Kernaghan Adjusters’ Team Cares About The Professional Service They Deliver.
FORT MCMURRAY– Russ Fitzgerald
Nothing in my twenty-year-plus claims career could have prepared me for Fort Mac. I’ve experienced a variety of CAT claims as a front-line adjuster and manager working hailstorms, windstorms, floods, and fires.
However, I’ve never seen anything like the wildfires in Fort McMurray. In my role as the Fort Mac CAT Team Leader I did everything, from searching out lodging for our adjusters and ensuring they were fed, to keeping the team safe.Read More
Generally speaking, CATS require ‘boots on the ground’ within a very short period of time. The unusual thing about the Fort Mac CAT was that the fires continued to burn, creating new destruction daily. The whole industry watched and waited as the story unfolded.
During our wait for the city to grant access for insurance adjusters, we worked hard at coordinating our preliminary adjusting services on the open files. We organized getting funds to insureds for ALE (Additional Living Expenses), and helped arrange temporary living accommodations and started the paperwork for all files.
Adjusters from Calgary and also out of province adjusters came to assist our Edmonton and Fort Mac offices. We worked tirelessly during this period. The Edmonton office was open seven days a week to meet insureds.
The after-hour call center volume was exhausting. We requested extra help, and adjusters from across Canada supported the CAT by taking calls from insureds who needed a friendly voice and advice on what to do.
The City of Fort McMurray had a controlled and layered admittance plan. As we waited, it was getting increasingly difficult to find a place to stay. The Province, under the Emergency Measures Act, took our original location. We finally secured a location at an oilfield workers’ camp.
We arrived at our first camp, approximately 35 minutes southeast of Fort McMurray. The accommodations were clean but extremely small, which didn’t make for ideal working conditions. The cafeteria seemed like the best workplace alternative. However, we were asked to leave as it was a designated eating area. Eighty percent of our staff were female and the camp was mostly male. After three nights of escorting the adjusters in and out of the cafeteria and other areas for safety reasons, we managed to secure our original condos inside the City of Fort McMurray.
Once we received approval to enter the City, we were all registered – and part of that process included wearing colourful wristbands. The city set up numerous checkpoints to allow access to different parts of the City.
Our team worked long hours, day and night, and had to put up with extreme conditions: few places to find food, fuel etc. The adjusters cut through the difficulties and successfully managed hundreds of claims.
In our ever-changing business, I find that everything involves a learning curve. In Fort McMurray, we had to certify every adjuster for using a breathing mask. This required outside certification and some stinging eyes, noses and throats.
The most important take away for this experience was the resilience of our staff. They handled themselves in an exemplary manner in the face of this tragedy. We are very proud of the work our staff performed in the Fort Mac Cat.
HIGHWAY #8 FIRE – Grant Rerie
Back in June 2011 while en route to our summer camp at Heckla Island one Friday evening my wife and I came across a residential fire on Highway #8 north of Gimli Manitoba. As we were driving along the highway we saw smoke drifting across the highway and just by the way the smoke was blowing and the smell I could tell it was not a grass or forest fire but appeared to be a structural type fire. As we got close to the location of the smoke we saw that it was in fact a residential fire. The fire department wasn’t even on scene yet.Read More
A few vehicles had stopped along the highway to watch. The fire was well involved at this point with flames shooting 30-40 feet in the air and appeared to be concentrated to the backside of the home. At the time my wife asked if I wanted to stop and take some pictures but wanting to be a lookie-loo when somebody was obviously having a very bad day, I told her I’ve seen lots of fires and just wanted to get to the lake so let’s keep on driving.
The following morning (Saturday) I was enjoying breakfast at my camp when I received a call from a claims manager asking if I was in the area and if I would be interested in taking on a fire claim in the area. I immediately asked her if it occurred the evening before along Highway #8 which she confirmed was in fact the case. I explained to her that I saw the house burn on my way to the lake and apologized for not taking my wife’s suggestion to stop to get some pictures. At any rate, I took the claim information, contacted their Insured and headed over to the fire scene right away. Upon arrival at the scene the house was obviously a constructive total loss with the back of the house significantly damaged and much of the roof destroyed. I concluded my initial meeting with the Insured the following Monday and upon returning to work initiated the investigation.
