Preparation during hurricane season, protect against losses


Kimiko Fieg

Source: National Weather Service news release

• Hurricane Central

• National Hurricane Center

• National Weather Service Corpus Christi office

Hurricane Isaac's recent descent upon the Gulf Coast left a soggy, destructive scene in the storm's wake.

And, while the Crossroads steered clear of this storm's ravages, weather and insurance professionals still encouraged residents to remain vigilant throughout hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30.

Here are some helpful hints to protect yourself, your home and your business from storm destruction.

Know your coverage

Sit down with an insurance agent to make sure your policy is up-to-date. Home renovations, major electronics purchases and the like can make additional coverage necessary. Don't be afraid to ask questions, or even shop around for coverage. Flood insurance is not included in homeowners policies, but consider purchasing it even if you live outside the flood zone. Just remember it takes 30 days for the policy to go into effect.

Windstorm insurance, available through the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, goes into effect immediately but can not be purchased once a named storm enters the Gulf of Mexico. Renters should also consider purchasing coverage, which comes at low costs but will protect against loss or damage.

Homeowners: Have an emergency plan

Have supplies and emergency numbers on hand and know your evacuation plan. Follow evacuation orders from local officials and alert friends and family regarding where you plan to be. Keep your gas tank filled in case you must leave on short notice. Don't forget to factor the family pet into this plan.

Business owners: Have a catastrophe plan

Small business owners should know what they plan to do with their product in case of disaster, how they plan to place orders, whether they might be able to temporarily operate out of another location and so on. These are things many people haven't thought through. American Red Cross, which offers seminars, and insurance agents can offer helpful tips.

Stock up

Have enough nonperishable food and water to last a week and have prescription medicine and important documents on hand and in waterproof packaging. Be sure to have some cash available, in case outages keep you from accessing ATMs. Other important supplies include flashlights and batteries, extra clothing, kitchen supplies, sanitation supplies and matches in a waterproof container. Plastic storage bins are a handy way to store supplies and quickly load them into a car if necessary.

Take inventory

Document items inside your home or business through photos and video. Oftentimes people find themselves in shock after a natural disaster and unable to remember what items they lost. Not only will this help to jog your memory, but it will cut down on the amount of time it takes to file a claim.

Monitor the weather

Keep on top of what's churning in the Gulf, whether through TV broadcasts, websites or otherwise. Remember that social media can be a powerful tool. "Like" weather sources on Facebook or follow them on Twitter to keep up-to-date. If power goes out, old-fashioned weather radio is a tried and true option.

Take immediate post-storm measures

Contact your insurance company immediately after a disaster and document any damage with photos or video. Do not throw out damaged property until an adjuster has been out for an evaluation, but do take measures to prevent further damage, such as covering exposed areas of the home with tarps.

Don't let your guard down

Atlantic hurricane season began June 1, but we're just now approaching the peak. Already, 12 named storms and five hurricanes have joined the mix, but the largest ones tend to hit Texas in August and September. Keep supplies, food and water in order, just in case. A large hurricane hits the Crossroads every 25 years but, with 51 years since Hurricane Carla, experts say the region is overdue.

Sources: Amelia Taurel Folkes, community relations specialist with State Farm, Mark Hanna, spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas, John Metz, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, Official Texas Hurricane Guide, by the National Weather Service, and "What We Learned From Hurricane Ike" brochure by the Insurance Council of Texas