After 15 years of quiet, the Texas Gulf Coast woke up last year to the possibility of a windstorm so severe that it could devastate coastal property for years, affect the economy of the entire state, and strain the ability of the insurance industry to respond. The lessons of Rita and Katrina were not lost on independent agents, some of whom are still not back in business in their original locations.
To help ensure an adequate response from the insurance industry, the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas has published the Texas Agency Catastrophe Planning Guide for its member agents. While the guide covers various catastrophes, it is largely focused on establishing a quick-response aimed at getting IIAT member agencies back up and running after a hurricane.
Lee Loftis, IIAT government affairs director, said, “Rita was a reminder that it can happen here. Any agent along the Texas coast who doesn’t take steps to prepare agency staff and customers for a Katrina-like storm is likely to regret it.”
The Texas Agency Catastrophe Planning Guide offers a step-by-step plan that can be used to prepare a response plan for the agency. Included is information such as equipment checklists, communications tools and suggested post-storm claims procedures.
The guide also includes a host of easy-to-copy-and-use checklists that can be sent to clients encouraging pre-storm preparedness and past-storm action with tips about how to contact the agency when normal communication channels may be interrupted. In addition, the guide contains specific information about windstorm coverage provisions in Texas insurance polices for staff to use in dealing with customer questions during the claims process. Additional chapters address flood catastrophes, tornadoes and acts of terrorism in Texas communities.
Following Rita last fall, IIAT delivered equipment and supplies to more than 20 agencies affected by the storm, but it was clear, according to Loftis, that this kind of response would not serve the hundreds of agencies in more populous areas.
“We weren’t sure where to go with what assistance. We found we needed a system that would help us focus our efforts, and we found it in Florida,” said Loftis. The Florida Association of Insurance Agents had refined a response system that involved a network of agencies, and they have tested that response over several storms. With the help of both Florida and Texas agents, IIAT has developed a plan for Texas based on the Florida plan..
Hurricane Response Plan
The guide offers a detailed hurricane response plan that divides the Texas coastal area into six regions or zones, each of which will have an agent who will serve as a Zone Coordinator as a point of contact for IIAT. Each Zone Coordinator will assemble a Cat Team comprised of leaders who will help report damage and assess needs. Following a storm, Cat Team Leaders will pass information to their Zone Coordinator who will then contact IIAT with a damage and needs assessment.
In addition, Zone Coordinators and IIAT member agents not affected by the storm, will be able to provide assistance to affected agencies trying to restore operations. “After Rita, we had dozens of offers from agents who wanted to provide assistance to their fellow agents,” reported Loftis.
“Some agents wanted to provide supplies; some offered to open their office space to evacuated agents; some even wanted to help with claims on site. Agents are very generous when it comes to helping fellow agents in need,” said Loftis. “This response plan is based on agents helping agents.”
The six coastal zones include the following counties:
Zone 1 – Cameron, Willacy, Kenedy, Brooks, Hidalgo, Starr, Jim Hogg
Zone 2- Kleberg, Jim Wells, Nueces, San Patricio, Live Oak, Bee, Goliad, Karnes, Aransas, Refugio
Zone 3- Calhoun, Victoria, DeWitt, Lavaca, Jackson, Matagorda, Wharton, Colorado, Austin, Fort Bend Brazoria
Zone 4 – Harris, Waller, Washington, Liberty, San Jacinto, Brazos, Grimes, Montgomery, Madison, Walker
Zone 5 – Chambers, Galveston
Zone 6- Jefferson, Orange, Hardin, Newton, Jasper, Tyler, Polk, Trinity, Angelina, San Augustine, Sabine
IIAT is prepared to help agents in other counties of the state as well. Three additional zones will cover the rest of the state to help focus IIAT’s response to other catastrophes such as tornadoes and floods.
The Texas Agency Catastrophe Planning Guide will be available online beginning July 20 at iiat.org.
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