Insightful information for you | Summer 2021 GT GERMANIA TODAY Prepared wildfires Page 6 for Be
Flood after fire? Know your risks Page 5 Texas legislative session ends with insurance victories Page 8
W Germania Farm Mutual Insurance Association T G Summer 2021 | Volume 47, Issue 2 GERMANIA TODAY Insightful information for you
5 Flood after fire? Know your risks
6 3 4 8
Learn how to prepare for wildfires
A Message from our President
A message from your agent: Keeping your home and family disaster ready
Texas legislative session ends with insurance victories
10 10 11 11
507 Highway 290 East Brenham, Texas 77833 800-392-2202 germaniainsurance.com
How does COVID-19 affect my life insurance?
President & Chief Executive Officer Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer Director of Communication
Germania policyholders enjoy summer savings at COTA
Recipe - Queso blanco
Elizabeth Marburger Editor Geoffrey Ullrich
Germania adds texting capabilities to claims service
2 | Germania Today
A message from OUR PRESIDENT
Paul Ehlert President & Chief Executive Officer T
ith a record freeze and a very active hail season behind us, we move into summer. Temperatures are starting to soar, testing the capacity of the state’s power grid and providing the fuel needed to form tropical storms and hurricanes in the Gulf. The risks of wildfires are also heightened this time of year. This issue of Germania Today is focused on disaster preparedness, so you can be prepared to handle whatever comes your way – whether it’s a hurricane, flood, wildfire, or rolling power outages. Be sure to check out the helpful tips and information. Another successful Local Chapter and director election season has come and gone, concluding with nearly 17,500 members casting their votes for director candidates. On this year ’s slate were two new directors, Laura Deutscher (Dallas) and Victor Carrillo (Rockwall). We are pleased to welcome these new directors to the Board as well as the following directors who are returning to the board for a new three-year term: • Jeffrey “Jeff” Knippa (Walburg) • Bruce Germer (Lockhart) • Robert “Tony” Reeves (Midland)
For each vote cast, Germania committed to donate $1 to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation in support of childhood cancer research. Thanks to your participation, Germania made a donation of $20,000 to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation! Despite the limitations of the coronavirus pandemic, the 87th Texas legislative session ended in May with nearly 10,000 bills filed and approximately one-third of those passed into law. Read about the positive changes impacting the insurance industry on Page 8. Germania will be celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. I believe our founding father and first president, Otto Rau, would be very pleased to see the company he started in Perry, Texas, in 1896 grow to be the largest farm mutual insurance company in the state of Texas. Germania’s 31 founding members saw the need for dependable mutual insurance and committed themselves to the principle that bearing one another ’s burdens made them all stronger to handle property losses together. Watch for more information to be shared in the next issue of Germania Today and through our website and social media channels about this milestone in our company’s rich history. I hope all of you have an opportunity this summer to enjoy quality time with family, friends, and neighbors. Have a blessed summer!
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A message from your agent:
Germania is here for you. In the event of a natural disaster, Germania’s catastrophe response team meets you where you’re at to service claims and provide you peace of mind. L ike most in west Texas and the panhandle, Germania agent Jana Brown of Borger-based Town & Country Insurance keeps a watchful eye when the grass gets dry and the winds pick up each year. Grass fires are a common threat to her area, and she urges her customers to take proactive measures each year to prepare, such as regularly watering and mowing their lawns and removing combustible materials away from their homes. “A wildfire is very particular,” Jana said. “A fire can burn one house but not the house right next door. There really is no rhyme or reason, so preparation is key no matter where you live.” Brown, along with fellow Germania agents Greg Germer and Russell Janecka, knows first-hand how a natural disaster can wreak havoc in their communities and how preparation is key to strong recovery. Each year, they share tips with their customers on how they can stay disaster ready.
