Insured homeowners in Eastern and Southern Coastal Texas have, on average, taken roughly 50 percent of the steps to prepare their homes and property to recover from a major hurricane, according to a new Hurricane Readiness Index.
Homeowners on the Texas coast are as prepared on average as those in the Gulf and Atlantic states, whose overall index rating from Texas to Maine is 48 percent. This shows that progress has been made in the region, reflecting Texans’ past experience with storms and the efforts of government and private groups to educate the public, but the survey found that further preparations still need to be made.
The survey also found that while 65 percent of Southern Coastal Texas residents know their homeowners insurance policies don’t cover floods, only 31 percent (less than half) said they have flood insurance. The same discrepancy exists in Eastern Coastal Texas, where 82 percent know their homeowners insurance policies don’t cover floods and only 42 percent have flood insurance.
Eastern Coastal Texas is defined as Beaumont to just east of Corpus Christi; Southern Coastal Texas is Corpus Christi to Brownsville.
“Homeowners along the Gulf Coast, who are more experienced with hurricane damage and preparedness, lead the nation in personal readiness, but the research shows that there are still steps that need to be taken,” said Dr. Bob Sheets, former director of the National Hurricane Center, who presented the poll at a news conference in Washington. “It’s good news that people there have taken a range of steps to get ready, but every coastal resident in the region should also consider what else needs to be done before they’re fully prepared.”
“The forecasters are pretty sure this could be a fierce hurricane season – with a better than average chance of a major hurricane (CAT 3, 4 or 5) hitting the U.S. this year,” Sheets added.
The numbers come from a survey taken after months of post-Katrina news stories and reports marking the start of this year’s hurricane season. “It’s not too late to get ready,” said Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), “but it’s close. There is a 30-day waiting period for federal flood insurance to take effect. So homeowners need to call their agents now to make sure their coverage is up to date. There are also things people can do that don’t cost a thing – it’s just a matter of getting it done now, while there’s still time.”
“We recognize that finding affordable homeowners insurance is becoming difficult in some coastal communities,” said Salvatore. “There are several different reasons for this – all of them rooted in increased costs and increased risk. Coastal property values and the cost of construction have soared in recent years, the cost of reinsurance has doubled for some insurers and forecasting models now show a historically high likelihood of a major storm hitting the coast this year – 56 to 100 percent higher than the annual odds over the last century.”
The poll, taken at the request of seven major insurance companies, surveyed 4,200 respondents in Gulf and Atlantic coastal communities over two weeks in mid-June. The margin of error on the survey-wide sample is +/- 1.5%.
The Hurricane Readiness Index for Eastern and Southern Coastal Texas was compiled from answers to eight specific preparedness questions, and revealed that coastal Texas is ahead of the curve in most areas, such as:
–Have a personal disaster evacuation plan or kit
–Reviewed homeowners insurance policies within the past 12 months
–Updated homeowners insurance policy in the past 5 years
–Made an inventory of their personal possessions
–Made improvements to their home to prepare for a hurricane
–Homeowners with insurance who have a separate flood policy
–Feel they have the “right amount” of insurance coverage
–Stored important documents in a safe place.
“Many more Texans on the Gulf Coast have climbed that learning curve since Rita in preparing themselves for this hurricane season,” said Jerry Johns of the Southwestern Insurance Information Service, “but the Hurricane Readiness 2006 survey tells us there’s a lot more to do for this hurricane season – especially when it comes to the right amount and the right kind of homeowners insurance.”
“Reliable estimates reveal that 50-70 percent of Texas residents do not have enough insurance to rebuild their home to its current condition. Many people have faced this tragic situation in Texas and found the experience to be heart wrenching,” Johns said.
The companies sponsoring the poll are Allstate, The Hartford, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, State Farm, Travelers and USAA.
Each company has ongoing education programs, as does the non-profit Insurance Information Institute, which launched an updated consumer education Web site, www.disasterinformation.org. It provides readiness tips, helps assess appropriate levels of insurance, and provides free easy-to-use software to help homeowners inventory and document their possessions.
The Southwestern Insurance Information Service Web site, www.siisinfo.org, also has state-specific information.
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