25 October 2023
A Fire Inside – An unlikely friendship
"Sometimes driving on the country roads after an inspection, I’d tear up just thinking about what our customers had gone through. Losing every personal and sentimental item. To play a small part in helping them get through that-is truly a privilege" - Jas Singh, Claims Assessor.
Q: As an assessor you have been on the frontline of many disasters, how did the Summer of 2019-2020 compare?
I've been with IAG for eight years but nothing but compared to the Black Summer bush fires. An unimaginable scale of disaster and sadness. Driving up to homes and seeing trees burnt, fences burnt, and roofs collapsed was so heart breaking. Sometimes there was just nothing left. But my primary focus was and is always to ensure that our customers are safe and then to guide them through the claims process as seamlessly as possible, so we can get their settlement sorted as fast as possible. Everyone had a story and each one was equally as heartbreaking. All I wanted to do was help.
Q You are seeing people at their lowest point how do you maintain composure?
As an assessor – we have a job to do. But we’re all human and this can happen to anyone, so first and foremost you bring empathy, and you take the time to listen -then you be as resilient as you can for them. Ultimately, you move as swiftly as possible to address the urgent needs of your customer and make sure you are always at the end of the phone for any questions they may have.
Q. One particular customer left an impact on you, why so?
From the moment I saw Warren and his sons, I instantly noticed how supportive they were of each other, but were still in shock. At first, Warren was really sceptical of me and the insurance process. I listened to his story and how the fires had rolled in. He explained in detail what they had been through, how fast things had happened and that they had managed to save the family home, but their shed was gone. For those in regional communities a shed is like a second home. It has an en-suite, a kitchen and they spend a lot of time in there. A lot of memories. Keep sakes -irreplaceable things. I promised I would help, and I did. He was so overwhelmed with gratitude and perhaps a bit surprised at how seamless the process was, that he wrote a beautiful letter. And a friendship was forged -which is why I wanted to visit them after their re-build.
Q. Can you read an excerpt?
"Over the years, you tend to hear of negative stories with regards to dealing with insurance companies, and to be honest, I was expecting a lot more phone calls and emails to go unanswered as we worked through it all, I need not have worried. The lines of communication from yourself and the Claims Department were excellent and genuinely empathetic.”
Q: Since the fires you have revisited the Caves family -how was that re-union?
It’s crazy but you form a bond with these families. It makes me feel very happy that I was able to give Warren that kind of experience. Seeing him again and their beautiful new and much larger shed which has now been rebuilt, meant the world to me. I think it’s also helpful to talk about what happened and what they and their community have been through. The grass is growing back, as are the trees and the pride he displayed showing me around, was truly humbling.
Q. We talk about people having a help reflex – does that ring true to you?
What I witnessed in some of those communities with signs on the roadside offering free meals or just the offer of a chat was incredible. I do believe Australians love to help each other. Its mateship. I do think we all have our own fire inside. And that's a great thing.
Just like Jas we all have ‘A Fire Inside’. Helping others is what Australians do best. And with natural disasters increasing in intensity and frequency , help is more important than ever. NRMA Insurance is proud to be the founding partner of the Australian Resilience Corp. An army of helpers to harness the collective power of communities. Everyone has a role to play. Find out yours.