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Complete Guide to Spring Storms and Commercial Property Claims

March 28, 2022 David Wylie

Aerial view of school campus

So many of the articles you read on our InsideRM blog call for school staff to proactively manage risk. Want to prevent fall-related injuries? Make sure your policies require teachers to use ladders instead of standing on chairs. Looking to protect your sensitive data from cybercriminals? Embrace these “Big 4” best practices.

Spring storms are different than other risks. After all, you can’t control the weather. That doesn’t mean you have to accept operational disruptions and expenses that come with commercial property claims.

In this post:

Speaking the language

  • Deductible: Amount you pay on claims before your coverage provider pays its portion*
  • Deductible buy-down: An endorsement or separate policy that reduces your deductible. An additional premium or contribution is charged for the additional coverage.
  • Emergency operations plan: State-mandated document that includes strategies and guidance that school districts use as a starting point to respond to emergencies, including extreme weather
  • FEMA flood maps: Identify flood risk by location
  • Flash flood: Starts within 6 hours, and often within 3 hours, of heavy rainfall
  • Hail alert: Notifies the Fund when hail falls near members’ property. We reach out to affected members when appropriate and provide guidance.
  • Hard property coverage market: Period when demand for coverage is up, supply is down, and prices increase
  • Fujita scale: Measures tornado damage intensity, not wind speed
  • Property appraisal: Thorough physical examination of structures such as buildings, their contents, and certain land improvements. The goal is to determine the cost of replacing the current building to its current structure, footprint, and condition with like kind and quality materials.
  • Reinsurance: Insurance purchased by coverage providers such as the Fund to protect themselves against major claims events. Reinsurance costs have increased dramatically in the current hard property coverage market.
  • Storm surge: Abnormal rise of water caused by strong wind pushing toward the shore
  • Straight-line winds: Thunderstorm winds that have no rotation (not a tornado)

*These are general definitions. Refer to your Fund coverage agreement for specific definitions and details about deductibles and deductible buy-downs.

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Hail! Now what?

Good communicators never bury the lead. When talk turns to spring storms and commercial property damage claims, hail takes top billing in Texas:

  • The Lone Star State recorded 640,000 hail loss claims between 2017 and 2019. Colorado ranked a distant second with 380,000.
  • Our 688 major hail events in 2021 was also tops among all states. A major hail event is defined as a storm that drops hailstones of one inch in diameter or larger.
  • In 2020, a nation-leading 1.5 million Texas properties absorbed hail damage costing $3.3 billion in claims. Illinois ranked second with 510,000 damaged properties and $1.2 billion in claims.

Texas tidbit: Hondo, Texas made national headlines in April 2021 when a hailstone measuring a state-record 6.4 inches in diameter fell. For perspective, meteorologists consider penny-size hail severe. The Hondo hailstone was two-and-half inches bigger than a softball!

Hail-damaged roofs would certainly crack any list of top five risks that keep TASB property claim professionals awake during spring storm season. (To be fair, our auto adjusters also have their hands full with hail claims in the spring).

Here’s how you protect your roof investments:

Your hail risk management toolkit

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Welcome to Tornado Alley

Folks in the Midwest don’t want to hear Texans’ thoughts on tornadoes. They prefer we stay in our lane. Hurricanes, floods, drought, and even wildfires are fair game, but nobody knows twisters like our friends in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa, right?

Actually, a nation-leading 150 tornadoes touch down in Texas every year. Kansas ranks second with 96. Much of our activity plays out in the Pandhandle, which forms the Southern tip of the aptly named Tornado Alley.

Texas tidbit: The deadliest tornado in state history hit Waco on May 11, 1953. At nearly one-third of a mile wide, the storm claimed 114 lives, injured 597, and destroyed about 600 homes.

Even the lowest rated tornado can peel roofs off your facilities and rip up trees and playground equipment. Here are a few tips to protect your facilities if a tornado threatens. See the toolkit below for more guidance:

  • Remove trees and branches that could fall on roofs.
  • Secure roof flashing, gutters, and downspouts.
  • Minimize flying objects by landscaping with mulch instead of gravel.
  • Remove or anchor outdoor furniture, signs, trash bins, equipment, scaffolding, and anything else that could get picked up and thrown.

