As the 2012 hurricane season begins, New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance Acting Commissioner Ken Kobylowski is encouraging state residents — particularly those who live in coastal areas — to make sure they have a plan in place that keeps them safe and protects personal property, including their home and important documents, in the event of a major storm.The National Weather Service has predicted there may be as many as 15 named storms during this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30.
Before the official season began this month, there were already two tropical storms, Alberto and Beryl, tracked by the National Weather Service.
“Unfortunately last year we all saw first-hand the damage a storm could do when Tropical Storm Irene struck New Jersey,” Kobylowski said.
“While there is no way for residents to completely avoid the effects of such a powerful storm, there are some preparations residents can take to better ensure their safety, protect their property and make filing an insurance claim easier.”
Additionally, he reminded New Jersey residents that coastal areas are not the only places vulnerable to hurricanes. “Many areas throughout the state, from Cape May to High Point, were affected when Irene came ashore last year.”
Kobylowski offered the following suggestions to all New Jersey residents:
Complete a Home Inventory
• Make a complete list of all the belongings in your home. Having a home inventory makes it far easier for consumers to file an insurance claim in the event they suffer property damage.
• Photograph or video tape each item and document a brief description that includes age, approximate value and purchase price.
• Group your possessions into logical categories, such as by type or room.
• Gather copies of original sales receipts or appraisal documents. Note model and serial numbers where applicable.
• Share a copy of your home inventory with a trusted friend or relative and your insurance carrier or broker.
• Once the inventory is completed, homeowners should store it on a mobile phone, offsite computer or keep hard copies, including photographs, in a safe deposit box or waterproof, fireproof box or safe.
• The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has a smart phone application, MyHOME Scr.APP.book, that can capture images, descriptions, bar codes and serial numbers of consumers’ possessions. It also organizes information room by room and creates a back-up file for email sharing. This application is available to iPhone or Android users.
• Additionally, a sample home inventory checklist can be found on the NAIC’s web site: www.insureuonline.org/home_inventory_checklist.pdf.
Collect Insurance Information
• Homeowners should gather all of their insurance documents in one safe place, along with their home inventory.
• Verify 24-hour contact details for your insurance agent and carrier. Make a list that includes your policy numbers, insurance company and agent’s phone numbers, Web site and mailing addresses. Also, check to see if your carrier has set up an emergency information hotline. Keep this information with your policies and home inventory.
• Before a storm hits, review your policies and make sure you understand the coverage you have. Call your agent or carrier with any questions.
Consider Purchasing Flood Insurance
• Flood insurance is not part of a standard homeowners or renters policy, and must be purchased separately. Homeowners and renters can purchase a flood insurance policy directly from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federal program which is the primary provider of flood insurance, or directly through their insurance carrier or broker.
• Consumers should also be aware that flood insurance is not effective until 30 days after it is purchased. Therefore, consumers who decide to purchase flood insurance should contact an approved flood insurance policy agent immediately and not wait for an approaching storm.
• For more about flood insurance, go to: www.floodsmart.gov
Get Ready Now
Homeowners can take important steps immediately to help mitigate some damage caused by a hurricane or tropical storm.
• Make sure storm shutters, if applicable, can be quickly installed or used.
• Keep the yard free of debris and clutter that could become projectiles in high winds.
• Trim dead or overhanging branches from trees near their house.
• Make sure that roof sheathing is secured, end gables are fastened to the roof and doors and garage doors latch properly.
• Make an evacuation plan for their family. They should identify the nearest storm shelter.
• Prepare an emergency kit that includes survival supplies, such as bottled water, first aid items, flashlights, a battery operated radio, three days of non-perishable food items, blankets, clothing, prescription drugs, eyeglasses, personal hygiene supplies and enough cash for at least three days.
• If ordered to leave home, consumers should follow their evacuation plans and depart as soon as possible.
• Before vacating their homes, they should turn off all utilities and disconnect appliances to reduce the chance of additional damage and electric shock when utilities are restored.
• Evacuees should plan more than one evacuation route in case the preferred one is closed due to an emergency.
“Certainly, no one likes to think about a disaster, such as a hurricane, striking New Jersey,” said Acting Commissioner Kobylowski, “but if residents take the time to make some basic, common-sense preparations, hopefully they will be able to get through a storm a little more easily.”