Our first phone call was to the office of the fire commissioner at which time we discussed a potential cause. Upon inspection the majority of the fire appeared to be around the area of the homes main service panel which we anticipated would have been the point of origin. The investigator advised she was not ruling out the fact that this could have been a set fire and they believed the point of origin may have been underneath a deck that was built on the back of the house. They indicated that the Insured was not necessarily a suspect but that there had been several arsons in the area recently. The RCMP were also involved and conducted interviews of the Insured and his common-law spouse. After ruling out the Insured the fire commissioner attended again and conducted further investigation, ultimately reporting that they could not pinpoint a cause and were ruling the fire as undetermined but suspicious.
We had called in investigators from Origin & Cause to get their opinion on a possible cause for the fire.
The home was in a rural location and set far back from the highway. The hydro service line came from the highway to a pole with a transformer on the property then to the house. While conducting my survey of the property I looked up at the pole and transformer and noted there appeared to be something on the top of the transformer. To me it looked like an animal, possibly a cat. Upon making this discovery I called the investigator from Origin & Cause and asked him specifically to look at the transformer mounted on the pole when he was attending the scene to conduct his investigation.
When Origin & Cause were on scene they engaged the services of Manitoba Hydro to provide a lift truck to get a close examination of the transformer at which point they discovered the very incinerated remains of a cat. The cat was removed and there was evidence of arcing on the top of the transformers. Suspecting that the cat had electrocuted himself on the top of the transformer the investigator took a closer look at the service panel and ultimately determined that the cat had short circuited himself across the two terminals of the transformer which energized the neutral line to the service panel. The grass then ignited the underside of the deck which was what caught the eye of the investigator from the office of the fire commissioners attention.
It was suspected that the cat was most likely chased up the pole by another animal and the transformer was its first and final resting place and that’s how a feral cat burned down a house.
FATAL ACCIDENT – Marie Gallagher
During the past three decades, I have investigated a number of claims many that I will never forget. This is one of those stories. I was specifically chosen by the auto insurer of a couple who lost their five year old daughter in a motor vehicle collision to meet with them to discuss the first party benefits available under the Ontario Automobile Policy; in this case, Funeral and Death Benefits.Read More
My instructions were to inform them of the Funeral Benefits available to them but the primary reason for my meeting was to diplomatically explore which parent their daughter was “principally dependent on” as defined in the Ontario SABS for the purpose of determining which parent was entitled to Death Benefits.
After arriving and being greeted by the father, I was escorted into their kitchen. As I entered the kitchen, I observed a number of photographs of the two young sisters on the refrigerator. The mother came out at this point and we discussed the photos briefly before sitting down to begin my interview. This wasn’t an easy task. We gradually began the conversation about the tragic fatal collision. It is the circumstances of the loss, not the claim itself, that stands out in my mind.
This family of four who attend church in their small Ontario town every Sunday had just exited the church with the rest of the congregation following the service as they did every weekend. It was a beautiful spring day. Minutes before the collision, they had walked down the front steps of their church and were standing on the sidewalk at the bottom of the steps. This sidewalk parallels a busy road.
Suddenly, the five year old daughter who it was later discovered had seen someone across the street she knew, ran out between two parked cars, into the street, and was instantly struck and killed by a pickup truck that was passing by at that exact moment. There was nothing the driver could have done to avoid the collision and police determined he was not at fault and the family agreed, having witnessed the collision first hand. One cannot help but think if only there was a minute or two difference in the timing of the events that lead up to the tragedy. What if the driver had left a minute or two later before departing his home? What if the family stopped to talk to one of the other parishioners a minute or two longer before leaving the church?
It breaks my heart to this day to think how a young girl could be killed right in front of her family, right in front of their church. After my investigation was complete, and I had explained what benefits were available to the parents under their policy and how to apply for them, they both walked me to the door. And then the mother said something I will never forget: I don’t know how you do your job but thank you very much for coming.