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Flood insurance essentials: Understand risks, plan ahead to avoid a devastating loss
With forecasters predicting a hard winter, homeowners should consider flood insurance coverage in the event of a disaster. But insurance alone isn’t enough. Proper planning is also vital to avoid major headaches, extra expense or tragic losses during flood.
Agents with Valley-based Hauglie Insurance advise residents to make a flood plan, which includes making sure family members know how to get out of the house and neighborhood, where to meet up and how to contact each other.
Flood planning also includes readying the home for a disaster. A good exit plan will ensure that contents are protected and valuables removed or stored out of harm’s way.
Vital medications, for example, needs to be accounted for early on. If medicine needs to stay refrigerated, have a cooler handy, because floods often mean power loss.
Antiques are covered, but only at functional value. That means that your grandmother’s antique table may winds up being replaced by just another new table. Homeowners should ensure that valued antiques are safely high and dry or on the truck out of a flood zone in a disaster.
Homeowners also need to ensure that invoices, receipts and flood claim documentation are kept in a waterproof bag and, if possible, in a fireproof safe. Documentation is needed to prove to FEMA that repairs were completed.
Time-stamped photos are also a good way to document before-and-after realities.
“Photos are the least expensive and most valuable thing you can do in protecting your home and contents before a fire or flood,” says Farmer’s Insurance agent Angela Donaldson. After a disaster, “not only are you emotionally stressed, but now you have to remember where everything was and what it looked like—and you have to articulate that an adjustor.” All that stress can be saved by having photos on hand.
Homeowners who live outside a flood zone can still face floods from accidents and human error as well as natural events. Insurance companies offer preferred risk flood insurance to provide an extra level of protection.
Early fall is the time to buy a flood policy. Flood insurance has a 30 day waiting period, and Valley storms and floods have been known to hit before Thanksgiving.
While the annual premium must be paid up front, agencies typically offers several payment options, including a credit card choice, to fit buyers’ budgets.
Homeowners should also have their residence properly surveyed, as they need to know their elevation for proper flood coverage.
Separate outbuildings need separate flood coverage. If a homeowner has built a freestanding office, garage or guest house on their property, disconnected from the main roofline, that building may need its own policy.
Wind and water can take their toll on fences, which are covered by flood insurance. Fence repair or replacement is handled on a cash value basis.
Preparing for flooding: What you can do now
• Keep all flood claim-related receipts in a waterproof bag and away from risky areas
• Take photos of your home and business as it is now
• Look into alternative storage options, such as raising or moving
• Develop an evacuation plan with your family, employees and for your pets
• Have a list of important phone numbers and sandbag locations
• Teach everyone how and when to shut off gas, electricity and water lines
• Keep household chemicals above flood levels to avoid contamination
• Review your flood insurance declaration page
After the flood: Surviving your claim
• Make sure your home is safe to enter
• Take photos, inside and out
• File your flood claim with your agent. Ask if you can begin clean-up immediately
•Separate undamaged from damaged items
• Keep an inventory of all damaged items, age and value, regardless of they are covered
• Keep samples of carpets and flooring removed from each room
• Keep estimates from contractors to show to your adjustor and provide receipts from prior claims
• Keep receipts for everything
• Sign the proof of loss within 60 days of the date of loss. Supplemental claims can address discrepancies