Your tornado risk management toolkit

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It’s flooding down in Texas

Floods are the most common weather-related disaster. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes that 75 percent of flash flood reports in the U.S. happen between late April and mid-September. But even a little water can put a big dent in your budget.

A mere one inch of the wet stuff inside a structure can cause up to $25,000 in damage, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates. Wet carpet, walls, and furniture also make perfect breeding grounds for mold in schools.

Left unchecked, mold can compromise indoor air quality and trigger coughs, sneezes, and itchy eyes. More-serious symptoms can include allergic reactions and asthma attacks.

How to reduce the risk of mold in schools:

  • Run your HVAC system to remove moisture from facilities.
  • Use wet vacs to remove water from flooring.
  • Circulate air by using fans and air movers.
  • Pick up furniture and other items sitting on wet floors.
  • Remove wet, damaged building materials.

Texas tidbit: Central Texas is known in meteorology circles as Flash Flood Alley. Stretching from Waco south to Uvalde, the Alley is one of the country’s most flood-prone regions.

What’s your flood risk?

Fund Property coverage includes a flood endorsement. The endorsement provides coverage depending on the zone where the covered property is located. FEMA flood maps help determine the zones for your covered property.

Your flood risk management toolkit

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The leading state for lightning strikes might surprise you

Lightning strikes the earth more than 8 million times a day. Packing up to 100 million volts of electricity, a bolt of lightning can put lives and property at risk:

  • An average of 49 people die from lightning strikes every year. The risk of being struck is low, but the consequences can be severe. A Houston woman who was hit while opening her back door reported brain fog and memory loss. A fifth-generation Hill Country cowboy had to relearn how to read and write.
  • Between 2014 and 2020, Fund Property program members reported over $524,000 in losses caused by lightning strikes. The fallout includes destroyed equipment, fire damage, operational interruptions, and inventory loss.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Texas tidbit: The leading state for lightning strikes in 2021 was…drumroll…Texas, with 41 million! Flatonia, about 90 miles east of San Antonio, was the target of a nation-leading 1,400 strikes last year.  

How to protect your electrical systems

Electrical surges are the immediate and main lightning-related risk to facilities. Repeated strikes can produce electrical noise or power spikes, which can deliver long-term impact on a facility’s electrical infrastructure. You can protect your electrical systems and equipment by investing in a surge protection system.

Your lightning risk management toolkit

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Claims: You’re covered inside and out

Fund members with Property coverage take comfort in knowing their facilities and everything inside—classrooms, kitchens, gymnasiums, and HVAC systems—are protected. We maintain the financial strength and claim-handling expertise to get you back in business quickly and cost-effectively.

Commercial property claims at a glance:

  • Report commercial property claims within 30 days online or by phone at 800.482.7276.  If you delay, losses could grow.
  • Failure to report a claim within 365 days from the date of loss could result in coverage denial.
  • A TASB property adjuster will reach out and schedule your damage assessment.
  • Your property is covered for replacement cost.  
  • Tell your adjuster if you need an advance payment to maintain essential operations.

Pro tip: Make a list of damaged items. Include descriptions, manufacturers, models, and serial numbers if available. Your online property inventory should include most of the information you need.

Your claims toolkit

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4 spring storm and commercial property claim takeaways

You can’t control the weather, but you don’t have to accept the operational disruptions and expenses that come with it. Here are four things you can do right now to control the impact of spring storms on commercial property claims:

  1. Make sure your emergency operations plan addresses weather risks in your region.
  2. If your organization is a Fund member with Property coverage, get familiar with your coverage agreement.
  3. Report claims promptly. Otherwise, coverage could be denied.
  4. Comply with Fund member responsibilities such as maintaining your roofs. Again, consult your coverage agreement for details.

As always, we encourage you to reach out to your TASB marketing consultant with coverage questions and help navigating your coverage agreement. If you need guidance on preparing your property for spring storms, your TASB risk solutions consultant is here for you.

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Tagged: "emergency preparedness", flood, hail, "severe weather"