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How to prepare for Hurricane Matthew

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Hurricane Matthew could be very costly, and other MoneyWatch headlines 01:03

With Hurricane Matthew aimed at Florida’s coast, millions of folks living in the sunshine state to the Carolinas were told to evacuate, with the region braced for a rare Category 4 storm, with winds in excess of 100 miles an hour.

If you own a home in the path of Matthew, you should take these important steps to make your home safer, and save money on potential insurance claims.

  • Prepare your home for hurricane damage by boarding up windows and doors. Securely shut and lock hurricane shutters if you have them.
  • Unplug sensitive electronic equipment such as computers, wireless routers, televisions, etc. Electrical surges and lightning strikes can destroy these even if you use power strips with surge protection.
  • Move outdoor patio furniture, grills, etc. into a protected area, such as a garage. Loose or unsecured items left outside can become dangerous missiles during periods of high winds.
  • Make future insurance claims easier by putting together a list of all property inside your home. The easiest way to do this is to use a smartphone to take a video of each room in your home, narrating the video by describing the items in it.
  • Back up digital videos, photos and computer records using a cloud based service like iCloud or Carbonite. 
  • Use a water/fire proof box or safe to store important documents (titles, passports, birth certificates, etc.) and valuables (jewelry, cash, precious metals, etc.) in it.
  • Prepare an emergency supply kit. Click here to see what the American Red Cross advises.

If you own a home in a hurricane-prone region, then you should know that hurricane insurance is a critical part of your home insurance. Although the average home insurance policy covers damage by wind storms, the ensuing water and flood damage caused by heavy rains and storm surge is not covered.

Hurricane Insurance Coverage

Hurricane insurance or special riders are required to cover wind and water damage. This coverage is typically available to property owners in hurricane-prone areas. This includes coverage for debris removal and repairs to property damaged during the storm. If your insurance policy sufficiently covers wind damage but not damage due to rising waters, then you’ll also need flood insurance. Some basic hurricane insurance policies don’t cover additional living expenses, so it’s important to ask about this and consider having it included so that you’ll be covered for living expenses if your home becomes uninhabitable.

Also, you should have additional riders to cover a home-based business, watercraft or recreational vehicles stored on your property, and sewer, sump pump and drains back up. Ask you agent about these riders to ensure you are properly covered.

Preparing to File an Insurance Claim

If your property is damaged and you need to file a claim on your insurance, here’s the basic steps to follow:

Have on hand a copy of your insurance policy, including all declarations, endorsements and riders. The declarations page will include each category of coverage (such as dwelling, contents, loss of use, etc.) and the specific dollar limits for each category.  Your policy will also include a description of all risks and losses covered under the policy.

Prepare a comprehensive list of all property lost or damaged, and include an approximate date purchased and what you paid for it. This is when the video you prepared of each room and the property you own will be very helpful.

Call you insurance company and report the loss to their claims department. They’ll create a claim number for your case and assign it to an adjuster. Make sure to ask and write down for the name and contact information of the adjuster and their supervisor.

From this very first phone call and throughout the entire claims process, you should document all contact you have with your insurance company and their representatives. Write down the time and date of every call, what was said, by whom and next steps. If there is a dispute between you and the insurance company over what they should pay for your losses, this record will be invaluable.

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