Howard was one of the first out-of-state claims adjusters on the scene. Howard has worked seven hurricanes and says he's "never seen anything like Andrew."
 His day begins at 5 a.m. with a quick breakfast before he drives from his Ft. Lauderdale hotel to Farm Bureau offices in Dade County. In an average day he'll visit four damaged homesites. At each stop he drags the ladder out of the car, measures, moves timbers, and does other physical jobs. Back at the office there's paperwork to be done. In many instances people have lost everything, and the claims can take up to four hours to complete.
 After 12 hours or so, it's back in the car for the drive to the hotel, a drive that takes up to two hours.
 That's been the schedule for 14 days. There are no days off for catastrophe teams during a disaster.
 According to Buddy Traylor, another Florida Bureau Insurance claims adjuster, emotional stress makes adjusting disaster claims difficult.
 "The job requires you to be strong emotionally, to empathize, but not dwell on what you can't help," Traylor said.
 "During the first few days after the storm, everyone I saw needed to relive the storm, and I would often spend 30 minutes just listening. That's part of my job," he added. "I understand and I sympathize, but I also keep in mind that I've got a job to do. If I get distraught, I won't be helping people."
 John Eager, claims specialist for the National Association of Independent Insurers, says most companies find that adjusters need a physical and emotional respite after two or three weeks of working a disaster. "During Hurricane Hugo, one company kept adjusters there for six weeks and several adjusters abruptly quit." He added that because so much adjusting paperwork is done using computers, It is not difficult for an adjuster to take over a claim begun by a co-worker.
 The sheer destruction of Andrew makes this disaster more difficult for even experienced adjusters. Traffic is making the adjusters' job a nightmare. It's difficult and sometimes impossible to find damaged homesites without traffic lights, street signs or even landmarks. The heat doesn't help.
 "During the first few days, we couldn't even pull over for a Coke or some water," Traylor said.
 Obviously, disasters are rare and being a claims adjuster doesn't always mean 12-hour days under adverse conditions. Howard says the job's rewards are seeing the relief in people's faces when you hand them a check.
 "When I gave a man his check today, he cried," Howard said. "If I hadn't kept walking, I would have cried, too."
 -0- 9/9/92
 /CONTACT: Joanne Orfanos of National Association of Independent Insurers, 708-297-7800/ CO: National Association of Independent Insurers ST: Florida IN: INS SU:


AH -- NY090 -- 7711 09/09/92 17:21 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Sep 9, 1992
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