Before the Storm
We all want to remain safe and secure, but no one is ever completely safe from disasters like hurricanes, floods and fires. You need to know what to do in the event of a disaster and what steps to take before a disaster ever strikes to assure that loss will be minimized. There are some very easy, but important things you can do to be prepared!
One of the most important things you can do before a storm hits is to make a home inventory. Another is to talk to your agent to make sure that you have the right coverage for your home. For example, homeowner policies do not cover flood and if you live in certain areas of the state you may need a separate wind and hail policy. It's also important to protect your property before the storm hits. Sometimes it is not the storm that directly causes the damage to your home, but your possessions that are not secured in your yard. Lastly, having a plan in place and knowing how you will respond to the storm can make a big impact!
The purpose of a home inventory is to document what you own to help the insurance company evaluate your loss.
- Go from room to room and right down, photo or video the brand name and description, along with the estimated value of your belongings--if you can remember when you bought them, document that as well.
- If you can see serial numbers on your item, document or photograph them.
- Compile any receipts you have from your purchases and photograph them.
- Remember to go into your closets, storage places and garage to document those items.
- Upload or scan documents to your computer or cloud storage and date the file.
- If you prefer to use a mobile app, research these on your phone's app store.
- Store your home inventory in a safe, easily accessible place online, on your computer or in a safety box. Consider sharing a copy with friends or relatives.
- For your convenience, you can use this interactive inventory chart and calculator at the bottom of this page to document your possessions or to give you ideas on how to get started.
- Homeowners policies do not cover losses caused by earthquakes. However, direct loss by fire, explosion or theft resulting from earth movement may be covered.
- Dwelling policies do not cover losses caused by earthquakes. However, if fire or explosion ensues, the policy may cover the ensuing loss.
- Renters policies exclude coverage for loss due to earth movement. However, direct loss by fire, explosion or theft resulting from the earth movement may be covered.
- Commercial property policies will not pay for any damage caused by movement of the earth. However, damage caused by a fire or explosion following an earthquake may covered.
- Some comprehensive mobile homeowners cover earth movement.
An endorsement may be purchased to cover earthquake damage on a homeowners, dwelling, or commerical property policy. No matter what type of property policy you have, it is important to talk with your agent or insurance company to discuss what coverage is available for earthquakes.
Homeowner and Renters insurance policies do not cover flooding. Residents of many flood prone areas are eligible for special flood protection provided by the federal government under the National Flood Insurance Program or NFIP.
To be eligible the property must be within a local jurisdiction (i.e., city, township, county) that has agreed to participate in the NFIP by enforcing flood plain management standards. You do not need to be in a flood plain to be eligible to purchase flood insurance; you need only reside in a participating jurisdiction. Rates for insurance coverage vary. The NFIP writes this insurance directly through agents in the state and also contracts with insurance companies to write the National Flood Insurance policy on their paper. The latter is known as the Write Your Own program (WYO). The WYO policies are identical to the NFIP direct-written policies and are underwritten by the NFIP. The premium for a particular property is the same regardless of which agent or WYO company writes the policy.
Typically, there is a 30-day waiting period before a purchased flood plan becomes active!
To find out if your property is eligible for this insurance, call your county government. Your agent can purchase this coverage for you if you are eligible or you may call 800-638-6620 (National Flood Insurance Program). Please note that regulatory authority over NFIP flood insurance policies rests with the Federal Emergency Management Association, not with the North Carolina Department of Insurance.
- Property owners should consider whether to insure their property for the replacement cost or actual cash value. Replacement cost is the amount it would take to rebuild your home or repair damages with materials of similar kind and quality without deducting for depreciation. Depreciation is the decrease in home or property value since the time it was built or purchased due to age or wear. Actual cash value is the amount it would take to repair damage to your home after depreciation.
- Most standard homeowners policies cover the contents of your home on an actual cash value basis. Many insurers offer an option for you to insure your property at replacement cost. The premium may be slightly higher for this coverage, however, you may want to consider the option.
