Category Archives: Personal Insurance

Are You Prepared…for a Hurricane?

Hurricanes are capable of producing winds in excess of 155 miles per hour and causing catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Additionally, hurricanes can also lead to storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.

All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October.  While the past few years have been quiet for our region, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for a potential storm.

Before a Hurricane

To prepare for a hurricane, take the following measures:

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan. Contact Texas Associates Insurors if you would like us to provide you with an emergency kit checklist or sample family communications plan.
  • Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone. This will help you know how your property will be affected when a storm surge or tidal flooding are forecasted.
  • Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.
  • Make plans to secure your property.
  • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well-trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Reinforce your garage doors. If wind enters a garage, it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Install a generator for emergencies.
  • If in a high-rise building, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
  • Consider building a safe room.

Hurricanes cause heavy rains that can cause extensive flood damage in coastal and inland areas. Everyone is at risk and should consider flood insurance protection. Flood insurance is the only way to financially protect your property or business from flood damage. To learn more about your flooding risk and how to protect yourself and your business, contact Texas Associates Insurors.

Know the Terms

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a hurricane hazard:

Tropical Cyclone: A warm-core, non-frontal, synoptic-scale cyclone, originating over tropical or subtropical waters, with organized deep convection and a closed surface wind circulation about a well-defined center. Once formed, a tropical cyclone is maintained by the extraction of heat energy from the ocean at high temperature and heat export at the low temperatures of the upper troposphere.

Tropical Depression: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 38 mph (33 knots) or less.

Tropical Storm: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed (using the U.S. 1-minute average) ranges from 39 mph (34 knots) to 73 mph (63 knots).

Hurricane: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 74 mph (64 knots) or more.

Storm Surge: An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm, and whose height is the difference between the observed level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the cyclone. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal or astronomic high tide from the observed storm tide. Storm surge can reach heights well over 20 feet and can span hundreds of miles of coastline.

Storm Tide: The actual level of seawater resulting from the astronomic tide combined with the storm surge.

Hurricane Warning: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of storm-force winds.

Hurricane Watch: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of storm-force winds.

Tropical Storm Warning: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected somewhere within the specified area within 36 hours.

Tropical Storm Watch: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified area within 48 hours.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

Scale Number (Category)

Sustained Winds (MPH)

Damage

1

74-95

Very dangerous winds will produce some damage

  • Minor damage to exterior of homes
  • Toppled tree branches, uprooting of smaller trees
  • Extensive damage to power lines, power outages

2

96-110

Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage

  • Major damage to exterior of homes
  • Uprooting of small trees and many roads blocked
  • Guaranteed power outages for long periods of time–days to weeks

3

111-129

Devastating damage will occur

  • Extensive damage to exterior of homes
  • Many trees uprooted and many roads blocked
  • Extremely limited availability of water and electricity

4

130-156

Catastrophic damage will occur

  •  Loss of roof structure and/or some exterior walls
  •  Most trees uprooted and most power lines down
  •  Isolated residential due to debris pile up
  •  Power outages lasting for weeks to months

5

157+

Catastrophic damage will occur

  • A high percentage of homes will be destroyed
  • Fallen trees and power lines isolate residential areas
  • Power outages lasting for weeks to months
  • Most areas will be uninhabitable

For more information on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, visit the National Hurricane Center.

During a Hurricane

If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Moor your boat if time permits.
  • Keep a supply of water for sanitary purposes, such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water.
  • Find out how to keep food safe during and after an emergency.

You should evacuate under the following conditions:

  • If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.
  • If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure. These shelters are particularly hazardous during hurricanes, no matter how well-fastened to the ground.
  • If you live in a high-rise building. Hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
  • If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river or on an island waterway.

If you are unable to evacuate, go to your wind-safe room. If you do not have one, follow these guidelines:

  • Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors.
  • Close all interior doors, and secure and brace external doors.
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm and winds will pick up again.
  • Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level.
  • Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
  • Avoid elevators.

