Five Things You Must Do Before the Next Storm
Document, Document, Document!
A Pre-Loss Evaluation is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself financially in case your property and belongings are damaged, destroyed, lost or stolen during a storm, fire, theft or any other calamity.
Why? By documenting the condition of your property before a loss you can then prove to your insurance company that it was in proper condition pre-loss. The same applies to your belongings. If everything in your home or office vanished tomorrow, the burden of proof is on you to prove ownership. If you can’t prove that you owned it, your insurance company doesn’t have to pay you for it.
Photograph the exterior of your property from multiple angles. Then take multiple angles within each room of your home as well. Don’t forget things like your garage, pool area, fences, sheds and any other potentially covered items. The roof is especially important. Get as many quality shots as possible. If you are able to SAFELY get on your roof to take these pictures, doing so will give you the best possible shots. Again, only get on the roof if you can do so SAFELY.
For your belongings, make a list of major items like this:
Washing Machine – Maytag, Model #XYZ123, Purchased 1/10, Sears, $579.
TV 1 – Samsung, 42” flat panel, model #123ABC, Purchased 5/11, Best Buy, $829
Photograph these items as well. Then, go room to room, this time focusing on the items in each room. Open drawers and closets, and photograph each shelf. In short, if you own it and it has a value, take a picture of it.
Finally, scan a copy of important documents such as your passport, driver license and your entire insurance policy.
Once you have all of this done, UPLOAD everything to an online photo storage site like Google’s Picassa. Facebook and sites like Walgreens.com and Shutterfly.com are other options.
It will take a couple hours to get all this done, but the claims process will be far easier and your settlement will be much larger than if you don’t take these steps.
Pack a “Go Bag.”
This is your “We’re outta here” bag that you can grab and go if evacuations are necessary and you need to move quickly. Fill your Go Bag with an emergency supply kit that includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. A complete list can be downloaded here.
Make a plan!
In case your family members are not together when a storm hits, you need to know how to find one another and how you will contact each other. Click here to download our Family Emergency Plan, and other important emergency information. You should also consider your evacuation route and plans, proper utility shut-off and learning safety skills, like administering first aid and using a fire extinguisher.
Your plan should also include how to prepare your business in case of a storm or other disaster. Ready Business (link to http://www.ready.gov/business/index.html) will provide you with ample information to help you prepare.
Know what’s going on
Storm hazards come in many forms: hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, flooding, storm surge, high winds and flying debris. Look carefully at the safety actions associated with each type of hazard and prepare your family disaster plan accordingly. But remember this is only a guide. The first and most important thing anyone should do when facing a storm threat is to use common sense.
Know the terminology:
- A hurricane watch means a hurricane is possible in your area. Be prepared to evacuate. Monitor local radio and television news outlets or listen to NOAA Weather Radio for the latest developments.
- A hurricane warning is when a hurricane is expected in your area. If local authorities advise you to evacuate, leave immediately.
Hurricanes are classified into five categories based on their wind speed, central pressure, and damage potential. Category Three and higher hurricanes are considered major hurricanes, though Categories One and Two are still extremely dangerous and warrant your full attention.
Get your contractors in order now!
After a storm or other disaster, your area will be swarming with contractors of every specialty: Tree cutters, roofers, towing companies, general contractors and more. Don’t wait until after the storm to choose your contractors. Prepare in advance by interviewing several contractors from each specialty area. Enter into preferred vendor agreements with those you select so you can lock yourself into their service schedule and you can agree upon rates in advance. Save these contractors in your mobile phone and make a list for your “Go Bag” as well.
NEC Claims offers a preferred vendor program AND a pre-loss evaluation service. If you would like to hire us as your public adjuster after a storm or other disaster, you can sign up with our preferred vendor program. As such, you will get “front of the line service” and a complimentary pre-loss evaluation for your home, condo or business. Click here to sign us on as a preferred vendor.