Hurricane Dorian climbed towards Category 5 status as it headed for the East Coast, local and state insurers want to remind people that hurricane season is far from over.
Hurricane Harvey hit Port Lavaca and the mid-coast of Texas more than two years ago, leaving a swath of destruction in its wake.
“The official source for hurricane information is the National Hurricane Center, www.hurricanes.gov,” said John Metz, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Corpus Christi.
So with the peak of the 2019 season here, residents are encouraged to start preparations that include making sure insurance is up to date, having a plan for evacuation, gathering supplies and preparing your property, said Metz.
“Hurricanes are life-changing events. Harvey hit 50 miles from here, and Port Lavaca didn’t get the worst of a direct hit, but there was significant damage,” said Metz.
Felicia Van Frank, public affairs specialist for State Farm Insurance, said that people need to check their policies and make sure they have all the insurance they need.
“Talk to your insurance agent,” she said.
Residents need to remember that wind and flood insurance are separate policies from their homeowner insurance. Flood is provided through a federal program while Texas Windstorm Insurance Association helps provide wind insurance.
“It is human nature to wait, and policies spike when a storm is there,” said Camille Garcia, director of Communications and Public Relations for the Insurance Council of Texas.
People can purchase flood insurance until there is a named storm in the Gulf of Mexico, but it is not effective until 30 days after purchase, added Garcia.
Renters also need to make sure they have insurance to cover the contents of their apartments. “There is the misconception that the owner provides renters insurance, and they don’t. It’s critical to people and not that expensive,” said Garcia.
Fraud is another area people are encouraged to be diligent about following a disaster.
“Within twenty-four hours (contractors) are knocking on the door. It’s important to take time. People are shocked with what happened, and it is very emotional,” said Manuel Villarreal, TWIA ombudsman with the Texas Department of Insurance. “Don’t make a quick decision. Think about it and get a card and tell them you will call back when you are ready.”
Fraud is rampant following a disaster, and there are a lot of affected people that are vulnerable, he said.
To avoid a scam, TDI recommends getting bids in writing, use local companies, and check references.
* Being asked to sign something before giving an estimate
* Being asked to sign a contract with blank sections
* Being asked to sign a contract that says, “ homeowner agrees to the listed repairs for the value of the insurance proceeds.”
* Contractor offers to waive your deductible
* Being asked for a large deposit or full payment upfront
* A contractor using materials that are inferior or defective
Another way homeowners can aid themselves is by their homes becoming Fortified Homes. These are homes that go beyond building codes to improve performance against natural disaster. This includes upgrading roofs, windows, and doors noted Cliff Barros with the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.
According to the Fortified Home press release, the program’s mitigation practices can save money for the homeowner, raise the value of the home, and assure the home is built to the highest standards, offering peace of mind to the homeowner.
Barros said that closing all internal doors during a hurricane can reduce pressure on the roof, according to new science.
For further information:
Insurance Council of Texas: www.insurancecouncil.org
Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’sFortified Home program: ibhs.org
Texas Department of Insurance: tdi.texas.gov
National Hurricane Center: www.hurricanes.gov
National Weather Service: www.weather.gov