hurricane-relief-resources-harvey-texas
Community | September 1, 2017

Hurricane Harvey Recovery & Ways to Help

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas as a Category 4 storm with winds reaching 130 mph and water rising as high as 13 feet. The damage was widespread with more than 46 deaths, 32,000 displaced, 40,000 homes damaged, and a projected financial cost of at least $48 billion.

We know the statistics because many of us here at StarTex Power and Constellation had to evacuate or lived through the storm ourselves. Most of us have returned to our homes and started to assess damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, but for over 210,000 Texans still displaced, recovery is just beginning.

As we’ve been checking on our homes and loved ones, we wanted to share the resources and tips we’re finding in the hope they may help you–our colleagues, neighbors, community, and customers. We also know there are many who weren’t affected by Hurricane Harvey who have asked how they can help, so there are resources listed here for you, too.

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What should you do when you return to your home after Hurricane Harvey?

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Is it safe to return to your home after the hurricane?

Returning to your home may be simple, but it can also have serious hidden dangers caused by wind and flood damage. Many structural, electrical, and other hazards may not be obvious to an untrained eye. Always remember to turn off electricity and gas before entering into a flooded home, and never assume a structure is sound. If you are concerned about safety, consider having your home inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before or soon after entering.

Do you have hazardous materials in or around your home after the hurricane?

Floodwaters can contaminate your home with dozens of harmful chemicals and bacteria and cause hazardous conditions around your home. Stay safe by checking for these potential threats:

How to check for hazards around your home:

  • Look for downed power lines. If you see downed power lines, call 911 immediately, and treat them as if they are carrying an electrical current, whether they are or not. Electrocution is the third most common cause of death from floods, so leave nothing to chance. If you don’t see any downed power lines, but have lost power, here are the helplines of each Texas utility:
    AEP Central Phone: 1-877-373-4858
    AEP Texas North Phone: 1-877-373-4858
    CenterPoint Energy Phone: 1-800-332-7143
    TNMP Phone: 1-888-866-7456
    ONCOR Phone: 1-888-313-4747
  • Look and sniff for gas leaks. Gas companies add a foul fragrance to otherwise odorless gas, so most of the time you can sniff out gas leaks around your home. If you detect a gas leak, notify your utility provider immediately.
  • Look for fallen or weakened trees. When you return home walk in a circle around your property to check for fallen trees noting any major breaks, lost limbs, or limbs hanging. These should be fairly easy to spot, but checking for tree damage is a bit harder. Consider hiring a professional arborist to inspect your trees for weakened trees or limbs likely to fall in the future.
  • Check your septic tanks for leaks. Once flood water has subsided, have a septic professional inspect your septic tank to ensure that it has not been damaged.

Ways to avoid potential contamination in your home:

  • Make sure your drinking water is safe. More often than not, floods contaminate drinking water, especially well water. Drink bottled water until regional authorities declare it safe.
  • Dispose of any food submerged in or in contact with floodwater. Canned foods can still be salvaged, but must go through an extensive disinfecting process.
  • Wash and disinfect dishes touched by floodwater. After your food and drinks are safe to ingest, make sure the dishes that touch your food have been properly disinfected as well.

Do you have dangerous pests in your home after the hurricane?

Once you’ve returned to your home you might discover there are unwanted guests squatting in your yard, garage, or worse the actual structure of your home! Hurricanes displace people and pests, but some pests like fire ants (giant floating balls of fire ants), snakes, rodents, and mosquitoes thrive after a hurricane, which can pose a serious danger to your health and property.

What can you do to reduce the possibility of dangerous pests after a hurricane?

  • Remove piles of leaves, debris, and other clutter, so snakes and other pests don’t hang out there. (Be careful when clearing–wear masks and long sleeves and pants–as pests may have already relocated seeking drier ground).
  • Repair areas damaged by water or wind around your foundation, roof, windows, and doors, so pests have less time to get into your home. (It can be much more expensive to fix later!)
  • Don’t let water collect outside in large puddles or containers like bird baths, kids toys, lower sections of your yard, etc. This could attract mosquitos and other pests and be more than just a nuisance, they may spread illness and disease.
  • Clear your rain gutters and downspouts, so there isn’t a place for water and pests (like roof rats) to collect.
  • Make sure water isn’t flowing towards the foundation of your home, which could weaken the foundation and invite unwanted guests like termites and ants.

