As a kid, I was a Girl Scout, and our motto was “Be Prepared.” That motto is one I’ve taken to heart and serves me well as a volunteer ambulance driver.
I began driving an ambulance about three years ago. My husband saw a flier asking for volunteers and he felt my caring nature, along with my ability to drive large vehicles like our friends 30’ motorhome, made me a good candidate to be an ambulance driver. You see, in small, rural communities like mine, emergency and fire services are staffed by volunteers.
The big difference between an ambulance and a motorhome is that with an ambulance, you have an injured passenger along with emergency medical technicians in the back. And, you have to get to a hospital as quickly and safely as you can, often driving in inclement weather on winding roads.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a fire, heart attack or large hazardous material spill, we’re ready to roll at a moment’s notice.
One of my more memorable calls was an accident during deer hunting season. A hunter tripped with a loaded gun and his self-inflicted injury was severe enough that it eventually cost him his leg. Because an ambulance doesn’t travel well through the woods, we walked a mile each way to carry him back to the ambulance.
Because of the wide range of emergencies we handle, we are constantly training. In addition to the required state and federal certifications, my team has monthly training meetings to keep our skills sharp.
I’ve learned a lot in three years and the learning has served me (and my co-workers) well. At our East Region Building, I’m a first responder for medical emergencies.
I’ve also shared life-saving tips with others. One simple and important tip I tell everyone is to keep a list of medications you or your family members are taking – including non-prescription ones – on or near the refrigerator. Be sure to include the dosage and frequency you take them. Because medical technicians and fire rescue teams always look at the refrigerator for this type of information, it’s there in case you’re injured and unable to speak for yourself.
As an ambulance driver, I know what can happen to people in the blink of an eye. When my pager goes off, I’m already thinking about what I may encounter as I’m racing to the Emergency Medical Services building.
No matter what time of day it is or what the weather is like, I always need to be prepared. Whether at work or at home I’m always ready to go.
The Black Forest wildfire near Colorado Springs has grown into the most destructive in the state’s history. More than 500 homes were destroyed, including close to 50 insured by American Family Insurance.
When I heard about the Black Forest fire, I thought, “Our customers are going to need my help, and I better organize my thoughts, now!”
As I post this, we await full access into what they call the Black Forest “burn scar,” to meet with customers and inspect their properties with an eye toward identifying coverage under their policies.
Even though the authorities have not declared the area to be safe enough for full public access, we’ve already started our customers on the path to recovery. You can see photos of American Family's catastrophe team onsite in Colorado here.
I’ve met with six American Family Insurance customers whose homes were destroyed in the wildfire, at three to three-and-a-half hours per meeting. We talked about the overall claims experience, discussing the coverage available under their policies and setting expectations for upcoming steps in the claim process.
I make sure they understand all of the issues. My job is to make this as easy as possible for them. Starting over after losing your home to fire is nothing short of a major life transition, and I want that transition to be as smooth as possible. We compensate our customers for additional living expenses and advance them a portion of the personal property lost in the fire.
Empathy always is a valuable attribute for an insurance claims representative — or for any other customer service occupation, for that matter — but it’s especially important in situations like this.
Growing up, we had a total loss fire at my house. My uncle fell asleep while smoking, and we lost the entire house and everything in it. All the family photos and other things that were important to us and can’t be replaced … gone.
When I talk to our customers about their situations, I tell them “I know what you’re going through.”
The Black Forest area was special, a heavily wooded Shangri-la that served as a joyful haven for thousands of residents. It might be hard to envision amidst the heavily charred tree trunks and fire-distorted remains of homes, outbuildings and vehicles, but the Black Forest area will come back again.
My job is to help them see that their dreams are not lost; they’re only on “pause.” By treating customers with dignity, respect and compassion, and paying them fairly for their covered losses, American Family Insurance is living up to our reputation as the protector of dreams.
And I’m sure glad I can be a part of it.
Editor’s note: American Family Insurance customers affected by the Colorado wildfires can report claims by contacting our 24-hour Customer Care Center, 1-800-MY-AMFAM (692-6326), their local agent or by completing our online insurance claim form. Visit our website for answers to common questions about wildfire claims.
Ours is a nation of dreamers. We grow up believing that just about anything is possible. But dreams change along the journey of life, as we discover new opportunities and face unforeseen challenges. That’s where insurance comes into play.
