Close to Home: When Disaster Strikes

Stages Magazine
September/October 2010

Shelter is one of our most basic needs. Your home not only provides protection from the elements, but serves as the hub of your entire life. When your home is destroyed –whether by fire, natural disaster, etc. – it can feel as if your whole life has been taken away. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and being overwhelmed are common as you try to pick up the pieces and rebuild your life. Where do you start?

If you are faced with losing your home, emergency services should first be notified. Then contact an organization such as the American Red Cross or Salvation Army to help with immediate needs like temporary housing, food, medications, clothing, and any other essential items. Next, contact your insurance agent.

In situations like this, having an insurance policy in place is a life saver. Even those who rent should have an insurance policy. While your landlord will most likely have insurance on the actual building, many renters mistakenly believe that policy also covers their belongings. “When shopping for an insurance provider, a customer needs to know something about the company they are going to do business with or obtaining quotes from,” says Greg Horne, a Hinds County agent with Mississippi Farm Bureau Insurance. “Take into consideration how long the agency has been writing insurance in your state, the reputation of their claims service, and the agent you are talking to.”

Renters insurance is available in three different types of policies – standard, broad and comprehensive. A standard policy is the most basic and provides coverage should your belonging be destroyed by fire, lightning, electrical damage, hail, ice, snow, etc. A broad form of renters insurance typically covers events included in a standard policy with some additional benefits that may include hurricane and flood damage. Finally, a comprehensive policy offers the most wide-range of coverage, includes the majority of natural disasters, and covers more expensive belongings. This is a general description and coverage may differ from carrier to carrier, so be sure to read over your policy carefully to get a clear idea of what is and is not covered.

If you own your home, most mortgage companies will require you to already have a homeowner’s insurance policy in place. If for some reason you do not have a homeowner’s policy, seriously consider

getting one immediately. Why risk losing one of the largest investments you will make in your lifetime? Homeowner’s insurance, also known as hazard insurance, takes into account numerous factors relating to losing a home such as the damage or loss to the dwelling, the contents, living expenses, and liability. There are several different types of homeowner’s insurance:

Most homeowner’s (HO) policies come in various forms and include:

  • HO-1, which is very basic coverage, and insures against fire or lightening damage.
  • HO-2, called “broad coverage,” and includes loss of or damage to property resulting from windstorm or hail, theft, explosion, smoke damage, removal of property, building collapse, falling objects, etc.
  • HO-3, also known as “special” form, is the most common form of homeowners insurance and covers your home and any detached structures against loss or damage from any peril except for those specifically excluded in the policy.
  • HO-8 may be issued for “older homes.” It is a modified replacement policy that will pay for standard building materials and processes in use now.

As with renter’s insurance, look over your policy carefully and discuss with your agent what is and is not covered under your agreement.

“Talk with your agent before filing a claim in order to get advice on the claims process and then report the claim promptly,” adds Horne. “Have a copy of your policy and know your deductible. Also, ask how long before you will get a call from an adjustor.” Once your insurance company has been notified of the loss, be sure to ask your agent about housing during rebuilding and what measures should be taken to prevent further damage such as covering open windows and doors.

Some policies may require you to make an inventory of damaged personal property that includes the quantity of each item, the description, and how much was paid for each item. This may seem like an easy task, but remember in the event of a disaster to your home you will be under a lot of pressure and may not be able to recall everything you own. Compiling an inventory will be easier if you take the time now to make a video or photo inventory of the contents of your house. Keep this along with your policy in safe place such as a safety deposit box. Once cleanup has begun on the property, do not throw away any damaged goods until after an inventory is made. All damage is taken into consideration in developing your insurance claim.

Now that a claim has been made and you and your insurance company have agreed on a settlement, it’s time to begin rebuilding and repairing. Suggests Horne, “Get all repair quotes made in writing. Ask for referrals if you don’t know the contractor.” As with building or remodeling a home, make sure to only use licensed contractors. A list of contractors can be found by contacting the Home Builders Association of Mississippi.

Many businesses are able to work directly with your insurance company and handle all billing, giving you one less thing to worry about. Upton-Neal Interiors, a 42-year veteran of flooring and interiors, recently joined forces with Carpet One to become Upton-Neal Interiors Carpet One Flooring and Home. Carpet

One, a national co-op of flooring and interior businesses, gives local businesses the luxury of more buying power among the major flooring brands, mills, and manufacturers. “We now have a direct pipeline open with several insurance companies,” says Susan Upton, co-owner of Upton-Neal. “Once your insurance company assigns a job to us, we are required contact the customer within 24 hours to set up an appointment. During that time we take pictures, get measurements and provide samples of flooring materials.”

Upton-Neal offers a wide variety of flooring options including laminate, hardwood, ceramic tile, and carpet. In addition, customers can also purchase rugs, blinds window treatments, and granite. Interior designers are also on staff to help clients choose the right look for their home. Adds Upton, “We understand that this is a very unexpected situation, so the faster we are able to get the area measured, installed and settled, the happier our customer will be.”

The majority of homeowners rarely experience a total loss. However, the longer you own a home, the more likely the occasion will arise that you will need to file a claim for interior or exterior damage. Even if you only file one claim over the life of your policy, having the right safeguards in place gives you peace of mind knowing that the roof over your head is protected.