Authored by: Luis R. Esteves, Principal
Texans certainly are resilient people. They’ve recovered and rebuilt after many difficult weather challenges and disasters. If the current weather forecasts are correct, 2020 may test the strength and resilience of Texans even more than in recent memory.
While many families across the nation are still learning about what it means to return to school during a pandemic, Texas will be in a unique situation. Residents are potentially facing two storms that are currently making their way towards the Gulf Coast as they send their kids back to school:
- Tropical Storm Marco is heading toward the Texas/Louisiana border
- Tropical Storm Laura is coming in from the Atlantic and has the potential to shift left and cause disruption near the eastern border of Texas
If there was ever a time for businesses and families to hope for the best but prepare for the worst, that time is now. Even more daunting, these storms are headed our way just as families get ready to send children back to school, whether that is for in-person classes, virtual learning, or a hybrid model. And we all have suffered months of personal, social, and work life challenges in the face of COVID-19 on top of this.
Do You Have a 5-Point Plan?
Many difficult scenarios can be avoided if both businesses and families take the time to create a 5-point disaster recovery plan. Those who plan ahead are much more likely to recover faster from a disaster as noted on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Ready.gov website.
The ability to recover quickly greatly reduces stress levels both during and after extreme weather challenges.
- Photos and Videos — Now is the time to create a record of all personal possessions and property both inside and outside the home. Take pictures and videos of everything in your home while the weather is calm. Go slow and take your time with the video. If you only take video, it can be really hard to identify the items in your home after a disaster strikes. Therefore, back up all your video with photos.
- Check your Insurance Coverage — Call your property insurance representative to verify that your insurance policy covers flooding and hurricane damage. If not, it may unfortunately be too late to add it for this hurricane season.
- Book an Inland Hotel — For safety’s sake and for reassurance, go ahead and book an inland hotel room. The reservation can be canceled two days prior to avoid any cancellation fees if you end up remaining at home. For families with young children, make sure the hotel has free Wi-Fi. Ironically, the one benefit for children who are going to school remotely is that they can continue to go to school if they have access to an internet connection. Those who do not plan and end up at a public shelter will likely not have access to free Wi-Fi, which means children could miss school for the foreseeable future.
- Make a Plan For Your Pets — If you have pets, make plans for them. Start looking for a pet-friendly hotel ahead of time as many temporary public shelters may not allow animals inside during a major storm.
- Pack your Policies and Important Documents — Be sure to have a copy of all your insurance policies in your suitcase, pouch, or backpack, in the event you must evacuate your home. To keep them dry, pack them in large plastic food storage bags that have closure strips. Along with your insurance policies, bring any other important documents you may need for identification or to verify ownership of personal property.
If you are under a physician's care and are concerned about health issues, talk to your doctor in advance for advice on how to manage your health conditions during a crisis. Check to make sure you have enough medication to last for a few weeks and be sure to take it all with you if you leave your home.
Bring all smartphones, laptops, and tablets, along with their electrical cables, so you have as much ability as possible to connect with the outside world.
Do You Own a Business?
If you own a business, you also have the added responsibility of ensuring your employees, business property, and equipment remain as safe as possible. It's a good idea to talk to both your accountant and business insurance provider(s) now for advice and tips, rather than waiting until after the storm(s) have passed.
Have Evacuation and Communication Plans - While it's natural to want to remain behind and protect one's business and/or home, that might not be possible. Have a plan to evacuate both yourself and your employees to safe ground.
Also include a communication plan so that employees know the status of their employment, how you can reach them, how they can get information from you, and a way to find out when it's safe to return to work, etc. and other important details.
There is Hope After the Storm(s)
Part of your preparedness should be having a public adjuster in mind and ready to assist you if storm damages affect your home or business.
Why is this important? Public adjusters only work for the insured, and they work to optimize the full value of your insurance policy coverage. Here’s just one example:
During Hurricane Harvey, Rockport, TX was hit badly by the storm. Jansen/Adjusters International had a client who owned condominiums there. He was given an initial offer of 5.4 million dollars from his insurance company as a settlement. After days of hard work and a thorough assessment, our Jansen public adjuster, Dan Stouffer, was able to accurately and fully document the claim at a much higher value. The client ended up receiving a settlement of 9.2 million dollars – nearly double what the original settlement offer was.
While the challenges of 2020 are many, the storms that may come our way will pass. After they've gone, we will be here, ready to help our clients sort out the messy events of 2020. We stand ready to help resolve any difficulties presented during your insurance claim process. In the meantime, your best course of action is to plan ahead to keep your families safe and your commercial interests afloat during this challenging time.