Disaster Preparedness:
Act now to make filing a claim easier after the storm

Spring and summer can bring all kinds of potentially damaging weather. This spring has already been a destructive season for natural disasters, and June 1 marks the beginning of hurricane season. Knowing what to do before and after a storm can help protect your family and your property. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is providing a series of consumer alerts on disaster preparedness, including what to do before a storm, how to file a claim after the storm hits, and special considerations for flood insurance. Here are some tips on how you and your family can get ready before disaster strikes.

Make a Plan
Develop an emergency plan that will prepare you in case you need to evacuate your home or take shelter. The safest place to take shelter during a tornado is in a basement, but if you do not have a basement, an interior bathroom or closet without windows is the next best option. Keep thick blankets or sleeping bags nearby to protect you from debris. The National Weather Service has a brochure with more information about preparing for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and floods. Review your emergency plans with your family so that you are ready before the storm hits, and don't forget to include pets.

You should also create a disaster kit. A basic disaster kit includes drinking water, non-perishable food, flashlights and chargers for cell phones, among other items. Make copies of any personal documents - including your insurance information - and store them in a waterproof container. The Red Cross and Ready.gov have some more suggestions for putting together a disaster kit.

Check Your Insurance Coverage
Once you have prepared your family and your home for the worst, it's time to review your insurance policy so that you know if you have adequate coverage. More expensive items like jewelry, electronics or collectibles may exceed the limits of your coverage and require an additional policy. Understanding your policy will also help you plan for any out-of-pocket expenses you may incur if your home is damaged, such as paying your deductible or for temporary living expenses.

Be sure you understand the difference between replacement cost and actual cash value. Replacement cost is the amount it would take to replace or rebuild your home or repair damages with materials of similar kind and quality, without deducting for depreciation. It is important to insure your home for at least 80 percent of its replacement value. Actual cash value is the amount it would take to repair or replace damage to your home after depreciation. The NAIC's Consumers Guide to Homeowners Insurance offers more information about homeowners policies.

Finally, a standard homeowners or renter's policy does not cover damage from flood; you will need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy. For more information about flood insurance, check out this consumer alert.

Create a Home Inventory
Before severe weather strikes, make a complete list of your belongings. A comprehensive home inventory can take some of the stress out of filing a claim should you suffer damage or a loss. To help you create a thorough home inventory, the NAIC developed MyHome Scr.APP.book for iPhones and Android devices. This free app will walk you through the process of documenting your things, organized by room, and then produce a back-up file that you can easily email to yourself or your insurance agent. You can also download a PDF version of a home inventory.

Include as much information about your belongings as possible, such as brand name, the price you paid, date of purchase, make and model, and serial numbers. Take photos of each item and include any receipts. When making your inventory, go through all of your drawers and closets, and don't forget to include items in your garage. The more detail you can provide, the easier it will be for your insurance company to evaluate your loss. If you don't have time to create a home inventory, then quickly videotape and/or photograph every room.

Store back-ups of your inventory with your insurance information and keep it somewhere besides your home, like with a family member or your insurance agent, so that you can access it even if you have to evacuate and cannot return home.

More Information
You can find more information on disaster preparedness at Insure U. The NAIC is also offering tips on what to do after the storm hits and special considerations for flood insurance.

Your state insurance department will also be able to help you prepare for severe weather threats or other disasters that are specific to your state.

May 2014

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The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is the U.S. standard-setting and regulatory support organization created and governed by the chief insurance regulators from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. Through the NAIC, state insurance regulators establish standards and best practices, conduct peer review, and coordinate their regulatory oversight. NAIC staff supports these efforts and represents the collective views of state regulators domestically and internationally. NAIC members, together with the central resources of the NAIC, form the national system of state-based insurance regulation in the U.S. For consumer information, visit insureUonline.org.

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