After a Hurricane

  • Continue listening to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news for the latest updates.
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
  • If you have become separated from your family, use your family communications plan or contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS/1-800-733-2767 or visit the American Red Cross Safe and Well site: www.safeandwell.org.
  • The American Red Cross also maintains a database to help you find family. Contact the local American Red Cross chapter where you are staying for information. Do not contact the chapter in the disaster area.
  • If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe.
  • If you cannot return home and have immediate housing needs, text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area. (example: shelter 12345).
  • For those who have longer-term housing needs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers several types of assistance, including services and grants to help people repair their homes and find replacement housing. Apply for assistance or search for information about housing rental resources.
  • Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed¬out bridges. Stay off the streets. If you must go out, watch for fallen objects including downed electrical wires, weakened walls, bridges, roads and sidewalks.
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company.
  • Walk carefully around the outside your home and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage before entering.
  • Stay out of any building if you smell gas, and if floodwaters remain around the building or your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe.
  • Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
  • Use battery-powered flashlights in the dark. Do NOT use candles. Keep in mind that the flashlight should be turned on outside before entering, as the battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.
  • Watch your pets closely and keep them under your direct control. Watch out for wild animals, especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.
  • Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated.
  • Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to avoid injury.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • NEVER use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.

In addition to insuring your home, we are committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when disaster strikes. If you would like more information on developing a family emergency plan or building a disaster supply kit, please contact Texas Associates Insurors at 512-328-7676 or http://www.txassoc.com today.

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Are You Prepared…for Wildfires?

Many homeowners face the risk of wildfires, which are usually triggered by lightning or accidents. They spread quickly, igniting brush, trees and homes. Some homes survive, but unfortunately, many others do not. Those that survive almost always do so because their owners had prepared for fire. Reduce your risk by preparing now to protect your family, home and property.

Preparing Your Home for a Wildfire

The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property in the event of a fire.

  • Design and landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind. Select materials and plants that can help contain fire rather than fuel it.
    • Use fire-resistant or noncombustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of your house, or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking or trim with fire-retardant chemicals evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
    • Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees. For example, hardwood trees are less flammable than pine, evergreen, eucalyptus or fir trees.
  • Regularly clean your roof and gutters; remove any debris that could catch fire.
  • Inspect your chimneys at least twice a year, and clean them at least once a year. Keep the dampers in good working order. Equip chimneys and stovepipes with a spark arrester that meets the requirements of National Fire Protection Association Standard 211. Contact your local fire department for exact specifications.
  • Install 1/8-inch mesh screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas and the home itself to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating. You should also cover openings to floors, roof and attic with mesh screens to prevent sparks and embers from entering your home.
  • Install a dual-sensor smoke alarm on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms; test it every month and change the batteries at least once each year.
  • Teach your family members how to use a fire extinguisher (ABC type), and show them where it’s kept.
  • Keep household items available that can be used as fire tools, such as rake, axe, handsaw or chain saw, bucket and shovel.
  • Keep a ladder that will reach the roof in case a family member ends up on the roof of a burning house.
  • Consider installing protective shutters or heavy fire-resistant drapes.
  • Move flammable items away from the house and outside of your defensible space, including woodpiles, lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc.

Plan Your Water Needs

  • Identify and maintain an adequate outside water source, such as a small pond, cistern, well, swimming pool or hydrant.
  • Have a garden hose that is long enough to reach any area of the home and other structures on the property.
  • Install freeze-proof exterior water outlets on at least two sides of the home and near other structures on the property. Install additional outlets at least 50 feet from the home.
  • Consider obtaining a portable gasoline-powered pump in case electrical power is cut off.

It is recommended that you create a 30- to 100-foot safety zone around your home. Within this area, you can take steps to reduce potential exposure to flames and radiant heat. Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum safety zone of 100 feet. If your home sits on a steep slope, standard protective measures may not be enough. Contact your local fire department or forestry office for additional information.

  • Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs. Clear all flammable vegetation. Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.
  • Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.
  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.
  • Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.
  • Remove vines from the walls of the home.
  • Mow grass regularly.
  • Clear a 10-foot area around propane tanks and the barbecue. Place a screen over the grill, made of nonflammable material with mesh no coarser than 1/4 inch.
  • Regularly dispose of newspapers and rubbish at an approved site. Follow local burning regulations.
  • Place stove, fireplace and grill ashes in a metal bucket and soak them in water for two days, then bury the cold ashes in mineral soil.
  • Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans. Place the cans in a safe location away from the base of buildings.
  • Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home. Clear combustible material within 20 feet of a woodpile. Use only wood-burning devices evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Review your homeowner’s insurance policy and prepare or update a list of your home’s contents.

