Simply put, when a client experiences a loss, Professional Loss Adjusters, Inc. (PLA) is retained to assist in preparing and filing a detailed insurance claim. To accomplish this, one of the most critical parts of my job is to perform a thorough and accurate on-site analysis of building and property damage. Time is of the essence when I am working to secure a settlement for my clients. Their home or business needs to be rebuilt as soon as possible, so they can return to their normal activities.

Over the years, I have discovered how technology can dramatically improve how well I perform the tedious tasks of analyzing building damage, preparing detailed cost reconstruction estimates and inventorying lost property.

Fluke Thermal Imager Moisture MeterThe hand held moisture meter is a tool (read: gadget) used by every adjuster in PLA. Generally easy to use, it is designed to reveal moisture content levels in wood, sheetrock, and many other building materials. As with any tool, it is only as good as the operator. This is why it is important to understand that not every moisture meter is the right tool for the job. Some are better at detecting moisture in wood than in plaster. Intrusive (pin-type) meters can be better than non-intrusive meters at detecting moisture in certain materials, and the number of readings taken is a very important factor. Finally, having a full understanding of the data is critical to effectively identifying moisture levels and their sources.    

At PLA, we have a variety of moisture meters to work with, but we go one further. We also use Thermal Imagers. These gadgets detect heat patterns that indicate the presence of water, identify air leaks and a host of other issues. They capture digital images of infrared energy (temperature), and combine those images with visible light images on the same display for easy comparison. So, now we not only detect moisture, we can capture a photo of it, even if it is concealed behind a wall or ceiling. An obvious benefit of this technology is that it helps us file an accurate initial claim—negating the need to re-open the claim in the future, saving our client from having to suffer with mold and mildew issues. The imagers are not cheap at $7,500 each. We have two of them because they really pay off. I am not aware of any other firm that has even one.

I cannot stress enough the importance that photography plays in preparing a claim for the insurance company…which takes me to my next and newest gadget…the Olympus E-5 digital SLR with an extremely wide angle lens that lets me capture a large portion of a room in one shot.

Now, this is not just any digital camera. With a 12.3 megapixel resolution, it is the most compact, high-end digital camera on the market. Despite the camera’s ultra small size and weight, it has a full-size optical viewfinder, image stabilization and a very rugged construction. This is perfect for me, as I am often scrambling around disaster sites, taking photos of building damage and loss property. Also, I do a lot of aerial photography, taking photos of damage from above—a really valuable tool for helping to inventory damage and settle claims.

In the 36 years I have been adjusting losses for homeowners and businesses, I have learned that it pays to invest in the tools that help me get better results for my clients. Just call me Mr. Gadget.

—Len Theran