home and family Keeping your disaster ready
As an agency owner near the Texas coast, Janecka of Janecka Insurance Agency in Victoria is no stranger to tumultuous weather, most notably weathering Hurricane Harvey in 2017. From having backup power sources (such as a generator) to portable devices, Janecka said it’s all about adapting. “You have to be prepared to adapt,” Janecka said. “Something is going to happen that you didn’t plan for, so you have to adapt to that situation by being creative.” While it certainly pays to have the necessary equipment if you are located in a disaster-prone area like Janecka, sometimes it’s as simple as keeping a few extra copies of necessary documents on hand in the event that you may need to file a claim. Germer of Bastrop-based Germer Insurance Services witnessed his own wildfire tragedy when the historic Bastrop fire in 2011 swept through the area with a vengeance. The claims-reporting process turned frantic when customers arrived at his office unprepared when reporting total loss claims. Germer now stresses to his policyholders about the importance of filling out a home inventory checklist and keeping their contact information up to date. “It’s very important we have the right information,” Germer said. “If we don’t have it, it just delays the process. When your life is in disarray, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to file and resolve a claim.” Being logistically prepared for a natural disaster – whether it is a hurricane, fire, or freeze – is crucial to staying safe and minimizing damage. Germania is here to help you prepare and give you peace of mind.
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4 | Germania Today
Flood after fire? Know your risks
I t’s common knowledge that flooding follows heavy rains, but did you know that your flood risks increase after wildfires? According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), floods are the most common and costly natural hazard in the nation. While they are usually caused by thunderstorms, hurricanes, or winter storms, large-scale wildfires can dramatically alter terrain and ground conditions, creating conditions ripe for flash flooding. While some floods develop over time, flash floods, which are particularly common after wildfires, can occur within minutes after a rainstorm and in areas not traditionally prone to flooding. FEMA reported that more than 40% of flood claims submitted between 2014 and 2018 have come from outside high-risk flood areas. An unexpected weather event is not the time to learn the hard way – or rather the wet way – that your personal or commercial insurance doesn’t cover property damage caused by floods.
GGA, a subsidiary of Germania Insurance, adds value to Germania and its agency force by providing access
to additional insurance products and services, including personal and
commercial flood insurance. Staffed with flood insurance experts, GGA is also able to assist insureds with the claims process in the event of a catastrophic event.
A basic property insurance policy may pay for water damage inside your house, such as a burst pipe, but will usually not cover the peril of flooding from rising waters. Flood insurance must be purchased separately to cover your home and its contents in the event of a flood. If you’re a business owner, the National Flood Insurance Program offers commercial flood insurance to help protect your business’ structure and equipment, including your foundation, electrical, plumbing, finishings, furniture, inventory, and more. If your business resides outside of a high-risk flood zone, you may be eligible for discounted flood insurance rates. For more information, speak with your Germania authorized agent or contact GGA directly at GGA@germaniainsurance.com or 855-442-1669 to request a quote today.
No matter where you live or work, it’s important to understand the flood risk and what it can cost you, says Germania General Agency (GGA) Underwriter and Flood Specialist Heather Alexander. “Don’t wait until there’s an approaching threat to get coverage,” Alexander said. “Unless flood insurance is required by your mortgage lender, there is anywhere from a 15- to 30-day waiting period for coverage to take effect.”
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Learn how to by hardening your home and creating defensible spaces prepare for wildfires
6 | Germania Today A
Home hardening Home hardening refers to improvements you can make to your home to make it more resistant to wildfires. Although some of the items listed here are considerations that might be easier to implement during construction, some of them can be retroactively installed to an otherwise already complete house. Fire-resistant materials . As you will see in the following examples, “fire-resistant” or “ignition resistant” materials are important for home hardening. Although these terms may have specific definitions or requirements outlined by state building codes, they generally refer to materials that can withstand prolonged exposure to heat sources. These might also
fter the rainy months of spring and early summer, the landscape is absolutely bursting with growing green vegetation. In such a lush setting, it’s hard to imagine how anything could burn, or how a wildfire could spark. Yet wildfires can and do happen in Texas, and there is often little time to act once they have sparked. That’s why it’s important to take steps ahead of time to harden your home and create defensible spaces around it. But how exactly do you harden your home against wildfires? What does it mean to create defensible spaces around your property? We’ll explain these concepts and give you actionable steps you can take to protect your home from a future wildfire - read on!
