Insurance is Key to Disaster Preparation

18 07 2012

On May 30, 2012, the Texas Department of Insurance published a News Release providing valuable disaster preparation information to the public.  I am reprinting the information below.  Though the 2012 Hurricane Season has already begun, it is not too late to complete some of the suggestions mentioned below. 

With the official start of hurricane season on June 1 and an already active spring storm season, the Texas Department of Insurance encourages you to review your basic insurance needs to make sure you and your loved ones are financially protected from a disaster.  Here are some steps to take to make sure you’re ready.
Create a Home Inventory. Creating an inventory and storing it in a safe location away from home is a basic – and effective – disaster preparedness step.  According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), more than half of Americans don’t have a home inventory of their personal property. Not having an inventory to calculate the value of your property means you might be underinsured and not have enough money to replace your personal property if it’s damaged or destroyed.

You can download and print a home inventory checklist from the TDI website: www.tdi.state.tx.us/pubs/consumer/cb086.pdf.

In addition, NAIC has created a smart phone app that makes it easy to create a home inventory.  The myHOME Scr.APP.book app lets users capture and electronically store images, descriptions, bar codes, and serial numbers of your personal property. The app organizes information by room and creates a back-up file for email sharing. To download the free app, go to the iTunes or Android app stores and search “NAIC.”
You should review your inventory each year. Note the make, model, serial number, purchase price, and purchase date of any new items and keep copies of receipts for major purchases with your inventory.

Check Your Policy. It’s important to know whether your policy includes coverage for replacement cost or actual cash value in case of a loss. Actual cash value (ACV) is the amount it would take to repair damage to your home or to replace its contents after allowing for depreciation. Replacement cost is the amount it would take to rebuild or replace your home and its contents with similar quality materials or goods, without deducting for depreciation.

Make sure your policy meets your needs and that you know your policy limits, deductibles, exclusions, and claim notification requirements. Store copies of your insurance policies with your inventory in a safe location away from your home so that you can easily retrieve them.  Also consider scanning your policies and storing them electronically on a computer or server away from your home.

Keep a list of contact details for your insurance agent and company with your policies. Include office phone numbers, mailing addresses, website addresses, and all of your policy numbers for quick reference. Email this information to yourself in case you’re separated from your hard copy list.

Make Sure You Have Windstorm Insurance.  If your property is in one of the state’s 14 coastal counties or parts of southeastern Harris County, your homeowners policy might not provide windstorm coverage.  You may be able to obtain insurance coverage for windstorm or hail damage from the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA). It’s important to know that you cannot buy or change TWIA coverage once a hurricane is in or near the Gulf of Mexico. For more information about windstorm coverage and inspection requirements, call your insurance agent or TWIA at 512-899-4900, or visit TWIA’s website at www.twia.org.

If you’re a TWIA policyholder, be aware that your policy recently changed. For more information about the new TWIA claims process, call TDI’s Coastal Outreach and Assistance Services Team (COAST) at 1-855-35COAST (352-6278).

Consider Flood Insurance.  Most homeowners and commercial property policies exclude coverage for damage from flooding.  To protect yourself from losses caused by rising water, you’ll need a separate flood insurance policy, typically from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). NFIP is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Flood insurance policies usually have a 30-day waiting period after the purchase date before coverage takes effect on currently owned property, so don’t wait until a flooding threat is imminent. To get flood insurance, call your insurance agent or NFIP at 1-888-FLOOD 29 (356-6329) or visit www.floodsmart.gov

Make a Safety Plan.  If a disaster threatens your area, you might have to decide whether to stay in your home or evacuate. Whenever local authorities recommend evacuation, you should leave. The advice of authorities is based on knowledge of the strength of the storm and its potential for destruction.

• Map out safe routes inland or to safer areas. If you live in a low-lying area, know where low-water crossings might make travel to safety more difficult and plan routes that avoid these areas.
• Find out the location of any nearby community shelters in case you must seek immediate shelter.
• Work out a way for family members to communicate in case you must leave your home or if there is a disruption in local phone service.

For more specific information about safety planning and emergency preparedness, go to www.texasprepares.org

For More Information:
If you have questions about insurance, call TDI’s toll-free Consumer Help Line (1-800-252-3439) or visit the TDI website at www.tdi.texas.gov.

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