In the aftermath of the Southern California storms, flooding and mudslides that have already claimed at least 10 lives, insurers are urging residents to exercise caution in cleanup now that the storms are subsiding.
“Besides extending our sympathy to the many people affected by these storms, we’d like to echo Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi’s advice that residents in Southern California do their best to stay safe and careful,” said Sam Sorich, president of the Association of California Insurance Companies (ACIC).
“While you will want to secure your property and belongings as soon as you can, don’t forget that your personal safety is the most important thing of all,” Sorich noted. Although the storms have abated, residents still need to avoid barricaded areas and flooded roadways. “Water and mud can hide potentially fatal elements like submerged power lines,” he said. “Unless it’s absolutely necessary, avoid unnecessary traveling or efforts to salvage personal property from damaged homes. Consumers should wait for authorization from local safety and law enforcement officials before entering flood-damaged areas.”
Early reports from the Property Claim Services (PCS) indicate most property losses involve damage to structures from heavy snow load, wind, ice damming, interior water seepage, and wind damage to fences. Flooding and mudslide damage to vehicles could also be a large chunk of the insured loss, according to PCS.
Although storm-related damage to cars and trucks is covered under the standard automobile insurance policy’s physical damages clause, flood damages are not included under the standard homeowners’ insurance policy. Federal flood insurance is available to most Californians through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), but there is a 30-day waiting period to get the coverage.
ACIC offers the following recommendations for Californians affected by the storms:
· Inventory your household items, and photograph or videotape them for further documentation. This will help you settle insurance claims or obtain low-interest loans from state or federal authorities more efficiently.
· Keep your home inventory, insurance policy and the name, address and claims-reporting telephone number of your insurer and agent in a safe and easily accessible place.
· Keep all receipts for any repairs for possible reimbursement.
· Check with your insurance adjuster for referrals to professional restoration, cleaning and salvage companies if additional assistance is needed.
· 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.
Californians seeking assistance in recovering from financial losses inflicted by the storms and mudslides can seek government grants and low interest loans from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). For more information on how to apply for a FEMA grant or SBA loan, visit their Web sites at www.fema.gov, or www.sba.gov.
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