By Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- As the residents of the South Fork townhouse complex begin to search through the rubble of yesterday's explosion and start the long process of rebuilding and replacing what was lost, insurance will undoubtedly play a big role. That's why as 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan tells us, being prepared in advance of a disaster is essential.
In a matter of moments parts of the South Fork housing development in Ewing Township were reduced to rubble. Twenty units are now uninhabitable, and dozens of others are damaged, important documents and paperwork now strewn amidst the debris.
It will be up to insurance companies to help residents put the pieces back together. The buildings involved in Tuesday's explosion were attached. They shared walls, a roof, and most likely a master insurance policy, through their homeowner association. It's that sort of policy which would be responsible for the rebuilding the structures. Personal condo or renter's insurance would cover lost and damaged possessions like clothing and furniture in to covering additional living expenses like hotel bills and meals while the townhomes are being rebuilt.
Having an up-to-date home inventory will help residents in getting their insurance claims settled faster. If you don't have a home inventory start by making a list of your possessions. Photograph or videotape the items along with writing a description about them. For appliances and electronic equipment, record the serial numbers too. Valuable items like jewelry, art work and collectibles often may need to be insured separately and it is important that your insurance company know about these items before there is a loss.
In addition to a home inventory, I suggest you also scan or make copies of all your important documents, your passport, Social Security card, deeds, mortgage and insurance paperwork too. If it is a physical document, store it in a safe deposit box or at the very least a friend's or relative's home. If it is a digital file, make sure to back it up and keep a copy on an external drive or online storage account. That way it will be easily available to give to your insurance representative if your home is damaged.
Insuring a Condo or Co-op: http://www.iii.org/articles/what-type-of-insurance-do-i-need-for-a-co-op-or-condo.html
Coverage in a Home Owner Policy: http://www.iii.org/articles/what-coverage-is-included-in-a-standard-homeowners-insurance-policy.html
Create a Home Inventory: http://www.iii.org/articles/how-do-i-take-a-home-inventory-and-why.html
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