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3 Ways Harvey Is Touching the Life and Health Community Now

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When Hurricane Harvey came ashore on Friday, it brought torrents of rain to areas in and around Houston. By early Saturday morning, one woman, whose home was still dry, tweeted about earthworms sliding under her front door, and into her home, to escape from the flooding.

Around that same time, many people started tweeting in shock about seeing flood water swirling in their living rooms and kitchens.

By Sunday, emergency responders were receiving so many pleas for help that they were having trouble getting to homes in which sick people, elderly people and small children were struggling to survive in five feet or more of water. Houston residents posted their full home addresses on Twitter and Facebook in desperate efforts to get someone with a flat-bottomed boat to rescue them.

(Related: Louisiana Agents Battling Catastrophic Flood

Today, some Houston residents are still posting desperate pleas for help from rescuers. Some who have escaped to attics, or second floors of residences, say flood water is flowing up there. Authorities have asked residents to stay put, but some have been making desperate efforts to fleet from severely flooded homes through waist-high and chest-high water.

The life and health insurance community deal with conditions something like this when Katrina hits Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005, when Sandy hit the Mid-Atlantic states in 2012, and when terrible flooding hit Louisiana.

Each major disaster is terrible in its own way.

Here’s a look at three ways Harvey is touching agents, brokers, insurers and others in the life insurance and health insurance communities now.

1. Agents and company employees are getting out their boats.

Insurers and insurance distribution companies have always promoted strong community involvement efforts, and people in the industry tend to build broad, deep networks of personal alliances, both through the work they do on the job and through involvement in trade groups.

When flooding hit Louisiana last year, for example, Bridgette Rushing Snead of the Baton Rouge area was out with a crew using a raft to rescue people.

Agent rescue squad (Photo: Bridgette Rushing Snead/Health Agents for America)

An agent rescue squad at work in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in August 2016. (Photo: Bridgette Rushing Snead/Health Agents for America)

This year, insurance industry professionals are out using rafts, dinghies and kayaks to locate trapped people in the area affected by Harvey, bring people supplies, and, in some cases, help people get to safety.

Manny De La Rosa, a Houston agent, reported today, via Twitter, that he feels fortunate.

“We are quite lucky, so far, because water isn’t in the house,” De La Rosa tweeted.

But De La Rosa said he did have an urgent needs: for boats to check on neighbors.

2. The community has to keep operations running.

Harvey is making it hard for insurance companies and agencies to function in the affected area, but, at the same time, it’s increasing the need for customer service help.

Flooding is displacing tens of thousands of people. Some are fleeing without their medication, or even without proper identification.

Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. are examples of companies that are trying to ramp up outreach efforts as a result of the storm.

Both companies are offering access to employee assistance plan-type services, including resource location services, to all members of the affected communities.

Aetna’s resource line is available at 1-888-238-6243.

Humana’s help line is at 1-866-440-6556.

3. The community will be contributing to aid efforts.

Aetna, for example, reported in the same press release it used to announce that it was opening its employee assistance plan services to all residents of the Harvey-affected area that it’s started to contribute to Harvey relief efforts.

The Aetna Foundation, a company affiliate, is giving $100,000 to the American Red Cross, $100,000 to the Community Foundation of Greater Houston, and $50,000 to Team Rubicon.

Aetna will match employees’ own disaster relief donations dollar-for-dollar up to $5,000 per donor per year.

One open question is how all of the pressure from low interest rates and regulatory uncertainty will affect the life and health community’s capacity to support relief efforts with cash donations.

— Read Will LTC Providers Keep Your Clients Safe from Disasters? on ThinkAdvisor.

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