2020 has been quite a year. The world continues to deal with the effects of COVID-19 while wildfires, hurricanes, and now a derecho (a term many of us didn’t know until now) sweep across parts of the United States.
As Iowans experienced firsthand, the recent land hurricane suddenly and unexpectedly wiped out crops and electricity for many, damaging homes, vehicles, and other property in the process.
There’s no better time to talk about storm damage and how to handle the insurance side of things. We want to walk through the steps you should take immediately following a disaster caused by a storm. Understanding how to best handle damage to your property will help better prepare you for the unexpected—or help you restore what’s lost as quickly as possible.
1. Stay Safe
First and foremost, ensure you and your family are safe. If your home isn’t structurally sound, stay outside and find another place to live temporarily. Don’t enter again until it’s safe to do so. If your roof collapsed during a thunderstorm, for example, you could be at risk for being hit by falling debris and electrocution.
Also beware of broken glass and exposed nails. Never carry an open flame in case a gas line was damaged. If you smell gas, turn off the main gas line, open windows, and get everyone outside as quickly as possible. Then call your gas company. Don’t stand in pooling water, either, especially if damaged power lines are near your home.
2. Document the Storm Damage
If you’re sure your home and property are safe, take note of the damage. It’s best to do this during daylight hours to avoid missing any details.
Take photos and videos of all damaged property. You can’t take too many! Try to capture both “big picture” images and detailed closeups. Labeling images can help make it easier to tell what’s what afterward. You’ll show this evidence to your insurance company later. Don’t remove debris before you’ve taken photos and called your insurance provider.
Here’s where you should be sure to check for damage:
- Roof (holes, broken or missing shingles, leaks in your ceiling)
- Gutters and downspouts
- Basement (for flooding)
- Outdoor appliances
- Garages and sheds
3. Minimize the Spread
Again, only if it’s safe, try to contain the damage. Let’s say a tree fell on your house, and there’s a large hole in one of your walls. Try to cover the area with tarps or blankets so water doesn’t leak in and cause more extensive damage.
4. Contact Your Insurance Provider
Next, it’s time to contact your insurance provider. They will walk you through how to make a claim and answer questions about coverage. When you call, try to have the following information ready:
- Name and address
- Policy number
- Date and time the damage occurred
- An accurate description of the damage
Your insurance agent will also walk you through scheduling time with an adjuster. If you need emergency services, tell your insurer so they know to send out a company to protect your property from further damage. For non-emergency services, contact local companies you trust to restore your home or vehicle.
5. Understand Your Storm Damage Coverage
It’s essential to understand what your auto and homeowners insurance policies cover—and what they don’t—before the next big storm hits. Standard homeowners coverage will help protect you against wind, tornadoes, hail, lightning strikes, fire, power surges, fallen trees, and certain types of water damage (like a burst pipe).
Flooding (even when caused by extreme weather) and earthquakes usually aren’t covered under standard policies. You can, however, expand your coverage to include flood or earthquake insurance.
Under comprehensive policies, windstorms, hail, tornadoes, flooding, hurricanes, wildfires, lightning strikes, and earthquakes are typically covered.
Let’s say a tree falls on your car and totals it. Will your insurance company cover it? If you have comprehensive coverage, your insurer will help pay to repair or replace your vehicle if a falling object damages it. If your car is totaled, your insurance company should help you pay for a new one—up to your coverage limits.
If your insurance seems higher than it should be and you’d like to look into other options, contact Coverage Direct. We’re based in Iowa, but we partner with carriers across the country and work with clients in several states. Let us know how we can help!