We visited the Zimnys of Lockport, Ill., to hear their compelling story of how Russell Zimny pursued the American Dream of family, home and business. It’s a real-life illustration of how dynamic dreams are … we start out in full pursuit of a dream, only to find our perspectives shift, our dreams change or we encounter obstacles along the way.
Across our 19 operating states, American Family helped preserve our customers’ dreams with anticipated payments of $3.4 billion for claims occurring in 2012. That amount included $840.6 million for damage caused by storms, tornadoes and wildfires.
We also marked our 85th anniversary with the opening of DreamBank, a place dedicated to the inspiration, celebration and protection of dreams for individuals, families and the community in our hometown of Madison, Wis.
Late in the year, we expanded our family with the acquisition of Permanent General, a group of companies that writes direct non-standard auto insurance. Permanent General is successful and growing, and the addition improves our ability to meet our diverse customer needs and preferences.
Our customers like the changes we’ve implemented in recent years – customer satisfaction and customer loyalty measures are at record highs. We will continue to refine our products and services, and we’ll also start serving customers in new parts of the country.
It’s an exciting time in our family, and we’re so grateful you trust us to protect your dreams.
Editor’s note: You can read the stories – and the financial reports – from our 2012 Annual Report on our website.
I have always liked helping people.
That's one of the main reasons I've enjoyed working for the past 12 years in American Family’s claims area, where we help customers at times when they need it most.
It also has been a big motivating factor in my 14 years of service in the U.S. Army. I've been deployed in Iraq, which was a very dangerous and trying experience, to say the least. I’ve also served in Kuwait. Whether abroad or in the states, I've always made sure I did a good job taking care of my fellow soldiers.
In short, I like the fact that people rely on me, and that I can be there for them.
So, it has meant a lot to me that American Family has been there for me, too, especially in connection with my military service. The company and my colleagues have been very supportive when I’ve gone on military leave, and have welcomed me with open arms when I returned.
But one of the biggest honors came recently, when the company invited me and Alex Barajas, a senior research analyst at American Family (who appears to the left of me in the accompanying picture), to attend the U.S. Army All-American Bowl game, sponsored by American Family. For me, the experience was amazing and eye-opening. We were among thousands of military personnel who watched the nation’s elite high school football players compete in an exciting east-west matchup. American Family also recognized our service in many different ways throughout a warm and welcoming weekend that culminated with on-field recognition during a very moving pre-game ceremony.
Additionally, American Family Executive Vice President Peter Gunder presented a special award to an outstanding defensive player, and another award honoring a family for strongly supporting one of its family members who is a top musician in a high school marching band.
During the past several years, I have had more than a couple people thank me for my service and wish me the best. I smiled and thanked them for their kind words because I didn’t really know how to handle it. I have come to see that what I have done through my service is not just unique and rare, but appreciated and honored.
I am grateful for this incredible opportunity and experience, and proud to work for a company that protects dreams of customers, high school students and other community members, and people like me.
Editors Note: For a closer look at American Family’s support of John Neppl, Alex Barajas and other employees who serve in the military, watch this video from our YouTube channel.
American Family is a past recipient of the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, which is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their support of their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserves.
I’ve given blood a few times in my life. Involuntarily, that is.
Like the time I got a bloody lip from a wild pitch during a Little League game, prompting me to consider pursuing other sports. Such as badminton.
Or, later in life, when I accidentally sliced myself on a water bottle while vacationing in Slovakia, leaving me with a timeless "souvenir": a crescent-shaped scar on my left thumb.
Ah, good times.
So, I’ve always been a tad squeamish around blood – especially blood drives. Until recently. All it took was a few facts and figures to change my mind.
For instance, one pint of blood can save up to three lives. Every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood, spurring the need for 44,000 donations every day.
Given these facts, along with the critical demand for blood heightened by Hurricane Sandy this fall, I signed up for one of the many American Red Cross blood drives routinely held at American Family.
It turned out to be a pleasant experience. It didn’t hurt, and only took a little over an hour – a small price to pay for helping others whose lives may be at risk. I’m already planning to donate again in the future.
The next time a blood drive takes place in your community or at your workplace, consider rolling up your sleeve and giving. Or, arrange a time to donate when it might be more convenient for you – just contact the American Red Cross or America’s Blood Centers.
It’s not every day that you can say "I probably saved someone's life today."
Giving blood gives you that opportunity.