Customer Response Unit rushing to respond
It isn’t your average job, but for members of the State Farm® Customer Response Unit, it’s the fastest way to help.
The State Farm Customer Response Unit (CRU) — the largest customer response unit and fleet in the insurance industry — serves community members impacted by a catastrophe, such as severe storms, hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes.
State Farm helps after Hurricane Ida
The State Farm Customer Response Unit races to respond to emergencies with essentials — and teddy bears — in tow.
When Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana the summer of 2021, the devastation on the ground was evident. It was the second most damaging storm to ever hit the state, pummeling entire neighborhoods with 150 mph winds. Thousands lost access to power and many were unable to stay in their homes.
But behind the scenes, there was plenty of hope. For the State Farm Customer Response Unit, a disaster such as Ida is a chance to spring into action. “We were there to make sure they stayed safe — and to listen,” says Willie Kroneman, a Dallas-based operations technician, who spent weeks on the ground after he was deployed as part of the team to areas affected by Hurricane Ida.
State Farm Customer Response Unit
When disaster strikes, the CRU is ready to distribute essential supplies and speed recovery. "The goal is to get essentials to entire families while making sure that those affected can access State Farm offerings as quickly as possible," says Gina Wilken, a public affairs specialist based in Richardson, Texas, who was also deployed as part of the CRU during Hurricane Ida. “It’s a community effort, and we try to do whatever it takes to fill the gaps.”
Customer Response Unit in action
Kroneman and Wilken left their respective homes just days after Ida hit. Those deployed as part of the CRU drive the roads to provide lifesaving items such as cold drinking water and flashlights as well as teddy bears and coloring books for children. They even have drinking bowls for furry family members. The goal is to offer must-haves that can be difficult to access during an emergency.
Another sought-after item that’s distributed by the CRU: gloves. "Many people need to protect their hands from cuts and scrapes during cleanup of branches and homes, and people often don’t realize how important gloves can be to recovery," says Wilken. “You don’t think about them until your house is caved in from a fallen tree and you don’t have gloves to remove debris,” she says.
But it’s more than just handing out critical items. Empathy is key. Local residents experiencing a weather-related catastrophe often just need someone to speak to about the experience. The team handles everything from tornadoes and flooding to wildfires and hurricanes. Many are shocked and in disbelief — the State Farm CRU steps in to offer comfort. “Everybody has a story to tell,” says Wilken. “Most of it is just listening and being a part of the community.”
For State Farm employees, including Wilken and Kroneman, the most rewarding part is to be some of the first people on the ground. "The teams give out their critical supplies to everyone — not just those insured by State Farm — and that plays a key role in on-the-ground support," explains Kroneman. “We help everyone, whether or not they are customers,” he says.
During the deployment, the teams work directly with local State Farm agents to better understand the areas that are most impacted. Often that means going out to areas that have lost power or have experienced the heaviest damage. "Days are long, with most beginning at 5 a.m. and ending at 11 p.m.," says Wilken.
There’s also plenty to focus on during the planning stages. The organizing team, housed in Bloomington, Illinois, can deploy equipment and vehicles across the entire U.S. in less than 48 hours. Workers are deployed on a volunteer basis and have to go through emergency training. "It’s a chance to give back at a time when offering help is most critical," says Kroneman.
For State Farm teams on the ground, the Ida experience is one they’ll always remember. Over the course of weeks, the CRUs covered more than 1,300 miles through 18 cities and eight parishes to help residents recover from the category 4 hurricane. “It was hugely gratifying to go,” says Kroneman. “We gave them everything we have.”
If you’re a State Farm policyholder and have experienced a catastrophe, contact your State Farm agent first. If you can’t reach your agent’s office, call our customer representatives 24/7 at 800-SF-CLAIM (800-732-5246) or visit the claims help section of statefarm.com®.