Follow Local Burning Laws

  • Before burning debris in a wooded area, make sure you notify local authorities and obtain a burning permit.
  • Use an approved incinerator with a safety lid or covering with holes no larger than 3/4 inch.
  • Create at least a 10-foot clearing around the incinerator before burning debris.
  • Have a fire extinguisher or garden hose on hand when burning debris.

Your best resource for proper planning is www.firewise.org, which has outstanding information used every day by residents, property owners, fire departments, community planners, builders, public policy officials, water authorities, architects and others to ensure safety from fire. Firewise workshops are offered for free across the nation in large and small communities. Free Firewise materials can be obtained by anyone interested.

During a Wildfire

If you are advised to evacuate, do so immediately. Take your disaster supply kit, lock your home and choose a route away from the fire hazard. Watch for changes in the speed and direction of the fire and smoke. Tell someone when you left and where you are going.

If you see a wildfire and haven’t received evacuation orders yet, call 911. Don’t assume that someone else has already called. Describe the location of the fire, speak slowly and clearly and answer any questions the dispatcher asks.

If you are not ordered to evacuate, and have time to prepare your home, FEMA recommends that you take the following actions:

  • Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area in case you need to evacuate.
  • Wear protective clothing when outside, such as sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothes, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
  • Gather fire tools such as a rake, axe, handsaw or chainsaw, bucket and shovel.
  • Close outside attic, eaves and basement vents, windows, doors and other openings. Remove flammable drapes and curtains. Close all shutters, blinds or heavy non-combustible window coverings to reduce radiant heat.
  • Close all doors inside the house to prevent drafts. Open the damper on your fireplace, but close the fireplace screen.
  • Shut off any natural gas, propane or fuel oil supplies at the source.
  • Connect garden hoses to outdoor water faucets and fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs or other large containers with water.
  • Place lawn sprinklers on the roof and near aboveground fuel tanks. Leave sprinklers on and dowse these structures as long as possible.
  • If you have gas-powered pumps for water, make sure they are fueled and ready.
  • Place a ladder in clear view against the house.
  • Disconnect any automatic garage door openers so that doors can still be opened by hand if the power goes out. Close all garage doors.
  • Place valuable papers, mementos and anything “you can’t live without” inside the car in the garage, ready for quick departure. Any pets still with you should also be put in the car.
  • Place valuables that will not be damaged by water in a pool or pond.
  • Move flammable furniture into the center of the home away from the windows and sliding glass doors.
  • Turn on outside lights and leave a light on in every room to make the house more visible in heavy smoke.

Surviving a Wildfire

Survival in a Vehicle

This is dangerous and should only be done in an emergency, but you can survive a fire if you stay in your car. It is much less dangerous than trying to run from a fire on foot.

  • Roll up the windows and close the air vents. Drive slowly with your headlights on. Watch for other vehicles and pedestrians. Do not drive through heavy smoke.
  • If you have to stop, park away from the heaviest trees and brush. Turn your headlights on and ignition off. Make sure your windows are rolled up and your air vents are closed.
  • Get on the floor and cover up with a blanket or coat.
  • Stay in the car until the main fire passes. Do not run!
  • Remember that your engine may stall and not restart, air currents may rock the car, some smoke and sparks may enter the vehicle and the temperature inside will increase. Keep in mind that metal gas tanks and containers rarely explode.

If You Are Trapped at Home

  • If you find yourself trapped inside your home, stay inside and away from outside walls. Close the doors, but leave them unlocked. Keep your entire family together and remain calm.

If Caught in the Open

  • The best temporary shelter is in a sparse area with few trees or other things that burn easily. On a steep mountainside, the back side is safer. Avoid canyons and natural “chimneys.”
  • If a road is nearby, lie face down along the road or in the ditch. Cover yourself with anything that will shield you from the fire’s heat.
  • If hiking in the backcountry, look for a depression in the ground with few trees or other fuel sources. Clear fuel away from the area while the fire is approaching and then lie face down in the depression and cover yourself. Stay down until after the fire passes.

After a Wildfire

The following are guidelines for what to do in the period following a fire.

  • Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • If you are with burn victims, or are a burn victim yourself, call 911 or seek help immediately. Cool and cover burns to reduce chance of further injury or infection.
  • If you remained at home, check the roof immediately after the fire danger has passed. Put out any roof fires, sparks or embers. Check the attic for hidden burning sparks.
  • For several hours after the fire, maintain a “fire watch.” Re-check for smoke and sparks throughout the house.
  • If you have evacuated, do not enter your home until fire officials say it is safe.
  • If a building inspector has placed a color-coded sign on your home, do not enter until you get more information about what the sign means and whether it is safe to enter your home.
  • If you must leave your home because a building inspector says the building is unsafe, ask someone you trust to watch the property during your absence.
  • Use caution when entering burned areas as hazards may still exist, including hot spots, which can flare up without warning.
  • If you detect heat or smoke when entering a damaged building, evacuate immediately.
  • If you have a safe or strongbox, do not try to open it. It can hold intense heat for several hours. If the door is opened before the box has cooled, the contents could burst into flames.
  • Avoid damaged or fallen power lines, poles and downed wires.
  • Watch for ash pits and mark them for safety. Warn family and neighbors to keep clear of the pits.
  • Watch your pets closely and keep them under your direct control. Hidden embers and hot spots could burn them.
  • Follow public health guidance on safe cleanup of fire ash and safe use of masks.
  • Dampen debris to minimize inhaling dust particles.
  • Wear leather gloves and heavy-soled shoes to protect your hands and feet.
  • Properly dispose of cleaning products, paint, batteries and damaged fuel containers to avoid risk.
  • Discard any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke or soot.
  • Do NOT use water that you think may be contaminated to wash dishes, brush your teeth, prepare food, wash your hands, make ice or make baby formula.
  • You may find yourself in the position of taking charge of other people. Listen carefully to what people are telling you, and deal patiently with urgent situations first.

Hazards After Wildfires: Floods and Landslides

Large-scale wildfires dramatically alter the terrain and ground conditions, and can cause greater risk of flooding. Normally, vegetation absorbs rainfall, reducing runoff. However, wildfires leave the ground charred, barren and unable to absorb water, creating conditions ripe for flash flooding and mudflow, which can cause significant damage. These types of floods are often more severe than flooding from storms, because debris and ash left from the fire can form mudflows. Mudflows can also be formed when rainwater picks up soil and sediment from the damaged ground. Flood risk remains significantly higher until vegetation is restored—up to five years after a wildfire.

In addition to insuring your home, we are committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when disaster strikes. If you would like more information on developing a family emergency plan or building a disaster supply kit, please contact Texas Associates Insurors at 512-328-7676 or http://www.txassoc.com today.

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Dog Bite Liability

According to the CDC, approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs every year, and around 17 percent of those victims require medical care. Sadly, between 10 and 20 of these incidents eventually result in death.

To curb dog bites, some communities around the United States have banned certain breeds that are perceived to be more dangerous or have a track record of violence. These laws most commonly apply to pit bulls and rottweilers.

Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bites. However, if you own a breed that has been historically violent, you may have to pay an increased premium (even if your dog has not displayed any violent behavior). If your dog has passed obedience school tests, you may qualify for a premium discount.

It is difficult to determine how a dog’s breed will predict its disposition, much like it is hard to predict how nature versus nurture plays a role in the development of a child. Watch your dog’s behavior closely and contact your veterinarian if your dog exhibits any of the following behaviors: growling, snapping, biting family members, aggression towards strangers or showing signs of extreme fear. Your vet can refer you to a veterinary behavior specialist. While the dog is going through treatment, be extra cautious while in public and consider placing a basket muzzle over the dog’s mouth.

No dog breed is guaranteed to be attack-or bite-free. Let Texas Associates Insurors educate you on your insurance needs to protect you from a costly dog bite lawsuit.

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All About Gap Coverage

Guaranteed Asset Protection, or “gap” insurance, is an optional automobile coverage that helps you transfer the financial risk if you are involved in an auto accident and you owe more for your vehicle than the amount that it’s worth. This is referred to as being “upside-down.”

