With Hurricane Isabel threatening North Carolina’s coast, Insurance Commissioner Jim Long today released a comprehensive list of consumer tips to address questions frequently encountered by North Carolinians preparing for the storm. These tips answer common questions about how to prepare for a hurricane and what steps to take after the storm has passed and the damage is done.
The Department of Insurance Consumer Services Division is available to assist consumers with questions or complaints. Consumers can call the following numbers during business hours for help with insurance questions: locally or outside of North Carolina – (919) 733-2032; toll free within North Carolina – (800) JIM LONG (546-5664)
Before the Storm, Step by Step· Using a video camera, still camera or digital camera, photograph your home, yard and belongings. Start by photographing the day’s newspaper to verify the date. Then take pictures of anything of value – your home, outbuildings, vehicles; furniture such as antiques, pianos, etc.; electronic equipment, music collections, artwork or other valuables. Don’t forget things such as fences, decks, clothes or valuables that may be packed away. Photographs will serve as a record of your belongings for your insurance company in case of property loss.
· Make copies of any important paperwork, receipts, insurance policies, etc. and keep them in a safe place away from your home, preferably a safe deposit box. Include the filmed inventory of your valuables.
· Safeguard your property by removing any items in your yard that could become missiles. Remember flower pots, bird feeders, patio furniture, yard art and grills. Shutter or board your windows if necessary.
· Move your vehicles into the garage if available, or move them as far away from trees as possible.
Time to Evacuate – Now What?
· Take copies of important paperwork, including your insurance policy and contact information for your insurance company, with you.
· Bring phone numbers for family members with you.
· Don’t forget to keep your family’s safety in mind. Your own home is childproofed, but a shelter, motel or friend’s house inland may not be.
Pay attention to these tips from the North Carolina SAFE KIDS Coalition when evacuating with kids:
· Be sure you and your family know where the exits are and how to escape in case of a fire
· Make sure the building you stay in has working smoke alarms
· Make sure any medicines and dangerous chemicals are out of reach
· Bring along electric socket and outlet covers
· Tie up mini-blind cords so they are out of your child’s reach
· Check carpets for buried dangers like pins or coins
· Check dresser drawers and bedside tables for hazardous items
· Be alert for any lamps or televisions that could be tipped over by a small child
· