Disaster Management Coordinator: Battalion Chief Howard Miller
Battalion Chief Howard Miller at TranStar during EOC drill
Insurance Tips for Hurricane Preparedness
AUSTIN – Hurricane season officially begins in Texas on June 1 and runs through the end of November, typically with peak activity in August and September. Although residents of coastal areas are most at risk, tropical storm systems can travel hundreds of miles inland, creating the potential for wind damage and flash flooding throughout the state. Planning ahead can help you protect yourself, your family, and your property during hurricane season.
Review coverage and policy limits. Make certain your homeowners or commercial property coverage is in force and that it provides adequate coverage to pay the full replacement cost of your property. Make sure you understand what the policy does and does not cover. If you have questions regarding the terms or coverage provided under the policy, contact your agent. If you’ve made improvements to your home, consider increasing your policy’s limits to cover the enhanced value of the property. Even without recent improvements, property values increase over time and insurance policies should be adjusted accordingly.
Make sure you have windstorm insurance. If your property is located in one of Texas’ 14 coastal counties, or parts of southeastern Harris County, your homeowners policy may not provide windstorm coverage. You may be able to obtain insurance coverage for windstorm or hail damage from a special insurance pool called the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA). It’s important to note that you cannot buy or change TWIA coverage once a hurricane is in or near the Gulf of Mexico. If you currently have TWIA coverage, review your policy carefully and know your policy limits. Compare your TWIA and homeowners policies and make sure you are insured to an appropriate replacement value. For more information about windstorm coverage, call your insurance agent or TWIA at (512) 899-4900 or visit its website at www.twia.org.
Consider flood insurance. Homeowners and commercial property policies specifically exclude coverage for damage from flooding. To protect yourself from losses caused by rising water, you’ll need a separate flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). NFIP is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Flood insurance policies usually have a 30-day waiting period after the purchase date before coverage takes effect on currently owned property, so don’t wait until a flooding threat is imminent. For more information, contact your insurance agent or NFIP at 1-888-FLOOD 29 (356-6329) or visit www.floodsmart.gov.
Make a Home Inventory. Fill out TDI's Home Inventory Checklist (PDF) that you can print or save to a disk and keep somewhere secure. Consider e-mailing it to yourself to ensure you'll have it wherever you are. Also take photos or videotape of each room and the exterior of your home to keep with your inventory.
Auto insurance. State law requires all drivers to maintain liability insurance, which pays for injuries and damages you cause to other people and their cars. Liability coverage does not pay for any type of damage to your own vehicle, however. You will need to purchase additional coverage, known as "comprehensive" or "damage other than collision" coverage to protect your vehicle from damage caused by hail, flood, fire, or theft.
Make a safety plan. If a hurricane threatens your area, you may have to make a decision whether to stay in your home or evacuate. Whenever local authorities recommend evacuation, you should leave. The advice of authorities is based on knowledge of the strength of the storm and its potential for death and destruction.
• Map out safe routes inland or to safer areas. If you live in a low-lying area, know where low-water crossings might make travel to safety more difficult and plan routes that avoid these areas.
• Find out the location of any nearby community shelters in case you must seek immediate shelter.
• If you decide that it’s safe for you to stay, understand that you may be without electricity, fresh water, and phone service for some time and prepare accordingly. Stock up on canned goods and bottled water, check supplies of medicines and first-aid equipment, and check batteries in radios and flashlights.
• Work out a way for family members to communicate in case you must leave your home or if there is a disruption in local phone service. For instance, agree on a friend or relative who lives outside your immediate area who can serve as a point of contact in an emergency.
Protect your property. When a hurricane watch is issued for your area, taking a few measures in advance may help prevent or minimize damage to your home or property.
Protect windows, sliding glass doors, and skylights with shutters or plywood.• Put your car in a garage or other shelter. Secure boats and trailers. Secure outdoor furniture and any other loose material outside.
• If possible, trim back any dead wood from trees. This will reduce the amount of wind stress on trees and eliminate potential damage from falling limbs.
• Move valuables away from windows and, if possible, to an upper floor.
• Bring pets indoors or make other arrangements for their safety. If you must seek shelter in a community shelter, understand that you will probably not be able to keep your pets with you. Contact your local humane society for information about animal shelters.
• If you are leaving your home, lock and secure the premises. Take small valuables and important documents with you.
For more information:
For answers to general insurance questions, for information on filing an insurance-related complaint, or to report suspected insurance fraud, call TDI’s Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439 or 512-463-6515 in Austin between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Central time, Monday-Friday, or visit our website at www.tdi.texas.gov.
DPS Urges Texans to Prepare Early for Hurricane Season
AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is informing residents about the upcoming hurricane season and advising individuals to begin preparing now for any possible storms. Hurricane season begins June 1 and continues through Nov. 30.
“One of the best defenses against the destructive – and potentially deadly – power of a hurricane or tropical storm is early and adequate preparation, and Texans should start taking precautions now for the 2014 hurricane season,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “Although residents living along the Texas coast are the most vulnerable, storms can disrupt and endanger the lives of residents throughout the state.”
All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes or tropical storms. Because the strongest winds in a hurricane are not located precisely at the center, it is possible for a storm to affect conditions over land even if landfall does not occur.
Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and areas several hundred miles inland, and winds can exceed 155 miles per hour. In addition, hurricanes and tropical storms can also spawn tornadoes, create storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from flooding.
Here are several measures residents can take now to prepare for potential storms:
Assemble an emergency kit that includes essential documents, supplies and provisions.
Review hurricane evacuation maps, and select a route for you and your family.
Plan how all family members and pets will evacuate safely.
Consider any special needs for individuals with disabilities or the elderly.
Stay informed about changing weather conditions in and around your area.
For more information on these tips and other ways to prepare for the 2014 hurricane season, please visit: www.texasprepares.org.
Tornado Preparedness Information from the
Office of the Governor Rick Perry Committee on People with Disabilities
North Texas and Oklahoma have experienced various tornados in the past few weeks. Knowing what to do when you see a tornado, or when you hear a tornado warning, can help protect you and your family. During a tornado, people face hazards from extremely high winds and risk being struck by flying and falling objects. After a tornado, the wreckage left behind poses additional injury risks. Although nothing can be done to prevent tornadoes, there are actions you can take for your health and safety.
When there are thunderstorms in your area, turn on your radio or TV to get the latest emergency information from local authorities. Listen for announcements of a tornado watch or tornado warning.
Important Measures To Take
- Take a few minutes with your family to develop a tornado emergency plan. Sketch a floor plan of where you live, or walk through each room and discuss where and how to seek shelter.
- Show a second way to exit from each room or area. If you need special equipment, such as a rope ladder, mark where it is located.
- Make sure everyone understands the siren warning system, if there's such a system in your area.
- Mark where your first-aid kit and fire extinguishers are located.
- Mark where the utility switches or valves are located so they can be turned off--if time permits--in an emergency.
- Teach your family how to administer basic first aid, how to use a fire extinguisher, and how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity in your home.
- Learn the emergency dismissal policy for your child's school.
- Make sure your children know--
- What a tornado is
- What tornado watches and warnings are
- What county or parish they live in (warnings are issued by county or parish
- How to take shelter, whether at home or at school.
Extra Measures for People with Disabilities or those with Access and Functional Needs
- Write down your specific needs, limitations, capabilities, and medications. Keep this list near you always--perhaps in your purse or wallet.
- Find someone nearby (a spouse, roommate, friend, neighbor, relative, or co-worker) who will agree to assist you in case of an emergency. Give him or her a copy of your list. You may also want to provide a spare key to your home, or directions to find a key.
- Keep aware of weather conditions through whatever means are accessible to you. Some options are closed captioning or scrolled warnings on TV, radio bulletins, or call-in weather information lines.
Practicing Your Emergency Plan
- Conduct drills and ask questions to make sure your family remembers information on tornado safety, particularly how to recognize hazardous weather conditions and how to take shelter.
Writing Down Important Information
Make a list of important information. Include these on your list:
- Important telephone numbers, such as emergency (police and fire), paramedics, and medical centers.
- Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your insurance agents, including policy types and numbers. Telephone numbers of the electric, gas, and water companies.
- Names and telephone numbers of neighbors.
- Name and telephone number of your landlord or property manager.
- Important medical information (for example, allergies, regular medications, and brief medical history).
- Year, model, license, and identification numbers of your vehicles (automobiles, boats, and RVs).
- Bank's or credit union's telephone number, and your account numbers.
- Radio and television broadcast stations to tune to for emergency broadcast information.
Storing Important Documents
Store the following documents in a fire- and water-proof safe:
- Birth certificates
- Ownership certificates (autos, boats, etc.)
- Social security cards
- Insurance policies
- Household inventory
- List of contents of household; include serial numbers, if applicable
- Photographs or videotape of contents of every room
- Photographs of items of high values, such as jewelry, paintings, collection items
- Shutting Off Utilities
- After a tornado, DO NOT USE matches, lighters, or appliances, or operate light switches until you are sure there are no gas leaks. Sparks from electrical switches could ignite gas and cause an explosion.
- If you smell the odor of gas or if you notice a large consumption of gas being registered on the gas meter, shut off the gas immediately. First, find the main shut-off valve located on a pipe next to the gas meter. Use an adjustable wrench to turn the valve to the "off" position.
- After a major disaster, shut off the electricity. Sparks from electrical switches could ignite leaking gas and cause an explosion.
- Water may be turned off at either of two locations:
- At the main meter, which controls the water flow to the entire property.
- At the water main leading into the home. If you may need an emergency source of fresh water, it is better to shut off your water here, because it will conserve the water in your water heater.
- "L" brackets, corner brackets, or aluminum molding, to attach tall or top-heavy furniture to the wall.
- Eyebolts, to secure items located a short distance from the wall.
- Attach a valve wrench to the water line. (This tool can be purchased at most hardware stores.)
- Label the water mains for quick identification.
Arranging and Securing Household Items
- Arrange furniture so that chairs and beds are away from windows, mirrors, and picture frames.
- Place heavy or large items on lower shelves.
- Secure your large appliances, especially your water heater, with flexible cable, braided wire, or metal strapping.
- Identify top-heavy, free-standing furniture, such as bookcases and china cabinets, that could topple over.
- Secure your furniture by using one of two methods.
- Install sliding bolts or childproof latches on all cabinet doors.
- Store all hazardous materials such as poisons and solvents--
- in a sturdy, latched or locked cabinet
- in a well-ventilated area
- away from emergency food or water supplies
Texas Division of Emergency Management: Tornado Preparedness: http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem/Preparedness/tips/tornadoSafetyTips.htm
Accessible Content for Preparedness (American Sign Language): http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem/asl/
CDC Tornado Preparedness: http://www.cdc.gov/disasters/tornadoes/
FEMA Tornado Preparedness: http://www.ready.gov/tornadoes
Harris County Flood Control District’s Inaugral Flood Warning System Mobile Website
The Harris County Flood Control District has launched its inaugural Flood Warning System mobile website designed for quick and easy access to the Harris County Regional Flood Warning System at www.harriscountyfws.org. Residents can monitor rainfall and bayou/stream levels near their homes, places of work and daily commute routes on their mobile devices anytime and anywhere by accessing the mobile application.
Accessible Emergency Info
American Red Cross
Center Point Energy / Reliant Energy
Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities
Harris County Fire Marshal
Harris County Flood Control
Harris County Flood Warning System
Harris County Office of Emergency Management
Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services (HCPHES)
Metropolitan Transit Authority
National Hurricane Center
National Weather Service
Ozone Levels (TCEQ)
Texas Department of Transportation (DPS)
Texas Department of Transportation
TranStar Traffic Map
US Consumer Product Safety Commission
US Fire Administration