Do you have water damage to your home after Hurricane Harvey?

After you have made sure your home is safe from hazards, contamination, and pests, it’s time to start documenting everything. Take photos of all water damage and create a written log of all damaged belongings. This will make the process of filing an insurance claim easier.

Next, you need to take steps to protect your home and contents from further water damage.

  • Humidity from hurricane flooding can cause mildew, mold and fungus to grow. Wear a HEPA mask when navigating water-damaged areas of your home.
  • Rescue the most valuable items, and visit usa.gov if you need to replace vital documents like your social security card, marriage documents, birth certificate, etc.
  • Start removing damp and damaged furniture from your house (but don’t dispose of them, yet). A word of caution: be careful when lifting wet furniture, as it is now much heavier than before.
  • Air out your home as soon as possible. Let wet furniture dry outside if it’s sunny, open your windows up, and use a dehumidifier indoors if you have one.
  • Rip up and remove any damp carpet once flood waters have subsided.
  • Cut out the drywall and sheetrock from about 12-18 inches above where flood damage stopped, and remove damp insulation. Construction experience is recommended for completing this task.
  • After your floor is completely dry, reinstall your choice of carpet, vinyl, or other flooring. Likewise, replace drywall and sheetrock either by a professional or on your own.

For information on ways to identify water damage, how to fix a wall with water damage, and how to keep water away from your foundation, visit our post on Do-It-Yourself Home Repair: Fixing Water Damage.

And for even more information on how to fix your flooded home, read these tips from FEMA.

How do you file a hurricane-related insurance claim?

Call your insurance agent as soon as possible. The sooner you can talk to your insurance agent, the sooner your claim can be filed and an adjuster can be assigned to review the damage to your home. Remember when we suggested taking photos of hurricane home damages, but not disposing of damaged furniture, yet? This is where it pays off. When you meet with the insurance adjuster to assess the damages for your claim, you will need:

  • Your insurance company information and policy number
  • Photos of the condition in which your house was in
  • Your damaged furniture and belongings

This will streamline the process and make the hassle of filing an insurance claim during your Hurricane Harvey recovery less grueling.

 

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What can you do if you can’t return to your home after Hurricane Harvey?

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Who should I call for an emergency or non-emergency?

Only use 911 if there is a true emergency. Otherwise, use 311 to report non-emergencies like the status of flooded roads and outages.

Houston Non-Emergency Phone Numbers:

Houston Police Department: 713-884-3131
Houston Fire Department: 832-394-6700

Corpus Christi Non-Emergency Phone Numbers:

Corpus Christi Police Department: 361-886-2600
Corpus Christi Fire Department: 361-826-3932

Beaumont Non-Emergency Phone Numbers:

Beaumont Police Department: 409-832-1234
Beaumont Fire Department: 409-980-8311

The hurricane destroyed my home, where can I go?

If you have immediate housing needs and are unable to return home, text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 77005). For more information on Interim Housing Resources visit: fema.gov/interim-housing-resources

If you are eligible for Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA), FEMA will pay for your stay in certain hotels or motels for a limited period of time. Check the FEMA Evacuee Hotel List to review participating locations.

What does FEMA do?

FEMA stands for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. FEMA can help in many ways:

  1. FEMA provides housing assistance if you’ve lost your home as a result of a presidentially-declared disaster like Hurricane Harvey (this applies to both renters and homeowners, but does not cover secondary residences if you own more than one home).
  2. FEMA can also help with other hurricane-related expenses like medical and dental emergencies due to the storm, child care needs, funeral and burial costs, property damage to essential household items, the costs of moving and storage, vehicle replacement, and some other hurricane-related clean-up items.

According to The New York Times, more than 195,000 people have applied for FEMA assistance after Hurricane Harvey with more than $57 million disbursed already.

Am I eligible for FEMA assistance after Hurricane Harvey?

If you were impacted by Hurricane Harvey, as a homeowner or a renter you may be eligible for assistance from FEMA. To apply or check the status of your application, you can visit disasterassistance.gov.

