Preparing for the 2012 Hurricane Season: Tips for Texas Homeowners
Posted: 05-31-11Category:The 2012 Hurricane season officially begins today. Forecasters are predicting 11 Named Storms, 6 Hurricanes and 2 Major Hurricanes for 2012. As the season begins, Texans along the Gulf Coast must prepare for the possibility of this year’s storms. But whether you live in the hurricane zone or not, you should take time to review your homeowners insurance policy now to make sure you have the coverage you need in the event of a disaster. Even if you don’t face the threat of a hurricane, a wildfire, tornado, or hail storm could severely damage your property. Here are some helpful tips to help you prepare in advance for the coming hurricane season: Plan your escape route early Find out where the nearest official shelter in your area is in case you have to leave your home. The Red Cross or your local government can give you this information. Find out what you should bring and if there are restrictions in terms of pets, etc. If you are unfamiliar with the area, make a trial run. If you plan to leave the area entirely, check with city or county officials for the quickest and best route to your destination and the roads to avoid. Keep a good map in your car in case planned evacuation routes cannot be followed. If you live on the coast or in a mobile home, you’ll probably have to evacuate in the event of a major storm. Review your homeowners insurance policy every year and make sure that you have the insurance coverage you need in place. Policyholders need to have enough coverage to fully protect themselves in the event of a total loss. In particular, pay attention to the exclusions and policy limits written into your policy and be aware of the deductible and type of replacement cost your policy offers. Make sure that you have enough coverage to repair or rebuild your home after a disaster. Consult with your independent insurance agent to make sure that you have the right amount of coverage and that all of the correct coverages are in place. Don't wait until there is a named storm in the Gulf to purchase or check your homeowners coverage. Most insurance companies temporarily stop selling homeowners insurance when a named storm enters the Gulf of Mexico. You need to have your coverage in place in advance of any storms. Take an inventory of the contents of your home now. To begin a review, start with your home inventory. Creating an inventory and storing it in a safe location away from home is one of the most basic and effective disaster preparedness steps you can take to help protect yourself and your financial future. A home inventory can save you time and headaches when filing a claim following a disaster. This information can be vital if you have to file a claim with your insurance company. Insurance Companies will deny that you had anything in your home and will make you prove that you had each and every item that you own before they will pay. Since most people don't keep receipts for every item they purchase, it's a good idea to make an inventory of what you have in each room.This includes furnishings, clothing, kitchenware, tools and all personal items you own. One of the most helpful things you could do in order to document what you have is to take photographs and/or videos of what you have in each room of your house. Then make sure you keep the photographs and videos in a safe place other than your house--in a safety deposit box at a bank, or store them in a private cloud storage site on the internet. You can also save a copy of your contents list by emailing it to yourself. You should also prepare a written list of your contents. You can download and print a home inventory checklist from the TDI website: http://www.tdi.state.tx.us/pubs/consumer/cb086.pdf. It is important to review your inventory each year. Remember to note the make, model, serial number, purchase price and date of purchase of any new items and keep copies of receipts for major purchases with your inventory. Also, make sure you 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. Store copies of your insurance policies with your inventory in a safe location away from your home, so that these records can be easily retrieved in the event of a loss. Before you store the insurance policies, review them to verify that they meet your needs. Make sure you know your policy limits, deductibles, exclusions and policyholder claims notification requirements, before disaster strikes. Keep a list of contact details for your insurance agent and/or 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 located in one of Texas’ 14 coastal counties, or parts of southeastern Harris County, your homeowners policy may not provide windstorm coverage. You may be able to obtain insurance coverage for windstorm or hail damage from a special insurance pool called the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA). It’s important to note that you cannot buy or change TWIA coverage once a hurricane is in or near the Gulf of Mexico. If you currently have TWIA coverage, review your policy carefully and know your policy limits. Compare your TWIA and homeowners policies and determine whether you are insured to an appropriate replacement value. 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. Consider flood insurance. Most homeowners and commercial property policies specifically 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 obtain flood insurance contact your insurance agent or NFIP at 1-888-FLOOD 29 (356-6329) or visit www.floodsmart.gov. Note: for certain TWIA policyholders, flood coverage is required effective 9/1/2009; for more information about this requirement, contact your insurance agent or TWIA. * Dealing with your insurance company after a catastrophic loss can often be an overwhelming process, but preparing in advance can make the task less daunting. * If a disaster does happen, call your insurance company immediately to report the loss. Take photographs to document the loss and take care not to throw anything out until the insurance company's adjuster has had the opportunity to inspect the damaged items. And, finally, if you are treated unfairly by your insurance company, call Steve Ferrell at The Ferrell Law Firm, P.C. (713) 800-0220 for assistance. The initial consultation is always free and we don't charge a fee unless you make a recovery.