Spring is synonymous with extreme weather events in some areas of the country. Unpredictable weather patterns and intense weather activity are becoming increasingly common in many regions. Although spring is still officially a few days away, Virginia has already experienced its first tornado of 2018, and March blew in with a roar.
The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance encourages Virginians to plan now for extreme spring weather, which can include tornadoes, wind, hailstorms, flash floods, lightning and hurricanes. “Prepare yourself financially now by ensuring you have the insurance coverage you need in the event of unexpected extreme weather events,” said SCC Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White.
Review your insurance policies before severe weather strikes. Make sure you understand what is and is not covered and any deductibles you may have to pay in the event of a claim. If you have questions, ask your insurance agent or company or the Bureau of Insurance.
The Bureau reminds Virginians that homeowners insurance policies issued in Virginia typically do not provide coverage for damage to your home and belongings due to floods, surface water or storm surges. However, the federal government does sell insurance for direct flood and flood-related damage to homeowners, renters and businesses in eligible communities through its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). To learn more, contact your insurance agent or the NFIP at 1-888-379-9531 or visit www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.
The Bureau suggests creating a home inventory of your belongings including serial numbers, photos and videotapes. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers a free smartphone app – myHOME Scr.APP.book – to facilitate this process. It also offers a printable home inventory checklist on its website at www.insureuonline.org/home_inventory_checklist.pdf.
Store electronic copies of your homeowners, auto and other insurance policies with your home inventory and keep paper files in a safe place. Make sure you take these documents with you if you must evacuate. These records will contain your policy numbers and the phone numbers of your insurance companies in case you have questions or need to file a claim.
To help reduce damage, clear your yard of debris that could become projectiles in high winds and trim dead or overhanging branches from trees surrounding your home. Latch doors properly and secure shutters and outdoor furniture.
In the event your property suffers damage during a severe weather event, contact your insurance agent or company as soon as possible. Make any necessary emergency repairs and take reasonable steps to prevent further damage to your property. Record all damage to your property and include photographs, notes and repair-related receipts.
The Bureau of Insurance offers free consumer guides for homeowners and commercial property owners with information about what to do when a disaster strikes. These and many other consumer insurance guides are available on the Bureau’s website at www.scc.virginia.gov/boi.
The Bureau’s specially trained staff can assist consumers with their insurance-related questions and concerns. For more information, contact the Consumer Services Section of the Bureau’s Property and Casualty Division toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at (804) 371-9185. The mailing address for the Bureau of Insurance is P.O. Box 1157, Richmond, Virginia 23218.
For additional emergency preparedness information relating to all types of disasters and hazards, visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management website at www.vaemergency.gov.
-Submitted by Katha Treanor