With spring storm season underway, state and local insurance professionals are offering up tips on how to keep homes and vehicles safe from severe weather hazards and how to recover in the event of a weather disaster.
Representatives from the Insurance Council of Texas and State Farm Insurance completed their 10-city Storm Tour Tuesday with final stops in Denison and Sherman. The two groups were spreading the word about property damage risks associated with spring storms and sharing strategies for ensuring adequate insurance coverage.
“In North Texas, we have tornadoes, hail, high winds, lightning, freezing weather and pretty much everything but volcanoes, here,” ITC spokesperson Mark Hanna said. “From an insurance perspective, your rates are a reflection of where you live, but there are things you can do to protect yourself and limit your liability.”
Hanna said the first step toward storm-season preparedness begins with getting a firm understanding of one’s current insurance coverage.
“Build up a conversation and a relationship with your agent,” Hanna said. “Ask about your coverage, ask about your deductible, your premiums, even discounts. And don’t be afraid to ask as many ‘what if’ questions until you’ve got a good grip on everything your policies cover.”
When assessing coverage for the home, Hanna said everyone should at least consider purchasing flood insurance. Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover tornadoes and water that damage the home from above, but only flood insurance can cover damages incurred from rising waters. Hanna, however, noted that Texas flood insurance policies only cover up to $250,000 in damage to residential structures and $100,000 worth of personal property.
“If you’re outside a designated flood plain, it’s one of the least expensive insurance products you can buy,” Hanna said. “You’re looking at $400-$500 for a whole year of that much coverage. Of course, if you live in a designated flood plain, the costs are going to be higher.”
Hanna also recommended creating a “home inventory” of property that can be shared in the event of a loss and to consider covering all vehicles under a comprehensive plan.
“Comprehensive coverage covers them all; flooding, wind storms, tree damage, hail, even a tornado sucking up your car so you never see it again,” Hanna said.
Around the house
State Farm Insurance Public Affair Specialist Gina Wilken said homeowners can take a number of steps to ensure their properties are less susceptible to damage from severe weather. Wilken recommended monitoring the condition of one’s roof, investing in impact-and-storm-resistant door and windows, and ensuring that fences, outdoor furniture and trees are secured amid high winds.
“Make sure your trees are trimmed,” Wilken said. “Get all of those extra dead branches cut off and taken away, especially before storm season. There’s nothing worse than finding a large branch on top of your car or roof.”
If the weather takes a turn for the worse, Wilken advised homeowners to park their vehicles under cover.
“If you have room for your car in your garage, park it in your garage,” Wilken said. “That’s the safest place you can keep it when you’re not driving. We also might recommend using car covers or blankets, but that can only do so much to protect from wind and large hail.”
Wilken said if the weather becomes severe, homeowners should gather their family members and seek shelter in a sturdy area of their residence.
“Identify a safe place in your home,” Wilken said. “That’s an interior room or space with no windows and, in there, you want to have what’s basically a ‘go bag,’ with water, food, medication, shoes and other essentials. You should also designate a place to meet outside your home, so if you are displaced or separated from your family you all know where to go. “
After the storm
If a storm results in damage, Hanna said the first thing policy holders should do is document all the affected property or items.
“Once the storm has passed, document the damage, as safely as you can,” Hanna said. “Take pictures and video and then contact your agent and tell them what you’ve got going on. Then do your best to make temporary repairs or limit further damage until repairs can be made.”
Should storm damage render a residence unlivable, Hanna said insured homeowners should ask their provider about Additional Living Expense coverage.
“If you’ve got really serious damage, this ALE coverage is tremendous,” Hanna said. “Most companies have it and it will provide for housing, clothing, food and transportation until you are able to get your house repaired and get back in it.”
Lastly, Hanna encouraged policyholders to watch out for construction scams in the wake of storm damage and advised all to stay in touch with a trusted agent and adjuster throughout all repairs.