Note: that FEMA won’t cover something you’re already covered for by another insurance agency–meaning you cannot duplicate filings. However, there may be items not covered by your current insurance provider that FEMA will assist with.

Is my small business eligible for FEMA assistance after Hurricane Harvey?

FEMA will not help with small businesses costs from the hurricane, but they do partner with the Small Business Administration (SBA), which offers low interest loans for small business damages from the hurricane or flooding.

Tip! Have you heard rumors about FEMA?

Check here to verify them.

Where can I get help for medical and special needs after Hurricane Harvey?

As people return to their homes there may be significant needs that many programs and organizations can help with. For example:

  • Medications and medical supplies
  • Replacement eyeglasses, hearing aids, wheelchairs, and walkers
  • Sign language support

Need help refilling your medications?

After a hurricane you may be facing a medication shortage, which can be critical to your health. Support exists from organizations like the National Community Pharmacists Association who has a page dedicated to Hurricane Harvey pharmacy help here. And, you can check to see what pharmacies are open here: healthcareready.org/rxopen

Have a disability and need assistance or advocacy?

If you have a disability and need help, call (800) 626-4959 which is the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies Hurricane Harvey Disability Hotline or visit Portlight Strategies, a 501(c)(3) that is helping those with disabilities after Hurricane Harvey.

How do I get help with diapers and supplies for children and seniors?

The Texas Diaper Bank provides families and seniors in crisis with access to diapers, incontinence supplies, wipes, and other healthcare products after emergencies like Hurricane Harvey. To contact the Texas Diaper Bank, call 210-731-8118.

Save the Children emergency responders are also working with the community to respond to children’s immediate needs.

How can I find my pet after Hurricane Harvey?

Many local pet organizations and humane societies are sheltering animals from evacuee families forced to flee their homes. If you are looking for your lost pet, you can try visiting the Hurricane Harvey Lost & Found Pet’s Coastal Bend and Houston Facebook pages. You may also want to visit or call:

 

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How can you help Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts?

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Donating blood during natural disasters is incredibly important as those injured or experiencing medical complications rises. The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center has been able to send a first wave of 350 units of blood so far to areas affected by the storm. You can find more information about where to donate blood on:

Some organizations accepting donations to help with Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts include:

  1. Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund set up by Mayor Sylvester Turner
  2. JJ Watt Houston Flood Relief Fund
  3. Global Giving’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund
  4. Hurricane Harvey LGBTQ Disaster Relief Fund
  5. United Way Relief Fund (Flood Donation)
  6. Center for Disaster Philanthropy
  7. The Salvation Army
  8. Homeless Houston
  9. Baker Ripley Neighborhood Centers
  10. Houston Habitat for Humanity

Where can you volunteer to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey?

To volunteer or donate, consider working with local food banks in areas most hard hit by the hurricane including:

You can also check National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster for volunteering opportunities and visit this link for a list of all active volunteer organizations helping with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. You could also volunteer at the Children’s Hospital or use this finder to match you with more organizations in Texas seeking volunteers.

Where can you donate pet supplies or help foster a pet in need?

These organizations are currently in need of donations, foster homes, volunteer help, and supplies. For more information you can visit or call:

We hope the resources shared above can help you or your loved ones recover quickly from the devastating affects of Hurricane Harvey or put you in touch with organizations and others who need your help. And, if you’ve seen something we’ve missed, please leave a comment below and we’ll add it as time permits.

Comments ( 4 )

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Yamilet Patino - 9/1/2017

Are we going to get deferred payment?

    StarTex Power Community Team - 9/1/2017

    Hi Yamilet, you can call our care center for help with your bill and payment plan options. To reach them call 1-866-917-8271 and they’d be happy to set this up for you. We also won’t be charging any late fees or issuing turn off notices through September 30th.

Colleen - 9/1/2017

Is there any grace period granted for startex electric customers to pay their bills for this month as I had to pay to evacuate etc…short on cash till next payday.

    StarTex Power Community Team - 9/1/2017

    Hi Colleen, yes, there is! We won’t be charging any late fees or issuing turn off notices through September 30th. You can also call our care center for help with your bill and payment plan options. They can be reached at 1-866-917-8271.

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