Property owners on the Atlantic seaboard who are bracing themselves for Hurricane Isabel should check their insurance coverage and take some basic precautions to secure their homes or
businesses, advised the National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII).
“Property owners should call their agent or insurance company representative within the next 24 hours to verify the extent of coverage for flooding and storm damage,” said Don Griffin, assistant vice president of business and personal lines for NAII. “Also, consumers should be prepared to report claims to their insurer as soon as it is safe to return to their homes and assess the damage.”
Hurricane Isabel is expected to hit anywhere from the Carolinas to New Jersey with winds of up to 115 miles per hour sometime before the end of this week, according to the National Hurricane Center. Although the storm has weakened since Monday, it is still being classified as a Category 3 storm. It is the first major hurricane to threaten the area since Hurricane Floyd struck in
1999. Insurance company catastrophe response teams are preparing to move into the areas hit by the storm and settle claims as soon as conditions permit safe access to the affected areas.
Homeowners and commercial property insurance policies generally cover water damage from burst pipes, but do not typically cover damage arising from flooding from outside sources. Although property owners can purchase flood insurance as a separate policy through the National Flood Insurance Program, there is a 30-day waiting period before coverage takes effect, Griffin
“People with property in hurricane-prone coastal areas can purchase policies with hurricane deductibles of two to five percent of a home’s insured value,” Griffin said. “It’s also a good idea for people who live near flood-prone areas to purchase flood insurance as well since a significant number of flood losses occur to property outside an identified flood plain.”
According to the National Weather Service, inland flooding can occur as far as 500 miles from the site of a hurricane. Flooding is the most dangerous and deadly problem caused by hurricanes.
Although insurance companies are prepared to handle the claims arising from the hurricane, the overall financial impact of those claims is impossible to estimate. However, if the average paid claim approached the values produced by Hurricane Andrew, insurer costs could be between $50.4 and $67.2 billion. Andrew, the largest single natural disaster, produced in excess
of 600,000 claims.
NAII and other industry groups are working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to review what is needed for better disaster planning, both for individual homeowners and small business operations.
NAII recommends the following hurricane precautions:
—Review your property insurance policy, especially the “declarations” page, and check whether your policy pays replacement costs, or actual cash value for a covered loss.
—Inventory your household items, and photograph or videotape them for further documentation. Keep this information and your insurance policies in a safe place.
—Keep the name, address and claims-reporting telephone number of your insurer and agent in a safe and easily accessible place.
—Protect your property by covering all windows with plywood or shutters, moving vehicles into the garage when possible and placing grills and patio furniture indoors.
—Keep all receipts for any repairs so your insurance company can reimburse you.
—Check with your insurance adjuster for referrals to professional restoration, cleaning and salvage companies if additional assistance is needed.
In case of flooding:
—Shovel or scrape mud off walls, floors and furniture, then hose from the ceiling down before the mud dries.
—To prevent mold and odors, clean walls and floors with diluted chlorine bleach.
—Gradually pump flooded basements (about one-third of the water per day).
—Dry wood furniture outdoors away from direct sunlight.
—Use public water only after it has been declared safe by an authorized official.
For more information on specific policy provisions or to conduct an interview with an NAII claims expert, please contact Laura Mazzuca Toops at 847-297-7800, Ext. 398.
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