Car owners often assume that if their car is totaled, it will be replaced at the amount they paid, or at least the amount they owe. This is not always the case. Since a new car’s value drops significantly the minute it’s driven off the lot, if you are involved in an accident that totals your vehicle in the first few years you own your vehicle, you may find yourself owing the finance company more than the vehicle’s actual value. Gap insurance provides for the “gap” between the two amounts.

Gap coverage isn’t for everybody. Vehicle lessees should strongly consider the coverage because there is no trade-in value and little cash put down. It may not be necessary for used vehicle buyers who pay a decent down payment up front. For new car buyers, it is a great idea for those who paid no down payment or only put a small amount of money down

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Are You Prepared…for Tornadoes?

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can cause fatalities and devastate a neighborhood in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunderstorm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Every state is at some risk from this hazard. Some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others. Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that little, if any, advance warning is possible. Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.

Before a Tornado

  • To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communication plan. Please contact Texas Associates Insurors if you would like us to provide you with an emergency kit checklist or sample family communication plan.
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions. Look for approaching storms.
  • Look for the following danger signs:
  • Dark, often greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • A large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating)
  • Loud roar, similar to a freight train.
  • If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

Build a Safe Room

Extreme windstorms in many parts of the country pose a serious threat to buildings and their occupants. Your residence may be built “to code,” but that does not mean it can withstand winds from extreme events such as tornadoes and major hurricanes. The purpose of a safe room or a wind shelter is to provide a space where you and your family can seek refuge that provides a high level of protection. You can build a safe room in one of several places in your home:

  • Your basement
  • Atop a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or garage floor
  • An interior room on the first floor

Safe rooms built below ground level provide the greatest protection, but a safe room built in a first-floor interior room can also provide the necessary protection. Below-ground safe rooms must be designed to avoid accumulating water during the heavy rains that often accompany severe windstorms.

To protect its occupants, a safe room must be built to withstand high winds and flying debris, even if the rest of the residence is severely damaged or destroyed. Consider the following when building a safe room:

  • The safe room must be adequately anchored to resist overturning and uplift.
  • The walls, ceiling and door of the shelter must withstand wind pressure and resist penetration by windborne objects and falling debris.
  • The connections between all parts of the safe room must be strong enough to resist the wind.
  • Sections of either interior or exterior residence walls that are used as walls of the safe room must be separated from the structure of the residence so that damage to the residence will not cause damage to the safe room.

During a Tornado

If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately. Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head.

If you are:

Then:

In a structure (e.g., residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building)
  • Go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Put on sturdy shoes.
  • Do not open windows.
In a trailer or mobile home
  • Get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a nearby sturdy building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
Outside with no shelter
  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter.
  • If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
  • If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway, leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado in a car or truck in urban or congested areas. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

 

After a Tornado

Injury may result from the direct impact of a tornado, or it may occur afterward when people walk among debris and enter damaged buildings. A study of injuries after a tornado in Marion, Illinois, showed that 50 percent of the tornado-related injuries were suffered during rescue attempts, cleanup and other post-tornado activities. Nearly one-third of those injuries resulted from stepping on nails. Because tornadoes often damage power lines, gas lines and electrical systems, there is a risk of fire, electrocution or explosion. Protecting yourself and your family requires promptly treating any injuries suffered during the storm and using extreme care to avoid further hazards.

Do not attempt to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Get medical assistance immediately. If someone has stopped breathing, begin CPR if you are trained to do so. Stop a bleeding injury by applying direct pressure to the wound. Have puncture wounds evaluated by a physician. If you are trapped, try to attract attention to your location.

General Safety Precautions

Here are some safety precautions that could help you avoid injury after a tornado:

  • Continue to monitor your battery-powered radio or television for emergency information.
  • Be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.
  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.
  • Be aware of hazards from exposed nails and broken glass.
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines. Report electrical hazards to the police and the utility company.
  • Use battery-powered lanterns rather than candles, if possible, to light homes without electrical power. If you use candles, make sure they are in safe holders away from curtains, paper, wood or other flammable items. Never leave a candle burning when you are out of the room.
  • Never use generators, pressure washers, grills, camp stoves or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage or camper—or even outside near an open window, door or vent. These devices can produce carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if it builds up inside your home. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseated.
  • Hang up displaced telephone receivers that may have been knocked off by the tornado, but stay off the telephone, except to report an emergency.
  • Cooperate fully with public safety officials.
  • Respond to requests for volunteer assistance by police, fire fighters, emergency management and relief organizations, but do not go into damaged areas unless assistance has been requested. Your presence could hamper relief efforts and you could endanger yourself.

