By Tod Aubin
Editors note: Recent storms proved eye-openers for many local residents. Are you covered if a tree falls on your roof? What if your house floods? Will insurance pick up the tab if you drive through deep water and get stuck or worse, washed away? Find out what you need to know about storm insurance in this informative piece by emergency management trainer and educator Tod Aubin.
“Am I covered for that?” Many were asking themselves that question last week while the rain and trees were falling on county roads and homes. Some storms cause damage to our property AND our wallets. But many find out too late that conventional policies don’t cover some forms of storm devastation.
Before you find yourself filling up sandbags, it’s wise to fill out an insurance policy that will fully cover and protect you from future storm damage.
The Calm before the Storm
“Sure, I’m calm. I’ve got home owners insurance and that covers everything!” True, your homeowner’s insurance policy does cover many of the everyday risks a homeowner faces such as the bumps, bruises and bashes your garage suffers while your son learns the finer art of parking the car in the garage. But surface water damage caused by the rain entering through the hole in the roof is not covered. This type of damage, along with damage caused by flood waters, needs to be addressed by a separate surface water/flood policy.
A word to the wise: If you live down slope from a recently burned out area you may want to take out a flood insurance policy. Burn areas do not have the vegetation needed to hold the hill together therefore water and other debris will rush down unabated onto property and into your house.
“In the Flooded Plains”
If you know that you live in a flood plain (Tijuana River Basin, Mission Valley-San Diego River Area, etc) you can get special flood insurance.
There are a number of resources you can go to for information. You can ask your insurance agent or broker. Also, the federal government sponsors the website, www.floodsmart.gov. This site will give you information about flooding, flood risks, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), preparation and recovery, maps, etc.
Know before the flood waters flow!
Get Storm Ready
Being storm ready also means that you are “claim ready”.
Most insurance companies suggest that you take pictures or better yet a video of your entire house, inside and out; it is recommended that you do this every two or three years. If you don’t have pictures or video, do you have receipts, serial numbers or other documents proving ownership of the items that you have listed on your claim? If your claim states that your three 42-inch plasma televisions were destroyed by the tree that landed in your living room, your claims adjuster will ask you to provide some sort of proof. Being claim ready is also helpful when other “storms” occur such as a house fire, burglary, wildland fire or earthquake.
Now, once you have made your Claim Ready file, store a copy of it off-site in a safety deposit box or somewhere where it will be safe, secure and easily accessible—so that even if your home is destroyed your documents won’t be.
Your SUV is not a USV (Underwater Submersible Vehicle)
If you decide to drive around Department of Public Works barricades warning of flooded roads or through water of an unknown depth, get ready to be chest-deep into trouble.
If you have comprehensive auto insurance you will be covered for the damage and the cost of “fishing” your vehicle out of the water. Depending on your insurance company, this “stupidity factor” may or may not raise your premiums but it certainly will put your agent on notice in regards to your driving. You have liability only? Better invest in a USV.
Make sure that the ‘65 Ford Mustang that you are restoring to cherry-like condition for cruising down El Cajon Boulevard on a July evening has its own comprehensive insurance policy, whether it’s running or not! Homeowners insurance will not cover damage to the car if the tree that is in your living room entered by way of the garage.
Before the Next Storm
So now you have been informed
That before the next storm
Take a moment and see
If you are covered by the right insurance policy.
Tod Aubin is an Emergency Management trainer and educator
He currently produces a podcast, publishes monthly newsletters and develops webinars and webisodes. For more information, visit http://prepare4.org/