Preparing for severe storms can be the key to saving money, time, and protecting your family. So before storm season approaches, review your insurance coverage to ensure you’re covered for natural disasters.
Below are 10 steps to guard your home and family against storm damage:
Step 1: Know Your Policy
Most homeowners recognize the importance of home insurance but make the common mistake of never getting to know what their policy covers. Unfortunately, if a storm threatens, it’s probably too late, so get to know your policy in advance.
Review your policy for deductible, exclusion, and coverage information, as well as limits on valuable items such as jewelry. Knowing your renewal date is also important because letting your insurance lapse could result in a costly mistake.
Step 2: Determine Adequate Coverage
Be proactive. Make sure you have the right amount of insurance to cover your home and all your valuables. It’s important to check your homeowner’s policy each year to make sure any changes such as additions are covered.
Having adequate coverage is just as important as being covered. Most homeowners would rather not think about a worst-case scenario, but if your home is insured for $200,000 and it’s going to cost $300,000 to replace after a storm, you face a steep loss.
Make sure to speak with your insurance agent today to determine adequate coverage for your dwelling and possessions based on today’s values.
Step 3: Purchase Storm Insurance Coverage
Most standard homeowner’s insurance policies will protect your home from damage caused by wind, rain, and hail. But you need to check your policy to make sure it covers windstorm damage. Even the smallest storms can result in damage to your property. Insurance claims often hail from storms other than tornadoes, hailstorms, and blizzards.
Policies typically cover damage from catastrophic storms such as hurricanes, but other storm damage, such as flooding, usually requires a separate policy. You should consider purchasing flood insurance if your home is in a flood zone as determined by the National Flood Insurance Program, or you risk losing it all.
Step 4: Storm-Proof Your Home
Invest in protecting your home. The rising costs of natural disasters have led insurers to urge homeowners to prevent damage before it occurs. Some states even offer discounts to consumers with more weather-resistant homes.
Installing storm shutters and impact-resistant doors and windows to prevent breakage or reinforcing the roof to protect against hailstorms can save you between 10 and 35 percent on your policy in states such as Alabama, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Ask your insurance company today what you can do to save money.
Step 5: Stash Emergency Supplies
Making sure your home is adequately insured for storms is vital, but the safety of your family before, during, and after a storm is more important. Always be prepared for a storm by keeping emergency supplies such as canned food, bottled water, a battery-operated radio, and flashlights handy. Store prescription refills, spare cash, and your evacuation plan in a place you can access quickly in the event of an emergency.
Step 6: Prepare Evacuation Plan
Nobody likes to evacuate, but sometimes it’s the safest option for you and your family. Being prepared will make it easier on every household member.
Identify the nearest storm shelter or make arrangements with relatives, and communicate the plan with family members. If you have any pets, take them with you or arrange for an animal shelter to house them during the storm.
If you need to evacuate, turn off utilities and disconnect any electrical items in your home. Any device left connected is a potential fire hazard in case of a flood or leak.
Step 7: Home Inventory
Your personal belongings are also at risk in a storm, so document your possessions with a home inventory list that includes item, purchase date, and cost. Since your insurance company may require proof, take photographs or video of items such as furniture, jewelry, and electronics. You should also record receipts, model type, and serial numbers for each item. A home inventory will make it easier when filing a claim and help expedite the process.
Step 8: Safeguard Your Records
Keep your policy, personal identification, and inventory records in a safety deposit box or fireproof vault that is easily accessible and mobile, if possible. You will need quick access to the information if your property is damaged. It’s also recommended to make a copy of your records and give it to a trusted friend or relative.
Step 9: Filing a Claim after a Storm
If a storm damages your home, file a claim with your company immediately. Know your insurance company’s guidelines to filing a claim and have all the necessary paperwork handy. Incomplete or inaccurate information can result in a claims process that is longer than necessary.
Most insurers require you to file within a certain timeframe, so don’t wait, especially since the quicker you file, the quicker you can recover your losses after a disaster.
Step 10: Make Minor Repairs
It’s perfectly OK to make minor repairs that will prevent further damage to your home, such as boarding up windows and placing a tarp on the roof. But wait until a claims adjuster inspects your property before replacing windows or shingles — and don’t throw away any storm-damaged property until it has been examined and documented.