Inspecting the Damage

  • After a tornado, be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards in your home. Contact your local city or county building inspectors for information on structural safety codes and standards. They may also offer suggestions on finding a qualified contractor to do work for you.
  • In general, if you suspect any damage to your home, shut off electrical power, natural gas and propane tanks to avoid fire, electrocution or explosions.
  • If it is dark when you are inspecting your home, use a flashlight rather than a candle or torch to avoid the risk of fire or explosion in a damaged home.
  • If you see frayed wiring or sparks, or if there is an odor of something burning, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker if you have not done so already.
  • If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows and leave the house immediately. Notify the gas company, the police or fire departments or the State Fire Marshal’s office and do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to your house until you are told it is safe to do so.

Safety During Cleanup

  • Wear long sleeves, gloves, and sturdy shoes or boots.
  • Learn proper safety procedures and operating instructions before operating any gas-powered or electric-powered saws or tools.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, drugs, flammable liquids and other potentially hazardous materials.

In addition to insuring your home, we are committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when disaster strikes. If you would like more information on developing a family emergency plan or building a disaster supply kit, please contact Texas Associates Insurors at 512-328-7676 or http://www.txassoc.com today.

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Why Do I Need Flood Insurance?

When floodwater from a severe, week-long storm started pouring through the walls of Becky Bentley’s house, she knew she had to get out fast. In the short time it took her and her son to run upstairs to grab the family cat, the rapidly rising water trapped them on the second floor of their home.

With the help of a neighbor, they manage to escape. But when the water receded and Becky finally returned to her Atlanta property, she discovered most of the contents and drywall were unsalvageable. She thought her homeowners insurance would cover the losses; but found out most standard homeowners policies do not cover flood damage.

“The water got so high, everything was just destroyed,” Becky told the National Flood Insurance Program. “I didn’t have flood insurance because I wasn’t in a flood plain, so we were told we didn’t need it.”

Floods are the number one natural disaster in the United States. While some regions, such as coastal areas, are more flood-prone than others, the unpredictability of climate change exposes all property to some risk. And torrential rainfall isn’t the only culprit. Flooding is also caused by mudflows, rapid snowmelt during spring and ice jams during winter.

Even an inch of water can cause thousands of dollars in damage, shocking those who find out flood losses are specifically excluded from their homeowners and personal umbrella policies.

Flood insurance provides the protection you need to cover losses after a flood ravages your property. The cost of premiums vary based on the amount of coverage you need, what’s covered and your property’s flood risk.

New flood insurance policies usually have a 30-day waiting period, so don’t delay in protecting one of your most valuable assets—your home. Contact Texas Associates Insurors today for more information on flood insurance.

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Top 10 Mistakes Teen Drivers Make

Cars.com, in conjunction with DriversEd.com, America’s leading drivers education resource and solution, have identified the 10 most common mistakes teen drivers make. “There are a number of factors that lead to an increase in accidents for teen drivers, including inexperience, dealing with emergency situations, distracted driving and the inclination to show off for friends,” said DriversEd.com founder Gary Tsifrin. “By recognizing these common mistakes, we hope that teenagers will be able to avoid the risks associated with being a teenager behind the wheel.”

The most common mistakes are:

