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Prepare for spring storms: What to do before a severe weather event

Contact: Jennifer Bowen

(334) 269-3550

3/5/2018

Spring is almost here and now is the time to prepare for the spring severe weather season. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers these tips to help protect you and your family from extreme weather events.

Understanding Extreme Weather Hazards

Check the weather every morning to better understand what the day may bring. Consider the following:

  • Tornadoes can hit anywhere, anytime. Of the 50 states, 49 have experienced a tornado since 2005. Make sure to identify a shelter and practice an annual family tornado drill.
  • Flash floods are the cause of the most deaths associated with severe weather. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a car. Don't ever drive or walk into flood waters and never underestimate the power of flowing water.
  • Lightning is common, even if getting struck is rare. Stay inside during a lightning storm and take precautions such as unplugging your appliances and avoid talking on a phone.
  • Hurricanes are powerful and destructive. Check to ensure walls, eaves and the roof of your home are secure and have been built to current codes. Inexpensive mitigation improvements can make your home safer and protect it from costly damage.

Create a Home Inventory

To make the claims process easier, create a home inventory of your belongings. Include identifying information about your possessions (brand name, price, purchase date, model, serial number and receipts) and take photos. The NAIC has created a free smartphone app that will help you create a database of your possessions. The app is available for iPhone and Android. A simple-to-use printable home inventory checklist is also available.

If you don't have time to create a full list of the items in your home, consider videotaping and/or taking photographs in every room. The more detail you include, the easier it will be for your insurer to evaluate your loss. When making your list, open drawers and closets and don't forget to document what's in your basement, garage and storage buildings.

Once you've created your inventory, send the information to your insurance agent and/or keep it on your app.

Collect Your Insurance Information

Before a storm hits, review your insurance policies. Make sure you know what is and is not covered. If you have questions, contact your insurance agent or insurer.

Store electronic copies of your insurance policies with your home inventory and keep paper files in a safety deposit box. Make sure to have a copy of your policy declarations page listing all of your coverages, as well as your insurance cards.

Collect the 24-hour contact information for your insurance agent and insurer and enter it as a contact on your smartphone. Make a list that includes your policy numbers, insurer and insurance agent's phone numbers, website addresses and mailing addresses. Also, check to see if the company or agent has an emergency information hotline. It is a good idea to store this information, along with your home inventory, in a waterproof, fireproof box or safe. If you evacuate your home, take this information with you.

Note: Flood damage is generally not covered by a standard homeowners or renter's insurance policy. If you have a separate flood insurance policy, remember to include a copy of the policy and the contact details for the insurer on your list. Flood is a covered event in most auto insurance policies.

Prepare for the Worst

To help lessen the damage caused by a storm, take stock of your home. Clear your yard of debris that could become projectiles in high winds and trim dead or overhanging branches from trees surrounding your home. Ensure the roof sheathing is properly secured. Fasten end gables to the roof. Latch doors and garage doors properly. Secure shutters and outdoor furniture.

For personal safety, identify the nearest storm shelter and have an emergency or evacuation plan for your family. Practice your evacuation plan, making sure everyone knows where emergency supplies are stored. Have a storm survival kit that includes bottled water, a first-aid kit, flashlights, a battery-operated radio, at least three days of nonperishable food items, blankets, clothing, prescription drugs, eyeglasses and personal hygiene supplies.

If you must evacuate your home, turn off all utilities and disconnect appliances, reducing the chance of additional damage and electrical shock when utilities are restored.

For more information about how to prepare your family and home for the weather threats, visit the American Red Cross.