During the past several years, Texas has experienced severe weather events that have caused extensive damage from hail. Unfortunately, Texas school districts have not been immune from these events. Weather reports indicate that on April 11, 2016, almost 200 locations were affected by hail varying in size from 1 to 3.5 inches.
Technology has played a key role in helping to track the impact of severe weather events. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), hail and tornado reports are more common thanks to technology such as mobile devices, storm chasers, and Google Maps. Meteorologist Paul Yura of the National Weather Service says that what looks like a huge increase in storm reported damage is really an increase in the efficiency of getting and receiving storm reports.
Decades ago, many storms would have gone unreported to National Weather Service offices, as there were only a handful of storm spotters and contacts within the affected areas. According to Yura, the number of weather contacts have skyrocketed throughout the years.
Improved reporting systems also means improved warning methods. The NWS has the capabilities to predict severe thunderstorms that can produce conditions likely to cause damage including hail. When severe thunderstorm watches and warnings are issued, meteorologists are predicting a high likelihood that hail producing storms may affect the area.
With reporting and prediction systems improving, so must preparedness and mitigation strategies for our schools. This includes identifying multiple ways to receive and communicate severe weather watches and warnings.
Administrators may benefit from having a good app on their mobile device that has radar and text alerts. Having a NOAA Weather radio can provide alerts and updates of approaching severe weather. It is also a good idea to follow credible weather sources on social media; the NWS Facebook and Twitter accounts are good sources. It is a best practice to follow the NWS office that serves your area.
Other preparedness strategies include having an all-hazards emergency operation plan that covers response actions for severe weather. This plan should cover all severe weather hazards common to your area and the plan should be reviewed annually and updated at least every three years.
Campus and occupant emergency plans are also needed to outline severe weather protective measures required for each campus as well as in each auxiliary building such as administration, maintenance, and transportation.
These plans also should cover outside areas and after-hour events. The National Weather Service recommends following the same guidelines for severe weather and lightning. Administrators should monitor the weather and use severe weather strategies and evacuation plans to respond, efficiently and effectively.
Sometimes even with the best plans and mitigation strategies in place, the inevitable happens. A storm strikes and schools must respond appropriately, including accurate and comprehensive damage assessments. These assessments give the organization a snap shot of the overall damage.
TASB Risk Management Fund Members may receive hail alerts if one or more of their addresses are affected by hail. The Fund partners with Hail Alert Technologies to alert members when potentially damaging hail has fallen on one of their properties. View the Fund Hail Alerts page for more information. The Hail Alert process is a powerful risk mitigation and cost savings tool for Fund members.
TASB Risk Management Services Claims Manager Sarah Holguin recommends that members look for obvious damage, which includes but is not limited to damage to awnings, vehicles on campus, HVAC systems, and playground equipment. Holguin says that sports facilities such as bleachers, dugouts, concession stands, and other outside buildings are often indicative of weather-related damage.
Denting of soft metals, such as bleachers, often offer clues that roof damage may have also occurred. Holguin recommends that organizations also look for hidden damage such as leaks or blocked drainage and gutter systems that could lead to water intrusion.
If not addressed in a timely fashion, this “invisible” damage can cause further loss including mold and water damage to walls, floors, and building contents which can cause further delays in repairs or reconstruction. In some cases, temporary or emergency repairs are necessary so that damage does not worsen. It is important to report a claim to your carrier as soon as possible. An adjuster will work with the organization to schedule a time to come out and conduct a full assessment.
It is important that your organization ensures that staff are available to accompany the adjuster during their assessment. Holguin says that these inspections are comprehensive as they will take measurements, pictures, and diagrams of every building within the organization to ensure damage is properly identified and evaluated appropriately. Once this assessment is completed, organizations can begin developing bid specifications for the restoration process. This estimate is also the basis for paying the claim.
Holguin advises that once this estimate process is complete, it is important for the organization to coordinate efforts between their carrier and all contractors and that they follow policies and procedures for procurement and construction.
As is the case with many disasters, recovery begins the moment the severe weather strikes and can take a great deal of time to complete. Additionally, timetables vary as repairs may be affected by school schedules and continued weather patterns.
For more information on TASB Risk Management Fund Claims process, contact Sarah Holguin. For information on emergency management planning, mitigation, and preparedness strategies, contact Melanie Moss.