Access to water . Make sure that you have connections to water at several points around your property and keep enough hose on hand to reach all areas of your home, including detached outbuildings. If you have a pool or well, having a pump on hand can give you access to an emergency reservoir of water if needed. Smoke and fire alarms . Inspecting and installing smoke detectors and alarms is an essential part of being a homeowner. It is recommended that you test your smoke alarms once a month and replace the batteries once or twice a year. Driveways and roads . In the event your home is threatened by a wildfire, it is essential emergency vehicles have access to your driveway to get to your house, or any place on your property affected by a wildfire. Make sure that your driveway isn’t obstructed by any major obstacles. Address . It’s critical for your address to be easily visible if and when emergency services and firefighters need to get to you. Make sure to keep your address clear of vegetation and repaint numbers as often as needed. Although you may not be ready to go through the process of completely retrofitting your home to harden it against wildfires, every little bit helps. Take care of the items you are able to reasonably implement in the short term and keep the others in mind for future home improvement projects. Creating a defensible space A defensible space is essentially a buffer zone you create between your home and things like trees and shrubs in your yard. When creating a defensible space, you can generally divide the tasks into two categories depending on how close that space is to your home. Next to, on, and under the house . The spaces next to, beneath, above, and immediately next to your house are important to keep tidy and free of combustible materials. • Keep it clear of dead vegetation, like weeds, shrubs, leaves and branches near your house and from under your deck. • Keep limbs and branches at least 10 feet away from the roof and walls. Not only does this prevent fires from spreading, but it can prevent limbs from damaging your roof and property in the event of a windstorm. • Avoid keeping garbage and recycling bins within 5 feet of your home. • Avoid keeping wood piles within 5 feet of your home. • Limit the amount of combustible outdoor furniture near your house. • Avoid using dry wood mulch, and instead use gravel and pavers if possible.
be referred to as “noncombustible” materials, like metal and clay, or fire-retardant-treated lumber and wood. Of course, fire-resistant does not mean fire-proof, so the ratings assigned to building materials usually refer to how long a given material can withstand a certain amount of heat. When looking at materials to harden your home, it is important to make sure that you speak with a professional to understand what level of protection or fire resistance a given material will provide. Roof . Out of all the vulnerable portions of your house, your roof usually covers the greatest area, and is therefore more vulnerable to wayward embers. A standard roof might be made from all sorts of different materials, many of which offer little to no protection from embers or fire in general. In order to give your roof the best defense against wildfires, consider replacing your shingles with nonflammable or flame-resistant materials, such as metal sheeting or clay tiles. Vents and chimney . To prevent said embers from finding their way inside, place metal corrosion resistant grates over all of your vents and your chimney. Decks . If you have a deck, there are a number of stains and sealants that have some measure of fire resistance that you can apply. If you’re building a deck, consider using wood that has been treated with fire resistant chemicals, or possibly even constructing the deck from a wood-PVC composite material. Gutters . Cleaning these out frequently is helpful, but you can make it a lot easier on yourself by installing flame- resistant covers. These covers prevent most of this material from gathering, which is great for those of us who may not always remember to clean our gutters regularly. Windows . Double-pane windows with tempered glass make breakage less likely and can reduce the amount of radiant heat that transfers through them, which can easily cause things like drapes and window shades to catch fire. Proper screens can also help prevent radiant heat transfer and can stop embers if the glass does break. Walls and siding . Not only can walls be constructed of flame-resistant materials, but the exterior siding can also be made to protect your home. Materials like bricks, stucco, and stone are much more resistant to flames than wood or vinyl panels. Garage . If you have a garage door made of something combustible, like wood, consider treating it with a heat- resistant stain if replacing it is out of the question. If possible, try to store combustible liquids, like gasoline and engine oil, in a building that isn’t attached to your home. If you don’t have an alternative place to store such liquids, do your best to keep flammable liquids stored apart from other combustible materials in your garage, like paper recycling.
