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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2015 Vol. 62 No. 6

Partner Agency: Disaster response a team effort at the Texas Department of Insurance

The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) is always ready to kick into high gear to help consumers with insurance issues following a disaster or storm.

TDI set up a table in a home improvement store in Brownsville

TDI set up a table in a home improvement store in Brownsville to help consumers after Hurricane Dolly.

In recent years, TDI has helped Texans through more than 20 storms and disasters, including hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike; the Bastrop wildfire; and the West explosion. With each disaster response effort, the agency’s goal is to ensure that consumers receive prompt, fair and responsive service from their insurance companies.

“We understand the importance of helping consumers get back on their feet after a disaster, and we want to do what we can to help with that process,” said Melissa Hield, the associate commissioner of TDI’s Consumer Protection program.

TDI is usually among the first organizations to set up in a disaster area after local authorities have said it’s safe to enter. TDI staff establish a presence in hardware stores, school gyms, or alongside TDEM and FEMA, to answer consumers’ questions, help them file claims or complaints, and distribute educational information.

In the seven months following Hurricane Ike, more than 250 TDI staff members worked at 60 FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers in 33 cities and helped more than 8,000 consumers.

TDI and other organizations helped consumers in a parking lot

In the immediate days after Hurricane Ike, TDI and other organizations helped consumers in a parking lot before moving indoors.

Beyond the assistance TDI provides to consumers in the field, staff from all areas at TDI play an active part in the agency’s disaster response efforts. They post current information to the agency’s website, issue press releases, extend the hours for TDI’s toll-free Consumer Help Line, monitor insurance company response and solvency, investigate potential fraud, issue emergency licenses to adjusters, help local jurisdictions with safety inspections, and provide fire and windstorm inspections.

But TDI doesn’t only respond to disasters, it also prepares for them. Before a major storm strikes Texas, TDI staff work in shifts at the State Operations Center to be involved in the coordination process with TDEM and the Emergency Management Council.

TDI staff help a consumer in a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center

TDI staff help a consumer in a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center after Hurricane Dolly.

Throughout the year, TDI participates in TDEM’s disaster preparedness exercises and coordinates quarterly conference call meetings with the Texas State Disaster Coalition (TSDC).

TDI created TSDC in 2001 to ensure insurance companies, state agencies, and volunteer organizations are sharing information and collaborating on disaster response efforts. During a disaster response, TDI hosts daily conference call meetings with TSDC to update them on the situation, which allows them to make plans to deploy their catastrophe teams and adjusters to the disaster area.

Learn more about TDI through its website, www.tdi.texas.gov, or by calling the Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439.


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