How Houston brokers are weathering Harvey
As Hurricane Harvey winds down in Texas, broker organizations and parent companies are working to gather whatever relief funds they can to assist members, employees and clients alike with getting back on their feet after the devastating storm.
As the rain persists, many are left in a wait-and-see position until the weather clears and damage can be assessed.
Angela McDaniel, chief administrative officer for Ascende – a branch of EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants – remained in Houston while the hurricane made its way through the area.
McDaniel says she informed all employees to leave the office at 1 p.m. Friday afternoon in order for workers to return to their families to weather the storm or make preparations to evacuate the area.
“We have a business recovery plan that we test every year and we are prepared to execute at any given time,” McDaniel says. “We communicated with our clients on Sunday that our offices were open but our staff would be working remotely.”
While the office is technically open, McDaniel says they are unable to reach it due to the effects of the storm, including flooding, debris and overall wet conditions. “No one in the city of Houston should be on the roads except for those who are being evacuated,” she says.
McDaniel adds that her home has not experienced damage or flooding, but she has heard from several of her staff that they needed to be evacuated, at least one by boat. “Several [employees] have experienced power loss, but I have been able to hear from each person individually or hear from their supervisor between Sunday and Monday either through email or text message,” she says.
Once the storm subsides, McDaniel says they will initiate the same plan that was used during Hurricane Ike; to offer the Houston office as a place of refuge for those employees in need. “We’re arranging to get some cash to give employees who need money to pay for a hotel or other basic needs,” McDaniel says.
In an effort to also offer aid, the National Association of Health Underwriters has initiated a gift card drive for members in the state of Texas who have also been displaced by the hurricane.
Rusty Rice, president-elect of NAHU, says the organization has had difficulty contacting members within the Houston market, but he wants to make sure brokers in effected areas receive the help they need so they can begin to help their clients in any way they can.
“We are soliciting gift cards from our members from across the United States to be sent to the affected areas,” Rice says. “From there we will begin to determine who is in need of immediate assistance with food, lodging, gas and other essential needs.”
Rice will be traveling to Houston on September 7 to deliver the accumulated gift cards to affected members. “It’s difficult for us at this point and time to figure out where each of our 400 members in that market is located,” Rice says. “Some of them have left the market ahead of the storm, and are spread out across Texas with friends and family.”
Like McDaniel, Rice says those NAHU members who remained in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey need to look out for one another while relief efforts can be prepared.
“I know it sounds odd to offer an office as a place of solace, but we are offering [clients and employees] to come in there or we will try and arrange to put them up in a hotel if possible,” McDaniel says. “As of right now, we haven’t reached out to anybody because there is not much anyone can do until we are able to move about the city.”