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insurance victories Texas legislative session ends with
8 | Germania Today D espite the limitations of the coronavirus pandemic, the 87th Texas legislative session ended with nearly 10,000 bills filed and about one-third passed into law. While most topics involved workers’ compensation and the coronavirus, several bills related to insurance were also active during the 140-day session. Germania was successful in working with several trade associations and other companies to help pass several bills that will have a positive impact across the state, including the following:
HB 19 : This bill will help address abuses in commercial motor vehicle litigation that harm the availability of commercial motor vehicle coverage, which could in turn increase the cost of that coverage. HB 113 : HB 113 amends the Business and Commerce Code to define and add insurance requirements for a peer-to-peer car sharing program. Peer-to-peer car sharing programs allow existing car owners to make their vehicles available for others to rent for short periods of time. HB 113 will require such a program to
HB 3433 : HB 3433 prohibits insurers from discriminating against individuals based on their political affiliation or expression. An insurer does not violate this if he/she refuses, limits, or charges based on sound underwriting or actuarial principles. HB 4030 : HB 4030 is the Texas Department of Insurance’s biennial recommendation bill that amends various provisions related to adjusters, agents, and other insurance professionals. SB 15 : Also known as the Motor Vehicle Record Access Bill, SB 15 limits public access to drivers’ records in an effort to fight scams. However, information can be disclosed for the following uses: by an insurer, insurance support organization, self-insured entity, or an authorized agent of an insurer in connection with claims processing or investigation activities, antifraud activities, rating, or underwriting. SB 918 : Spearheaded by Germania, SB 918 updates corporate board requirements to better reflect modern operating practices and eliminate the problem of unnecessarily large boards assembled for the sole purpose of compliance with the law. SB 1448 : In 2019, the Texas legislature passed a bill requiring a study of the funding structure of the TWIA. As a result of COVID-19, this study never occurred. SB 1448 extended the date for the study to be completed by December 2022. It also requires TWIA to obtain prior approval from the insurance commissioner for any rate increase and prohibits TWIA from filing any rate increase unless two-thirds of the TWIA board votes to approve the rate. SB 1602 : The practice of failure to cooperate in the investigation, settlement, and defense of a claim or action of personal automobile claims is an issue which insurers have battled for years. SB 1602 gives insurers the right to put those uncooperative insureds on notice that if they fail to cooperate with the insurer (ex. by failing to respond to repeated communication and providing request information) that the insured’s auto policy will not be renewed. If this notice is sent, then the insurer has the right to part ways with an insured if they fail to cooperate.
make sure that the owner and the driver are insured during each sharing period and that the auto policy meets certain requirements. HB 317 : HB 317 prohibits insurance companies from taking certain adverse actions against individuals who are living organ donors solely on that basis and with respect to life, disability, and long-term care policies. HB 365 : HB 365 modifies the Texas Farm Animal Liability Act (FALA) to include ranchers and ranch hands. FALA, which protects farm animal owners from liability if a participant is injured in a farm animal activity and the injury is the result of an inherent risk of the farm animal activity, previously excluded owners, employees, and independent contractors from liability protection. HB 365 also expands the farm animal activities to include routine/customary activities on a farm, handling and managing farm animals, and ranching activities. HB 769 : After amendment, HB 769 includes two provisions to the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA): the board cannot vote on a rate increase if there is a vacancy and reinsurance cannot be purchased from a broker involved in the execution of a catastrophe model used by TWIA. HB 1777 : HB 1777 amends Chapter 1115 of the Texas Insurance Code to incorporate a “best interest” standard of care for annuities. The bill expressly requires an insurance agent, including an insurance company where no agent is involved, to act in the “best interest” of the consumer by prioritizing the consumer ’s interest over the agent’s or the insurer ’s financial interest. HB 1787 : HB 1787 amends the Texas Insurance Code to clarify that a personal auto insurance policy provides coverage while an insured’s vehicle is in any repair facility. HB 2819 : HB 2819 allows the Texas Department of Insurance to deny an insurance agent license application if they determine that grounds exist for license denial or disciplinary action. It also extends the period a temporary license is valid from 90 days to 180 days.
