Recent heavy rains and flooding in many areas of Virginia are good reminders that it is never too early to plan for disasters. With the Atlantic hurricane season just around the corner, the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) encourages Virginians to review your insurance policies now to make sure you have the coverage you need in the event of a hurricane or other disaster.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 each year. Once a hurricane develops in the Atlantic, it will be difficult to find an insurance company willing to write detailed coverage until the storm threat passes.
“Take steps now to reduce damage and make sure you have the insurance coverage you need before the first hurricane starts to form,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “Know what your policy does and does not cover. Contact your insurance agent or company or the Bureau of Insurance if you have questions,” he said.
Even areas hundreds of miles from the coast can experience floods and other damage caused by hurricanes’ high winds and torrential rains. Most hurricane damage comes from flooding, not high winds. Even minor floods can cause extensive damage to your home, business or belongings.
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). In most cases, there is a 30-day waiting period for a new flood insurance policy to take effect. To learn more about this program, contact your insurance agent or the NFIP at 1-800-427-4661 or visit www.floodsmart.gov. Ask whether your flood policy provides coverage for your contents.
The Bureau encourages policyholders to prepare a complete inventory of their personal property including photographs, videotapes and serial numbers. Keep your insurance policies and home inventory in a safe place. If a hurricane damages your property, 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. Make a list of all damage to your property and include photographs, notes and repair-related receipts.
If you must evacuate, know the name of your insurance company and take your homeowners, auto and other insurance policies and your home inventory with you or make sure you have saved these crucial documents electronically. The policies will contain your policy numbers and the phone numbers of your insurance companies in case you have questions or need to file a claim.
Some homeowners policies contain a special deductible for wind or hurricane losses. These are applied separately from any other deductible on the homeowners policy. Some insurance companies automatically include a wind or hurricane deductible, while others offer this deductible at the policyholder’s option. Wind or hurricane deductibles may be written as a flat amount, such as $1,000, or they may be applied to the loss as a percentage of the insurance coverage on the dwelling. Remember that the deductible is the amount that you are responsible for paying before the insurance company pays its portion of a claim.
The Bureau 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 stand ready to 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 hurricanes and all types of disasters and hazards, visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management website at www.vaemergency.gov.
-Submitted by Katha Treanor