Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, with September being the most active month. Coastal regions may be familiar with the risk, but storms can also affect areas more than 100 miles inland.
Whether threatened by a hurricane or by the wind, rain, tornadoes, or floods, you should prepare for the potential impact of such a storm. The first step is to review or create your emergency operations plans and be prepared to take actions that protect students, faculty, staff, property and vehicles, as well as support your surrounding community if needed.
Staying regularly informed is critical to keeping safe from severe weather. “Please remember to use your trusted sources for weather information, such as the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center,” said Troy Kimmel, meteorologist and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography and the Environment at the University of Texas at Austin. “Avoid unknown or untrusted social media reports.”
Before a storm
You can implement processes throughout the year to prepare for and mitigate losses during a hurricane or storm.
- Remain weather-aware and carefully monitor local radio, television, and social media reports from the National Weather Service and local emergency managers. Kimmel recommends that you always have at least two methods of receiving current weather information.
- Learn about hurricane forecasting. Understanding hurricane risks can be complicated, but this easy-to-understand article can help shed light.
- Recognize the difference between weather watches and warnings. A severe weather watch means conditions may lead to an event, but nothing has occurred yet. Warnings mean there are dangerous weather conditions.
- Consider how changing weather conditions can affect operations. Pay special attention to the state of bus routes, playgrounds, and low-lying areas around campuses.
Understand plans and alternatives
- Realize that some activities, including class, may need to be cancelled or shortened.
- Faculty, staff, administrators, and board members should be aware of local and state procedures for requesting assistance, and understand the importance of following those processes.
- Familiarize yourself with campus electrical distribution system layout and design.
- Check food handling procedures in cafeterias as well as processes for the handling of perishables in science labs, classrooms, and the nurse’s offices to ensure proper procedures during power outages.
- Assess costs, insurance, and the impact of the resource request on overall school operations and services. When school resources are shared with local and state jurisdictions, school officials should carefully inventory, photograph and document any assistance provided, both before and after the incident and ensure that expectations are written out.
After a storm
There are things you can do to maintain a safe environment and prepare for the claim process if you need to file claims.
- Secure the area and protect any impacted property against further damage.
- Board up broken windows, holes in walls, roof leaks, and areas exposed to damage
- Take photos and keep records of expenditures for emergency repairs. Keep receipts, as they may be required for reimbursement.
- Know your flood risks, have a response plan, and work on mitigating risks.
- Have the entire boiler system inspected, both internally and externally, noting obvious problems and any special equipment or personnel needed to facilitate repairs. Safety of the personnel performing inspections and repairs is the highest priority. Because flood waters contain many hazardous chemicals and bacteria, personnel safety procedures should be developed and enforced.
- File any relevant claims immediately (or as soon as possible). Failure to do so could result in late reporting coverage issues.
- Be prepared to assess damage and report any losses.
- If classes need to be cancelled, schools should be ready to submit documentation to the Texas Education Agency.
- Implement volunteer and donations management plans to garner efficient assistance with stabilization and recovery efforts.
Access these free resources
During an emergency, nothing is more important than the well-being of staff and students. Our risk solutions consultants developed this checklist to help you keep them safe before, during, and after a hurricane. Our experts also assembled this guide with instructions for an effective post-hurricane recovery. The Department of Homeland Security also has a variety of resources for preparing for hurricanes.
Make sure you are able to be notified immediately in the event of a severe weather situation. “Have your NWS All Hazards Weather Radio properly set so it can receive and activate when NWS watches and warnings are issued,” Kimmel said. He also recommends that you register to receive emergency updates from Warn Central Texas.
Reporting a claim
If you need to report a claim from severe weather events, please call 800.482.7276. If you call outside of business hours, our answering service will contact one of our adjusters and you will receive a call within one hour. You may also file a claim online at tasbrmf.org/claims. If your property sustains damage, please make temporary repairs as needed.
For more information or questions about prevention, response, and coverage, contact TASB Claims Manager Robert Piña or TASB Property Claims Adjuster Kim Shelly. If you are a Fund member interested in listening to a recorded webinar on flood damage, contact TASB Risk Management Risk Solutions. For assistance with emergency management planning, contact TASB Emergency Management and School Security Consultant Melanie Moss. You can also find information on flood safety on the National Weather Service website.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in September 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.