By John D. Doak
Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner
Whether you’ve lived in Oklahoma all your life or you are new to the area, storm season must be taken seriously. Preparing before the sirens sound is the best way to protect your family and your property. The following tips will help you get ready for tornado season.
Review Your Insurance Coverage
Make a habit to review your homeowners insurance every year. Policy limits that haven’t been updated in more than five years may not cover the entire cost associated with rebuilding a home or replacing your damaged possessions.
If you are a renter, know that your landlord’s insurance policy covers the structure of the building but not your belongings. Renters insurance is an affordable way to protect your property.
Finally, make sure you know what is and is not covered by your insurance. A standard homeowners and renters insurance policy doesn’t protect your home or belongings from damage associated with floods, earthquakes or sewer and drain backup. Ask your agent if you need this additional coverage.
Create a Home Inventory
To make the insurance claims process easier, create a home inventory of your belongings. Include details about your possessions like brand name, price, purchase date, model, serial number and receipts, then take photos. You can store this information in a smartphone app, on a thumb drive or on a piece of paper. Learn more about your home inventory options, including a template, here.
If you don’t have time to create a full list of the items in your home, consider videotaping and/or taking photographs in every room. The more detail you include, the easier it will be for your insurer to evaluate your loss. When making your list, open drawers and closets, and don’t forget to document what’s in your basement, garage and storage buildings.
Once you’ve created your inventory, send the information to your insurance agent and keep a copy in a safety deposit box or another safe place outside your home.
Prepare for the Worst
To help lessen the damage caused by a storm, clear your yard of debris that could become projectiles in high winds and trim dead or overhanging branches from trees surrounding your home. Ensure the roof sheathing is properly secured. Fasten end gables to the roof. Latch doors and garage doors properly. Secure shutters and outdoor furniture.
For personal safety, know where you will take shelter. If it’s a storm shelter, make sure it’s cleaned out and ready to go before the sirens are blaring. Also, prepare an emergency kit of essentials in case you have to shelter in place for a while. Your kit can include bottled water, a first-aid kit, flashlights, a battery-operated radio, at least three days of nonperishable food items, blankets, clothing, prescription drugs, eyeglasses and personal hygiene supplies.
After the Storm
The days following a natural disaster can be confusing and stressful, but report your insurance claim as quickly as possible. Your policy might require that you make this notification within a certain time frame.
Document damage by taking photos or video before you begin cleaning up. After you’ve documented the damage, make any temporary repairs, such as covering a hole in your roof, to prevent further damage. Don’t make permanent repairs until your insurer has inspected the property.
If your home is damaged to the extent that you cannot live there, your insurance company may pay for you to stay somewhere else. Ask your insurance agent if you have coverage for additional living expenses.
During the claims process, it is important for you to keep detailed notes and provide your insurance company with accurate information in a timely manner.
Navigating the insurance process can be challenging, but knowing you are properly prepared will give you the peace of mind to get through Oklahoma’s storm season. If you need help preparing for what’s to come or have any questions, contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department at 1-800-522-0071 or visit our website at www.oid.ok.gov.