  • Being distracted behind the wheel
    Cell phones, CDs, food and even text messages can pose serious distractions to drivers. In some cases, drivers will even text message their backseat passengers. Distracted driving contributes to 80 percent of collisions.
  • Taking too many risks
    Actions like ignoring traffic signals or school zone signs and changing lanes without checking blind spots are all considered “risky behavior.” The difference between risky behavior and distracted driving is that risky behavior is deliberate, while distracted driving is often the result of ignorance.
  • Speeding
    Most drivers occasionally speed, but teens do so because they don’t have a good sense of how a car’s speed can affect their response time. On average, teens drive faster than all other drivers as a whole. They will exceed speeds on residential roads that they interpret as empty because they haven’t had any close calls there. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that speeding factored into roughly one-third of all fatal crashes in 2005 when teenagers were behind the wheel – some 50 percent more than it did in fatal crashes for 20- to 49-year-olds.
  • Overcrowding the car
    Teens frequently overcrowd their cars, cramming five or six into a cabin meant to seat four or five. Worse yet, the extra passengers often result in teens driving more aggressively. The distractions of carrying too many passengers can have serious consequences as well.
  • Driving under the influence
    When teens drink and drive, they’re even less likely to practice safe habits like seat belt usage: Of the 15- to 20-year-olds killed after drinking and driving in 2003, 74 percent were unrestrained, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Because teenagers are too young to drink legally, they’re also less likely to call their parents to come get them when they shouldn’t drive.
  • Following too closely
    Maintaining a proper following distance is a critical step in preventing accidents. At 60 mph, a typical car needs between 120 and 140 feet to reach a full stop. Most SUVs require an extra 5 to 10 feet on top of that. Consider that 60 mph translates to 88 feet per second and it’s easy to see why maintaining a proper following distance is a critical step in preventing accidents.
  • Driving unbuckled
    A 2003 survey by NHTSA reported that 79 percent of drivers ages 16 to 24 said they wore their seat belts regularly, while 84 percent of the overall population did so. Approximately 21 percent of young drivers do not wear their seat belts regularly. Many young drivers have a sense of invincibility that also factors into teen speeding. Fortunately, many cars today have seat belt reminders that flash warning lights or chime until belts are secured. Call them annoying, but they help keep occupants buckled.
  • Not being able to handle emergencies
    Knowing how to avoid an accident comes with driving experience. Young drivers can only learn so much in the classroom, which leaves learning maneuvers like straightening out a skid or how to apply the brakes correctly to real-world experience. Speeding and distracted driving only make things worse, as they compound the lack of experience by putting drivers at higher risk of encountering an emergency situation in the first place.
  • Driving drowsy
    Drowsy driving affects an unlikely group: the so-called “good kids.” That means straight-A students or those with a full plate of extracurricular activities. Overachievers have a lot of pressure. If they’re playing varsity sports and are also preparing for an AP English exam, and if they’ve been going since 7 a.m. and now it’s midnight and they have to get home, they don’t think, “I’m too tired to drive.”
  • Choosing the wrong car and not maintaining it
    Too often, a combination of tight budgets and high style leads teens to pass up important safety features for larger engines and flashy accessories. A teen or novice driver will opt for a cool-looking sports car rather than a car that’s really a safer choice. Then, if they sink all their money into it, they might be remiss in maintaining it.
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Is Your Pooch Considered Dangerous?

Accidents involving dog bites cost the insurance industry over $350 million per year and are now the largest cause of Homeowners Insurance claims in the U.S. As a result, many breeds are considered “uninsurable” or may require heightened premiums.

Notoriously Dangerous Breeds

The following dog pedigrees are considered dangerous:

  • Pit Bull
  • Rottweiler
  • German Shepherd
  • Husky
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Wolf-dog Hybrid
  • Chow Chow
  • Doberman
  • Saint Bernard
  • Great Dane
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Siberian Husky
  • Akita
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Perro de Presa Canario

Owner Responsibilities

It is difficult to determine how a dog’s breed will predict its disposition, much like it is hard to predict how nature versus nurture plays a role in the development of a child.

To minimize the risk that your dog will display aggressive behavior towards other dogs or humans, you must be a responsible pet owner and do the following:

  • Restrain your dog with a strong leash when in public or fenced in while in the yard. The fence should be at least six to eight-feet tall, depending on your dog’s size.
  • Socialize your dog as a puppy with other dogs and people. Take him/her to puppy classes starting at a young age, and praise your dog when he/she behaves well with others.
  • Spay or neuter your dog, as 80 percent of all fatal attacks are caused by non-neutered male dogs. Fixing a dog alters its territorial instincts and aggression.
  • Train the dog not to bite your hands, furniture, etc. If your dog starts to growl or chew on something, clap your hands loudly to distract him/her and then provide a toy for the dog to play with. Praise the dog when he/she chews on toys only.
  • Give your dog lots of positive attention.
  • Properly identify your dog with tags and a microchip.

