Insurance and Finance

Learning from Texas’ Natural Disasters

By Peter Simek 5.1.18

Since 2014, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has declared seven natural disasters in Texas. The majority relate to flooding, with a few scattered tornadoes that Texans know to expect in the spring. Last year, of course, Hurricane Harvey dominated the headlines, but 2016 brought a number of catastrophic flooding events as well as East Texas tornadoes that cost Texans millions in damage.

What’s now remembered as the Great Storm killed an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 people on Sept. 8, 1900, as it tore across Galveston, causing a 15-foot storm surge that flooded the city. Fortunately, a lot of infrastructure has been put in place since in the hundred years since this calamity, still considered one of the worst weather disasters in American history. That includes the Galveston sea wall, the Texas Department of Transportation’s evacuation routes, the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood insurance policies. Unfortunately, none of these things can prevent Texas storms from devastating towns and Texans’ homes. But there are ways homeowners can prepare themselves. 

Keep Payments and Coverage Up-to-Date

Malcolm Sager and Jana Esquivel, an agency manager and Agent at Texas Farm Bureau Insurance’s Sinton office, handled dozens of Harvey-related claims. The biggest lesson their clients learned, they say, was a fairly simple one: Always make sure that your information, coverages, and payments are up-to-date.

“Make sure you have your annual 360 Review,” Esquivel says. “And anytime something changes — you add a new roof, build a new building, or any life change — contact your Agent and let them know.”

Take Video

As part of that yearly review, Sager adds, it’s good practice to make a video of all of your belongings once a year, so you know what you lost and what needs to be replaced. Take your phone and walk through each room, open closets and cabinets, and document your belongings on camera.

If you have never lived through an event like Harvey, it is difficult to appreciate how difficult it can be to remember what you owned after the damage is done. “It was the last thing I did before I left,” Sager says.

Keep Your Documentation Ready

It’s not unlikely that this hurricane season, your area may be evacuated ahead of a storm. Be prepared by having important documents and information ready to go with you. Having your Agent’s phone number, your policy numbers, and copies of valuations and receipts will be important if the time comes to file claims.

If you do need to evacuate, “don’t forget your prescriptions or your pets,” Sager says. “Because you may not be able to get back in for a few days.”

Access Your Insurance Online

“Making sure you have online access is huge,” Esquivel says. “That way, you can go in and file a claim” from wherever you are.

Having online access to your accounts year-round is also a good way to make sure your payments are up-to-date, policies are instated, and natural disasters don’t catch you off guard.

Esquivel says some of her clients had to wrestle through post-Harvey complications with their insurance. Some mortgage line holders failed to make on-time payments to the insurance company, allowing their clients’ coverage to lapse.

Prepare Emergency Funds

Sager advises his clients to think about all of the items they may need to take with them —things they may take for granted in their day-to-day life. This includes fuel, food, and, especially, cash. Surviving the damage of a severe weather event may require unexpected up-front funds; and in an area that lacks electricity and internet connections, cash is king.

Both Sager and Esquivel say clients can have peace of mind knowing they are with Texas Farm Bureau Insurance. Despite the incredible scale of Harvey’s devastation, 85­ to 90 percent of Harvey-related claims were settled within three weeks of filing. If Texas Farm Bureau Insurance can handle Harvey, it can handle anything.

Call your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent today for a 360 Review to make sure you’re covered when hurricane season hits.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation.

© 2018 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance