NEW ORLEANS — As Tropical Storm Cristobal takes aim at the northern Gulf Coast this weekend, the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) urges residents to conduct last-minute preparations and be ready to file a claim if their property is damaged.
“Tropical Storm Cristobal is expected to bring high winds, heavy rain, and flooding, especially along the coast,” said Fred Bosse, vice president of state government relations for APCIA. “Residents should take time now to make a home inventory, gather important insurance documents, and keep their insurer’s contact information close by in case they need to file a claim.”
Flooding is not covered by a standard homeowners policy. Flood insurance coverage is available through the National Flood Insurance Program or the private market. Flood insurance coverage typically has a 30-day waiting period between the date of purchase and when the actual flood coverage goes into effect. However, water damage to a vehicle is typically covered under an auto policy’s comprehensive insurance coverage.
“If your home is damaged, contact your insurer as soon as possible to start the claim’s process. Insurers are ready to assist customers, even while working remotely due to COVID-19, by processing claims quickly and efficiently,” added Bosse.
Residents should also take steps to prepare their property by clearing their yard of debris and small objects that could become wind borne “missiles” and placing grills and patio furniture indoors.
Additionally, beware of dishonest contractors who go door-to-door after a disaster preying on people who are in desperate need of repairs. Before signing any contracts for repair work, talk to your insurer or local better business bureau for references.
APCIA recommends taking the following precautions during hurricane season:
Be Financially Prepared
· Call your insurer to review your policy and understand how it works. If you have recently completed a renovation or remodel, let your insurer know.
· Make a home inventory using your smartphone to take photos and videos of your belongings, like furniture, electronics, and appliances. Do not forget the small stuff like your clothes and dishes or any high value items like artwork or jewelry. Store your home inventory in safe place, like the cloud, where it can be easily accessed.
· Evaluate your need for flood insurance. A standard homeowners policy does not cover flood damage. Flood coverage must be purchased as a separate policy through the National Flood Insurance Program or the private market. New flood policies typically take 30 days before they go into effect.
Make Your Home Stronger
· Inspect your roof and make repairs to loose or damaged shingles.
· Trim branches and shrubs away from the roof and house.
· Clear your yard of debris that could become wind-borne “missiles” and damage property.
· Secure loose gutters and seal gaps and crackers around windows and doors to prevent water intrusion.
· If investing in hurricane shutters is not feasible, measure windows and get plywood cut ahead of time and have the necessary tools to install them.
· New research from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety has shown that a strong garage door can be crucial to preventing damage to your home during high winds. Check to see if your garage door is wind-rated. If not, consider purchasing a new garage door or be prepared to brace your existing garage door if a storm approaches.
Know Your Evacuation Zone and Make a Plan
· Know if you live in a mandatory evacuation zone and plan for where you will evacuate. Consider evacuating tens of miles away instead of hundreds of miles away, if it is safe to do so. This reduces the concern of spreading COVID-19 from state to state or region to region. Additionally, staying closer to home allows residents to get back quickly and take immediate steps to reduce further damage or loss.
· Whether you are planning to evacuate to a shelter, a hotel or with friends and family, make sure you have face masks for each member of your family.
· If you do not live in a mandatory evacuation zone, consider if you can safely ride out a storm at your home to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This may vary depending on the intensity of a storm.
· Do not forget to include your pets in your evacuation plan. Never leave pets behind.
Get Your Hurricane Supply Kit Ready
· Have enough food, water, and any needed medications for each member of your family, including your pets, for at least seven days.
· Include face masks, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies in your supply kit.
· Be prepared for power restoration to take longer than normal.
APCIA insurance experts are available for interviews and to answer questions. Contact Sarah Revell for more information at 850-879-1853 or Sarah.Revell@apci.org.