Watch your dog’s behavior closely and contact your veterinarian if he/she exhibits any of the following behaviors: growling, snapping, biting family members, being aggressive towards strangers or showing signs of extreme fear. Your vet can refer you to a veterinary behavior specialist. While the dog is going through treatment, be extra cautious while in public and consider placing a basket muzzle over the dog’s mouth.

Insurance can usually be obtained for most dogs; however, there are some limitations. If you own a breed that has been historically violent, you may have to pay an increased premium (even if your dog has not displayed any violent behavior). If your dog has passed obedience school tests, you may qualify for a premium discount.

Here are the Facts:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs annually, and around 17 percent of those victims need medical care. There are also 10 to 20 people who do not survive the attack. The CDC claims that dog bites are an “epidemic” in America.

To curb dog bites, some communities around the U.S. have banned certain dogs as pets, as they are perceived to be more dangerous or a have track record of violence. This specifically applies to Pit Bulls and Rottweilers.

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5 Most Common Insurance Claims

Insurance claims are made every day. Looking at the most common claims made just goes to show exactly how much of what’s important to us in our everyday lives can be protected by purchasing insurance.

Wedding Insurance

A majority of wedding insurance claims are made for lost deposits. This can be a hotel closing down, a caterer failing to show or an absentee photographer. All nightmare situations, but thankfully all covered under the policy. After that it’s illness or injury, usually when it results in the wedding having to be rearranged.

Pet Insurance

A recent study has found that in a two-year period, four in ten pet insurance policy holders made a claim against their policy. The majority of these claims, 70%, are for pet illness or accident and injury.

Auto Insurance

There are a number of situations that can result in a claim against your auto insurance, but by far the most common are fender benders. Minor accidents like those that occur in parking lots or at stop signs. Usually damage is minimal and more of an inconvenience, but making a claim rather than paying for the repair yourself is a good way to test the full extent of your policy and become familiar with the claims policy.

Home Insurance

Claims against home insurance can be weather damage, theft or fire however the most popular claim is water damage. Claims for water damage make for almost 69% of claims, mainly as a result of faulty plumbing rather than flooding.

Cell Phones

Many people don’t know that they can protect their phone with a specialized policy, but as technology becomes more advanced phones are becoming more important and so many are opting to purchase insurance. A recent study has revealed an alarmingly high claim rate against these insurance policies – mainly for damage. It’s estimated that 51% of mobile devices given as Christmas presents have been damaged in some way already. In fact the overall majority of claims are made within the first four months of ownership.

So looking at the most common insurance claims, do you have the right protection for these circumstances? You never know, you may have to make one of these claims yourself.

If you have insurance questions, click here to ask an expert

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5 Ways to Spring Clean Your Insurance Policy

With Spring finally in the air, it’s only natural to take a look around you and look for areas to make a fresh start in. Your insurance policy is one area you should regularly tend to, closely monitoring it and making sure you have the right protection at all times whether in business or in the home.

Here are 5 ways you can spring-clean your insurance policy:

Perils

Many buildings insurance policies, such as home insurance, are comprehensive policies – which covers you in almost any eventuality. If you think your comprehensive insurance policy may be too much, you could seek to purchase a specified peril policy, ensuring you are only protected against perils that apply directly to you.

People

If you have had people named on an insurance policy – such as auto insurance or health care insurance, it is a good idea to regularly revise this coverage. There may come a time this named party purchases their own insurance, in which case you don’t need to include them in your policy.

Coverage

In some cases, purchasing individual coverage for you and an other person may not be the most efficient approach. It may be beneficial to purchase a joint life insurance policy for you and your spouse for example.

Cost

If your policy is renewed annually, it’s worth taking a look over it before you pay. Look at the details contained within the policy and assess whether any of your circumstances have changed, are you entitled to any gratuities and discuss with your insurance advisor whether your costs can come down.

Value

While you are looking at your costs, you may also look at the values you have your property insured at. Look to see how depreciation of equipment for example may affect your premium or if the estimated re-build cost of your building may have changed and adjust your coverage accordingly.

Taking the time to Spring-clean your insurance policy cannot only potentially save you money, but you may also streamline and improve the protection you have.

Do you need help Spring-Cleaning your policy? Click here for advice from an insurance expert

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