After CARe's executive director, George Kehrer, lost his home in the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire, he joined an ad hoc group appropriately named the “Unexpectedly Underinsured Allstate Policyholders” or UUAP. The media had another name for those affected by the fire – “Disaster Victims.”
Although the fire had initially victimized them and their neighborhood, this group soon found themselves pulling out of “victim” mode and into a new “survivor” mentality. Since then we’ve seen “disaster victims” from around the United States become “disaster survivors.”
These newly branded “survivors” soon learned that for those covered by insurance, getting their claim paid was by far the biggest immediate hurtle they had to clear to move on. Through an extreme stroke of fate, shortly after the Oakland Hills fire, George ran into an ex-adjuster of 20 years named Ina DeLong who was fed up with the tactics used by State Farm against policyholders following the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. She was determined to teach Oakland Hills Fire survivors what she knew about the role of insurance adjusters in the insurance settlement process so disaster survivors could get a fair settlement.
Two years after the Oakland Hills Fire, large wildfires struck Los Angeles County. Ms. DeLong had sufficiently mentored George and he not only credited her with his successful insurance recovery but wanted to pass on the knowledge to this new group of survivors in Southern California and headed there in late 1993. That is how he found himself in the Los Angeles area when, in January of 1994, the Northridge earthquake devastated the San Fernando Valley.
Due to the hundreds of thousands of people now trying to rebuild their homes and lives, San Fernando Valley community leaders decided a local Southern California nonprofit organization devoted to recovering from the Northridge Earthquake was needed. Almost overnight, Community Assisting Recovery, Inc. or CARe, was formed and George was asked to serve as its first executive director.
CARe worked tirelessly for seven years, providing free insurance, construction and other disaster recovery information services to residents and businesses, rooting out building and other scams preying on vulnerable property owners, and fighting for insurance reform. By 2001, insurance claims they had fought to re-open were finally adjusted correctly.
CARe had only a small break before a large wildfire hit Arizona in 2002, and then in 2003, 2007 and 2008 wildfires again hit Southern California. In the wake of more these wildfire, CARe received much appreciated funding through the San Diego Foundation to finish a large insurance claim workbook titled A Survivor's Guide to Insurance.
We Disaster Survivor's near and far find our resources helpful in their road to recovery.