Superstorm Sandy was a powerful storm that packed some memorable lessons. The wind and water damage hit the East Coast the hardest, but the remnants of the fall storm stretched as far north as eastern Canada.
To protect yourself and your property from severe weather, review these important steps, recommended by consumer safety advocates, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS).
1. Check your home insurance coverage - Be sure you have the right kind and amount of insurance, enough to rebuild your home and replace your belongings. It’s always best to review your coverage with your insurance agent every year.
2. Get flood coverage - You may also want to consider flood insurance, which is not covered under a standard homeowners policy. It is important to purchase flood coverage well in advance of a storm because there is a 30-day waiting period.
3. Beware of contractor fraud - Dishonest drifters often go door-to-door, especially after disasters, to try to convince you that you need a new roof, even if your roof is not damaged at all. Read more about the scams on the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud’s website. If you need a suggestion about who to hire, your insurance agent may be of help.
4. Inspect your roof - Keeping wind and water out of your home is critical. Make sure the roof covering is well adhered and there are no missing pieces. Secure roof shingles and seal any openings, cracks and holes. Refer to the IBHS roof inspection checklist for help.
5. Check your basement - In the basement, IBHS recommends using water-resistant paint on the interior basement walls, sump pumps and other methods that can prevent flood damage to your home and belongings. Sump pumps are most often used in cases where the house’s basement is below the water table level and in places where flooding is common. If you have a sump pump, use a battery backup system in the event that the power goes out during a storm. You may also want to consider adding sewer and drain backup coverage to your homeowners policy. It covers a loss caused by water or sewage that backs up through sewers or drains or overflows from a sump pump.
6. Prune the trees - Good pruning can prevent damage to your home in extreme weather conditions. If a tree hits a home or other insure structure such as a detached garage, most homeowner policies will provide coverage for damage to the structure and contents inside it. Some insurance policies also provide coverage for the cost of removing the tree. However, coverage is often limited to trees that fall because of a windstorm, hail, weight or ice, snow or sleet. It does not cover dead or diseased trees. Check out this helpful pamphlet on pruning trees properly.
7. Create a home inventory - An up-to-date home inventory will speed up the claims process by substantiating losses. It can also help you determine how much insurance to purchase. To make the process easier, I.I.I. offers free web-based software at www.knowyourstuff.org and Erie Insurance has a home inventory form that you can print out and fill in.
8. Have an evacuation plan – Decide where you will go and how you will get there and have more than one option. Keep a map, phone numbers and addresses handy. There are many phone apps available like Know Your Plan that can also help with your plans. Think about what you’ll need to take with you – items like medicines, important documents, clothing and food – and have them ready to go. The I.I.I. recommends practicing your evacuation plan by a doing a 10-minute challenge - giving yourself just 10 minutes to pack and get out.
By taking these steps now, you stand the best chance of getting your life back in order after a disaster. More storm preparation information on iii.org or the Institute for Business and Home Safety’s Web site, disastersafety.org.
If you have any questions about this information or your coverage, contact our agency. We’re here to help.