To make money in this biz (the point), you must maximize production and minimize expenses as far as you can possibly manage.
Initial concerns upon arriving in a disaster zone are a widespread lack of power, water, and supplies. For the first two weeks or more, you are going to have to HQ yourself 50 miles or more away from the affected area and drive in. Since you won't be the only one in the area, fuel acquisition is going to be a serious problem; many times the few stations operating have lines that can tie you up 8 hours or more, and cost a fortune besides. I highly recommend you invest in a good full-size pickup truck. Besides being able to carry a two-story ladder, you can install a 100 or 150 gallon fuel tank from a big truck in the bed (they can be found reasonably priced at any truck recycler). This will allow you to stock up on better priced fuel less often, saving precious time and money (wasted time and money are the biggest income killers).
For lodging, you'll have to search, but motel rooms can be found. They'll be ridiculously priced, but that's because of demand. You'll have to weigh the price of the room against the travel costs to move further away for better prices. You're going to spend several hours on the phone searching, have a credit card ready to reserve. Some adjusters buy a travel trailer or motor home for initial deployment. There are pros and cons to this, the chief advantage is that with a a little preparation, generato,r and full water tanks, you are self-contained and ready to work from day 1. It gives you space to carry more supplies cutting down on time wasted to resupply. Cons include an inability to find a place to park it, most jurisdictions don't allow random rv parking and rv parks are going to be in sad a shape as the surrounding area. Additionally, your fuel requirements are going to skyrocket, a generator uses about 25 gallons of fuel a day besides what your vehicle uses. An rv would make sense to get you through until the infrastructure is restored enough to allow closer motel lodging, but all in all, it really doesn't justify the expense. After the infrastructure restoration is underway, you will have met other adjusters and networked enough connections to enable you to room with one or more other adjusters in an apartment, condo, or house. This will cut your costs greatly, and provide built-in claim handling assistance from the adjusters you room with. Many adjusters do this, and it's highly recommended to endeavor to arrange this setup as soon as you can manage after your arrival, especially for a larger storm or an extended engagement such as cleanup.
Walmart's gonna be closed. Everywhere nearby. If you find one open, it's going to have VERY empty shelves at all times. You're going to have to fill the available space in the bed of the truck with water, food, and other needful things (coffee and condiments, dishes, microwave, mini-fridge, toilet paper, etc.) It's handy to stock up on the 3-pack cases of gallon water Walmart has far in advance, they keep fine, no need to wait until availability suffers, keep stacks of it at home until needed. As for food, you won't have time to cook elaborate 7-course meals, it's all about stuff it in and get back to work. Everyone's tastes are different, but the key is portable and fast, stock up. You need at least enough for two weeks, more if you can make the room.
Most IA firms frown on this, carriers even moreso, but you're going to need support. There are just too many tedious time (money) consuming chores that need to be done, you can't do them all. I generally hire a relative to make my initial contacts on new claims. She schedules my inspections and handles alot of communication issues, freeing me up to concentrate on setting up, then later, getting claims closed. Some adjusters, notably husband/wife teams, split the process; he'll inspect and photograph, she'll stay at the room and enter estimates. If you can find a good trooper to do this data entry, it's money well spent. You'll drive yourself insane doing contents; in spite of instructing the insureds to give you the info you need, many don't or can't, and trying to find out what personal possessions are worth is time (money) consuming, delegate that.
As a new adjuster, you're going to be slow. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Rule of thumb is not to inspect more claims in a day than you can close. Inspect a claim, close a claim. Inspecting a pile first then trying to write up estimates two weeks later or more increases the difficulty, the losses aren't fresh in your mind, and the policyholders get more upset about time from inspection to close than time from storm to inspection. Start with one or two a day until your speed picks up, then increase as you can handle it. Don't expect to roll in piles of cash your first storm, there IS a learning curve that's going to cost you money.
Don't turn down claims. Take all the claims you can get that you feel you can handle. Towards the end of the engagement, you're going to be looking for claims along with 50 other adjusters, take them when they're offered. Keep in mind the time limit mandated by state law to provide a proof of loss, and take everything you can.
Don't take time off. Going home for holidays, weekends, etc., will communicate to your claims manager that you're not committed, when the engagement's winding down you WON'T be considered for cleanup (more money, slower pace, NICE daily rate). Make hay while the sun shines, go there and stay there until it's over. Believe me, you'll get PLENTY of time off afterwards, many times more than you want.
COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE!!!! And when you're done with that, communicate some more. Policyholders don't like to be kept guessing, they WILL make phone calls to find you, usually through their agent, which will go through the channels to you, alerting everyone that has control over your income that you're pissing off the policyholders and not communicating. Return ALL phone calls as soon as possible.
While we're on the subject, and I'm probably going to get flamed to the sky for this, block your caller ID, and DON'T give your cellphone number to policyholders. Set up a voicemail system independent of your cellphone, RingCentral is a good internet-based service for this. If you don't, naturally your phone is going to ring incessantly. While you're working, while you're sleeping, while you're in the shower, all the time, that phone is going to ring. I'm proactive in my communication, but every engagement I do I get those two or three that just MUST call constantly. Save your sanity. Also, I like to give my undivided attention to the policyholder standing in front of me, and it's not comforting to them to see your attention is divided between them and your ringing phone. Get the voicemail, use it, and return the calls no less than three times a day.
Get general liability insurance, $100k at a minimum but $1 million if you can manage it. After the engagement is over, the policyholders who felt shortchanged ARE going to court, and if you were the adjuster who worked the claim, you're going too. As an adjuster, you represent the insurance company, you are responsible for carrying out the agreement spelled out in the policy. We all learn to be very careful about what we say and how we say it because anything we promise as the insurance company's representative can hold the insurance company's feet to the fire to carry out. If you promise to pay for something, then find out later the policy doesn't allow it, YOU hold liability to pay the dollar amount if the policyholder goes to court for it. General liability insurance will insulate you from a goof on your part costing you everything you own. GET IT!
Take your empathy with you. These peoples' lives are in total disarray, their comfortable routines are gone, some are displaced, a few lost everything. ALL of them feel like a rowboat adrift in rough seas. YOU are their tenuous line back to the safety and security of their lives. They're going to be impatient, they're going to be frustrated, and it's impossible to please everyone. Equally as important as completing their claim for them and letting them get their lives back on track, is an understanding of their frustration and needs. Keep your cool, and be as forthcoming and professional as possible. Be their lighthouse in the storm.