"Whenever you work in a niche industry, you're pretty much saying to somebody that this is our focus," says independent agent Jerrad Van Coots. "The emergency services industry is so broad that you have to spend a lot of time learning and understanding it."
Jerrad Van Coots
The Burrows Agency
How did you get started at your agency?
I met my wife while she was at the University of Oklahoma. I was a private investigator at the time. When she graduated and went to work in her dad's agency in Claremore, Oklahoma, we moved there together.
While I did not work at the agency initially, her dad, Dave Burrows, needed a perpetuation plan, and he knew that it would take multiple people to do it. They asked me to join the agency and shortly after I married my wife, I joined her at her family agency.
Why emergency services insurance?
I wrote two accounts when I began working at the agency. One of them was commercial coverage for a clock store. The other was emergency services coverage. The difference was like night and day—from the people involved with the emergency services to the elements of the risk covered. It moved me to go to my father-in-law one day and tell him that I wanted to spend 100% of my time writing emergency services. It just spoke to me.
Changes in the emergency services insurance market?
As part of the VFIS of Oklahoma, we get together annually and talk about claims that weren't paid. We talk about different situations, discuss what was involved, what the loss was and how we responded. For the last 15 years, we have been adding coverage to the marketplace. For instance, when drones came around, they came around in a big way for fire departments because they use them for search and rescue. The emergency service world had to go through the same ups and downs as the general commercial world when it came to having drones above populated areas.
A more refined, articulated insurance program. We're able to see the trends, and we will use that information to make changes to the industry. Sometimes those changes will reflect a change in the insurance products that serve them.
Advice for a fellow emergency services insurance agent?
You have to be all in. Whenever you work in a niche industry, you're pretty much saying to somebody that this is our focus. The emergency services industry is so broad that you have to spend a lot of time learning and understanding it.
Favorite success story?
During a huge grass fire in western Oklahoma, we had over 40 fire departments called in, and one of our insured's trucks was totally burned out. This was on a Thursday. Once we were able to identify the vehicle, I called my carrier and told them we had a total loss. I sent them the picture of the truck where you could barely even read the VIN number, and they overnighted a check right away, which I was able to give the fire department on Saturday.
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.