- Make sure you have appropriate insurance to cover your needs and keep your insurance policies accessible and secure. Depending on your insurance company's underwriting and your location, you may need a separate windstorm and hail policy, if it is excluded from your primary homeowner's policy. Talk with your agent to make sure you are covered.
- Renters should consider purchasing coverage for their personal property through renters’ insurance. Without it, in the event of a disaster, they could have no place to turn to recoup their losses. Renters’ insurance covers only the contents of the rented shelter.
- College students can often purchase dorm room insurance as well. Before sending your son or daughter to college, check your homeowners policy to determine whether or not dormitory coverage is needed, as some family homeowners’ policies will cover losses from dorm rooms, but not all do.
Outer Banks Dwellers
- Outer Banks property owners may be eligible to purchase protection under a program called the Coastal Property Insurance Pool, formerly known as the Beach Plan. The CPIP offers coverage for fire, lightning, theft, wind, and hail. For more information, contact your insurance agent or you may call CPIP directly at 1-800-662-7048.
- Similar coverage can be purchased for those living anywhere but the Outer Banks under the FAIR Plan. These two plans ensure that property owners can get insurance coverage. If you would like more information on these plans, call 1-800-662-7048 or ask your insurance agent.
Know exactly what your policies do or do not cover.
- Standard homeowners policies do not cover flood damage and, in some coastal areas, windstorm and hail coverages are also excluded from the standard policy.
- The only way to protect your property from flood losses is to purchase flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program. Policies must be in place for 30 days before coverage takes effect.
Collect and Review Important Documents
- Gather important paperwork, including insurance policies, medical records, prescriptions, etc. Bring copies with you if you evacuate your home.
- Know exactly what your insurance policy does and does not cover. Remember, no homeowners policy covers flooding.
- The only way to protect your property from flood losses is to purchase flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program; policies must be in place for 30 days before coverage takes effect. Contact your agent for more information. Further, some policies in North Carolina’s coastal areas may not cover wind-related damage.
Put together an Emergency Toolkit
- Use a waterproof, portable bag or container to store items needed during a disaster in case there is no electricity or water at your residence. This kit should be easily accessible if officials call for an evacuation. The toolkit should include such things as a battery-operated weather radio (like a NOAA radio), flashlights, extra batteries, portable power source for cell phones, over the counter medicines, etc.
- If severe weather is predicted, keep prescription medicines in a zip lock bag ready to go in the event of an evacuation, and have on hand enough non-perishable food items and water to last at least three days.
- Plan for the personal needs of all family members including senior citizens, those with special needs, children, and pets. Remember, boredom sets in quickly when there is no electricity.
- Have emergency cash on hand.
Put Together an Emergency "Go" Bag
- In the event an evacuation notice is given, a secondary toolkit should be ready ahead of time. Pack a duffel bag with blankets, pillows, games, and other personal items that would be necessary for staying in a shelter or other public place.
Plan Your Escape
- Make sure you have a plan to escape any disaster. If you shelter in place, this could mean determining ahead of time where the safest place in your home is. In the event of a tornado or hurricane, that place is the interior part of the building, away from windows, or in the basement. In case of flooding, you would need to get as high up as possible to escape rising water. In the case of a wild fire, you would need to seek a place where outside air is sealed off.
- In each situation, be ready to evacuate when officials give notice. Since everyone may not be home when a disaster strikes, it is important to include in your disaster plan a means to contact one another.
- If you think a storm may be approaching, cover windows with storm shutters, siding, or plywood.
- Move vehicles into garages when possible, or park them near your home away from trees.
- Move grills, patio furniture and potted plants into the house or garage. Loose objects in your yard can become missiles, so tie down anything you can not bring indoors.
- Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
- Anchor any fuel tanks.
- Move furniture, valuables and important documents to a safe place.
before during and after a disaster