In wake of storm Smith & Eddy Insurance team responds.

August 30, 2018

Joe Knowles, left, with farmer Jake Zwagerman in Branch Township.

In wake of storm Smith & Eddy Insurance team responds.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

SCOTTVILLE — The storm that hit the area Tuesday was fast and furious. Within minutes of it hitting land, trees and utility lines were knocked down in Ludington and Hamlin Township. The storm picked up speed and power as it headed east. Straight line winds caused massive damage to buildings, trees, and utility lines east of Custer.

The storm struck about 6:30 p.m. At 7 p.m. Joe Knowles, vice president of Smith & Eddy Insurance had already gotten his first phone call, from farmer Jake Zwagerman, whose pig barns were destroyed on Schoenherr Road. Within 10 minutes Knowles was on the scene, assessing the damage.

For the next 24 hours, the Smith & Eddy team mobilized throughout Mason, Lake, and Oceana counties, meeting with its customers.

“We filed 57 claims and have 20 waiting to see if their deductible will be met, along with 20 claims pending, waiting for the power to come back on,” said Scott Smith, president of Smith & Eddy.

Smith’s day began at 6:30 a.m., checking on the electricity at the three Smith & Eddy offices in Scottville, Ludington, and Manistee. While the other two had power, the Ludington office did not. Smith contacted the Book Mark, which had power, though it is located across the street, and was able to make arrangements to move staff members there.

“We started texted our staff the night before asking them to come into work as early as they could. We put into place our catastrophic plan and got to work. Most of our team was in between 7 and 7:30 a.m.

“We put out an all staff readiness email that contains contractors and information on how each of our carriers handle trees, power and spoilage claims. We placed three people on phones to handle the anticipated volume. Our phone system is centralized and Internet based so all phones can be answered and spread out from one location. It also gives us the ability to route those calls to each person’s cell phone if needed.”

The agency also used social media to alert customers that it was open for business.

Agents then started to assess the damage. “After looking at the storm pattern, we recognized that several of our larger customers were in the path of it. We called and visited them to see what kind of damage they may have had.”

Fremont Insurance sent a claims representative to the Smith & Eddy Scottville office while Pioneer State Mutual Insurance sent adjusters to the area by afternoon. Auto Owners also sent an adjuster.

“Most claims were filed early in the day and we were prepared,” Smith said. “The afternoon consisted of smaller claims, mainly dealing with power loss. Every person in the offices knew the plan and executed the plan. It took a team effort to do what we did flawlessly.”

Smith said his staff continues to work on claims today and is expected another 25 to 40 over the next few days.

“This is what we are here for, to serve our customers and get them back on their feet,” Smith said. “Smith & Eddy is part of this community and is proud that we were able to respond to our customers’ needs quickly and efficiently.”

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