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Are you curious as to how COVID-19 and its vaccine affects policies through Germania Life? Whether you are a current policyholder or thinking about getting a new policy, it’s important to understand your options when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine and life insurance. In addition to keeping a close eye on industry standards, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions you may have, such as: • Will my Germania Life policy become invalidated if I receive the COVID-19 vaccination? • Will I be denied coverage if I have been previously exposed or hospitalized for COVID-19? Find out these answers and more by visiting www.germaniainsurance.com/texas-insurance/life-insurance. Note: Germania remains objective in regard to the COVID-19 vaccination and is not in the position to make recommendations. The FAQs are purely informational. How does COVID-19 affect my life insurance? and other common questions from Germania Life As a proud partner of Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Germania is excited to reward our members with an exclusive discount to enjoy COTA’s go-karts and zipline! COTA Karting is the country’s premier karting destination for all skill levels. The track, which races along COTA’s Formula 1 track, features 15 turns, with speeds of up to 55 miles per hour. Guests can also enjoy an aerial view of COTA’s racing track with a ride on the zipline. Germania policyholders can enjoy a 20% discount for COTA karting and $5 ziplining rides (originally $12) by providing your policy ID number when purchasing over the phone at 512-301-6600. Present your auto ID card (or declaration page of your policy) to COTA staff to receive the discount when you redeem prepaid tickets or to purchase tickets in person. Download our free Germania Insurance app and create a member account to access your policy and auto ID cards. Search “Germania Insurance” in your app store. Germania policyholders enjoy summer savings at COTA
Continued from page 4: A message from your agent...
Turning votes into hope for childhood cancer research “Germania’s motto is sharing each other ’s burdens,” Janecka said. “As an agent, I am here to identify potential areas of improvement that my customers can do to keep their home, property, and life disaster ready.” For more disaster preparedness and response resources, check out Germania’s latest blogs: • Learn how to prepare for wildfires by hardening your home and creating defensible spaces • How to prepare your home for hurricane season • How to create a hurricane evacuation plan for you and your family • How to weather a power outage and prepare for the next one
The final numbers are in, and Germania ended its 2021 board of directors election with approximately 17,500 ballots cast! Germania welcomes back to the board the following individuals who were elected for a three-year term: • Jeffrey “Jeff” Knippa (Walburg) • Bruce Germer (Lockhart) • Robert “Tony” Reeves (Midland) • Paul Ehlert (Brenham) • Laura Deutscher (Dallas) • Victor Carrillo (Rockwall) Earlier this year, Germania President and CEO Paul Ehlert committed Germania to donating $1 to St. Baldrick’s Foundation for every member who voted in this year ’s election. The participation was outstanding, and we are excited to give $20,000 in support of childhood cancer research! You can learn more about Germania’s support and contribution to its community by visiting www.germaniainsurance.com/about/community.
10 | Germania Today
Continued from page 7: Learn how to prepare for wildfires... Out in the yard . There are several ways you can potentially mitigate the spread of a fire out in your yard. • Create horizontal spaces between your trees, shrubs, and vegetation by trimming them 10 feet apart from one another. • Create vertical space between the lawn, shrubs, and trees by trimming limbs at least 6 feet off the ground. • Allow three times the height of any given shrub between the bottom of the tree limb and the top of the shrub. This
prevents fire from spreading from the grass to the shrub, to the tree in a process called a fuel ladder. • Keep the lawn trimmed to at least 4 inches. Together with home hardening practices, creating defensible spaces puts your home and property in the best possible position when faced with the threat of a wildfire. To learn how Germania Insurance can help protect your property from the unexpected, request a quote online or reach out to one of our authorized agents today!
Germania adds texting capabilities to claims service
Germania is opening the communication lines between policyholders and claims adjusters to include texting! Germania has partnered with Hi Marley, a texting platform exclusively designed for the insurance industry, to give you the option to communicate via text regarding your claim. You will be able to send photos and speak in real-time directly to your adjuster throughout the process – on your own time and in your own way! Our staff will ask for your consent to receive texts before initiating a text conversation. The first text will be from “Marley | Germania Insurance” to begin the conversation, then it will be handed over to a claim representative.
According to Hi Marley, customers who utilize texting to work through their claim experience will enjoy these benefits:
If you have any questions, please contact your agent.
Queso Blanco Four-ingredient
Ingredients: 1 lb. pork sausage 1 16 oz. block queso blanco 1 8 oz. block cream cheese, softened 1 10 oz. can Rotel
Directions: 1. Brown pork sausage in a large skillet over medium high heat. Drain grease. 2. Cut queso blanco and cream cheese into medium chunks and add to pan with cooked sausage. 3. Add Rotel to cheeses and meat and warm over low heat, stirring frequently. Once melted and heated through, turn off heat. 4. Serve warm with chips.
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It’s easy to forget just how much we rely on power until that power is out. We’re discussing some helpful tips for getting through a power outage and steps you can take to prepare for the next one!
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