Recovering from Hurricane Harvey

Scotthearn Hurricane Harvey Web

Jessica HearnScott Hearn

Jessica Hearn from Universal Fidelity LP in Houston recalls the before and after of Hurricane Harvey and the outpouring of community support among residents and businesses.

In the weeks since Hurricane Harvey, business and homeowners are still recovering from the storm that caused record rainfall and significant damage in many areas of Texas and Louisiana.

Universal Fidelity LP moved into its new headquarters in Houston a year ago in July. It used its remote location designated in its disaster recovery plan during the storm, said CFO and Compliance Director Jessica Hearn.

“We started watching the storm at the beginning of the week [in August],” Hearn said. “We started preparing at that time as if the storm was going to make an impact as the meteorologists were suggesting. The hurricane projection was not the news we wanted, but to add that high pressure was going to have it sit over Houston for days was even worse.”

While Universal Fidelity, with its offices on the sixth floor of their building, did not experience flooding; the company’s leaders learned about preparing for a disaster like Hurricane Harvey and the impact it can have on a community in the aftermath of the storm.

Jessica Hearn and her husband Scott, executive vice president of Universal Fidelity LP, saw a definitive need to help their neighbors and the community during and after Hurricane Harvey.

“The community was such a supportive environment as a whole,” Jessica Hearn said. “The amount of outreach amongst everyone cannot be described.”

Community members banded together to rescue residents stuck in their homes due to flooding. The Hearns have a boat they used to transport people from their homes. They stepped in to help “muck” flooded homes, removing destroyed carpets and flooring to help their neighboring homeowners prepare for renovations.

“The ongoing recovery will last months to years,” Hearn said.  “There is also the emotional recovery of it all.”

Many homeowners did not have flood insurance; television news and radio stations lost their signals during the storm; hospitals lost power when their generators did not turn on immediately; schools closed for two weeks after the storm, some for the rest of the school year; grocery stores opened for limited hours; there was a gas shortage and thousands of cars and homes flooded, Hearn recalled as just some of the impacts of the storm.

“I think what kept us all okay is the outpouring of support and love for each other on every level,” she said. “It was all hands on deck in the city. Even the people that were taking on the disaster themselves were willing to help.”

For businesses, Hearn recommends several ways to prepare for a disaster based on their experience as well as how to help those in need after a storm.

  • Secure flood insurance for your company and home, especially if you are located in a one-story building or on the first two floors of an office building.
  • Connect with a commercial realtor to help find a remote location quickly, and consider setting up an advance agreement for a remote location as part of your disaster recovery plan.
  • Have a generator in your office that is not located on the ground level.

Read more about disaster recovery plans, specifically how to develop best practices when it comes to contacting consumers, in the December issue of Collector magazine. In June, Collector magazine editor Anne Rosso May reported on six things to do to protect your business in advance of a disaster.

If you would like to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey, the American Collectors Association of Texas recently established a Disaster Relief Fund in support of the victims of Hurricane Harvey who are enduring unprecedented hardship and tragedy stemming from the impact of the storm.

Contributions to the ACA of Texas Disaster Relief Fund will be used to directly support families and individuals working in our industry that have been adversely impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

Click here to donate to the Disaster Relief Fund or if you prefer to pay by check, please make your check payable to “ACA of Texas Disaster Relief Fund” and mail it to: ACA of Texas, 18604 Interstate 20 west, Lindale, Texas, 75771.