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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2016 Vol. 63 No. 1

TDI, insurers work at front lines to help consumers

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Texas insurers are often on the front lines talking with consumers in the aftermath of damaging storms like those that hit several areas of the state in May and October. The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) works closely with the companies to ensure that consumers get the help they need as quickly and efficiently as possible.

TDI and more than 100 insurance companies, trade groups and state agencies in the Texas State Disaster Coalition communicate regularly after a disaster about consumer needs and how claims services can quickly be delivered in distressed areas.

"We want the companies to get out there and help their policyholders as soon as it is safe," said Melissa Hield, TDI associate commissioner and coalition coordinator. "We direct companies to the Texas Department of Emergency Management website for updates during a disaster. We also have teleconferences throughout the year to maintain a robust communications network."

Insurers follow their own disaster response protocols, which may include setting up temporary claim centers in hard-hit areas.

Tornado Damage

In May, Governor Greg Abbott declared 113 Texas counties disaster areas after a month of destructive hail, straight-line winds, tornadoes and what the National Weather Service determined to be a 150- to 200-year flood that devastated Central Texas and parts of the Hill Country. Heavy rain hit the state again over Halloween weekend, bringing more damage to several already hard-hit areas.

TDI sent its first disaster response team into the field June 10, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency opened a disaster recovery center in Wimberley. Two-person teams also were deployed to Houston and Bastrop. The teams, which receive training before they go, serve for five days in the field before being replaced by a new team. They answer basic insurance questions, help consumers file claims or complaints, and distribute helpful publications. In addition, TDI staff help consumers at town hall meetings, evacuation shelters, community centers, and libraries.

“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,” Hield said.

More information about the Texas State Disaster Coalition, including members.


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