By John D. Doak, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner
Special to Guthrie News Page
Spring is finally here. While the beautiful blooms and warmer temperatures are welcome arrivals, the severe weather is not. Even though we can’t stop the storms from coming, we can make sure we are prepared to protect our loved ones and our property when they do. Here are some tips to get you ready for spring in Oklahoma.
Protecting Yourself and Your Family
A watch means that weather conditions are favorable for tornadoes and a warning means one has been spotted in your area.
If a tornado watch has been issued, move cars inside a garage or carport to avoid damage from hail. Keep your car keys and house keys with you. If you have enough warning time, move lawn furniture and yard equipment such as lawnmowers inside. Otherwise they could become damaged or act as projectiles causing serious injury or damage.
Before the watches and warnings even get issued, have a plan in place. Practice getting in your storm shelter, safe room or taking cover in the central part of your home. Know who is in charge of gathering your pets and getting them to safety. And have a storm survival kit that includes bottled water, a first aid kit, flashlights, a battery-operated radio, at least three days of non-perishable food items, blankets, clothing, prescription drugs, eyeglasses and personal hygiene supplies.
Create a Home Inventory
It may seem hard at first to record information about everything you have in your house, but don’t let that put you off. The information you put inyour home inventory can make an insurance claim settlement faster and easier.
Once you’ve created your inventory, send the information to your insurance agent. If using a paper record, keep your home inventory in a safety deposit box or another safe place outside your home.
Collect and Know Your Insurance Information
Before a storm hits, review your insurance policies. Make sure you know what is and is not covered. Ask your insurance agent or insurance company if you have questions.
Here are some special weather circumstances you should consider:
- Lightning – Damage caused by lightning, such as fire, is covered by standard homeowners and business insurance policies. Some home and business insurance policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of lightning striking a home or business. There is also coverage for lightning damage under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.
- Flooding – Flood damage is generally not covered by a standard homeowners or renter’s insurance policy. This type of coverage is available through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program. Make sure to purchase flood insurance for the structure of your house as well as for the contents. Flood damage on your car is covered under comprehensive coverage of your auto insurance policy. However, comprehensive coverage is optional for Oklahoma drivers.
- Fallen Trees and Limbs – If a tree hits a home or other insured structure, like a detached garage, standard homeowners insurance provides coverage for the damage the tree does to the structure and the contents in it. It does not matter whether you own the tree. If it lands on your home, you can file a claim with your insurance company. The cost to remove the tree or branches will also be covered. If a tree or branches cause damage to your car, the comprehensive coverage of your auto policy would cover the cost of repair. But comprehensive coverage is not required by law.
Finally, store electronic copies of your insurance policies with your home inventory and keep paper files in a safety deposit box. Make sure to have a copy of your policy declarations page listing all of your coverages, as well as your insurance cards.
Collect the 24-hour contact information for your insurance agent and insurer. Make a list that includes your policy numbers, insurer and insurance agent’s phone numbers, website addresses and mailing addresses. Also, check to see if the company or agent has an emergency information hotline. It is a good idea to store this information – and your home inventory – in a waterproof, fireproof box or safe. If you have a storm shelter or safe room, keep this information in there.
For more ways to get ready for all types of Oklahoma weather, check out the Prepare Yourself section of our website. You can also contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department at 800-522-0071 or find general insurance information at www.oid.ok.gov.