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EDITORIAL: Hurricane season is upon us; start preparing now

There’s a tropical storm heading east towards Florida. Its name is Dorian.

Roger Erickson with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles, Louisiana, said he and his team will be monitoring the storm closely, but it’s too early to tell if it will make its way to Southeast Texas.

Locals can hold off on boarding up windows a little while longer, but Dorian illustrates quite clearly that now is the time to prepare for future storms.

Erickson sat down with The Port Arthur News on Monday, along with other representatives of the Insurance Council of Texas to talk about what Texans along the coast can do to help ease some of the burdens and heartache that come with hurricane devastation. The ICT is making its 14th Hurricane Tour to educate homeowners on how best to be protected.

Felicia Van Frank, State Farm Insurance public affairs specialist, made her point clear: “Start preparing.”

“The season’s already started, but our season in Texas is just now starting to ramp up,” Frank said. “It’s so important to prepare for a storm.”

One of the first things homeowners can do right now is contact their insurance agents and talk about their coverage. Most policies cover liability, burglary, theft and fire, and many may also cover windstorm damages, but for Texans along the coast it is important to make sure that windstorm coverage is included. Flood insurance, however, is always a separate policy.

Frank said many homeowners do not keep an inventory of their property, but taking stock of property early will help the homeowner and the insurance company when it’s time to process claims on damage, especially when homeowners still reeling from a devastating storm might not be able to remember everything that was lost. A good start would be to make a video while rifling through closets and drawers.

Having a well built home can do wonders to avoid damage. Cliff Barros, director of communications and market development at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, studies best practices in home construction to withstand storms. IBHS offers tips on building in their Fortified program with guidelines that go beyond normal building codes, including using stronger nails, tight roof edges and a sealed roof deck. A certified Fortified home may also benefit from more marketability or qualify for insurance discounts or tax credits.

A more robustly constructed home has a better chance to qualify for a windstorm insurance policy from the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. To be eligible for TWIA insurance, homes along the Texas coast must adhere to building codes that include resistance to wind gusts as high as 130 mph. When building or remodeling, homeowners are encouraged to contact The Texas Department of Insurance before beginning construction so a qualified inspector can oversee the work.

Homeowners should be aware that many insurance policies might not take effect for 30 days after signing up. It is important to put all affairs in order now while Southeast Texas weathers hurricane season.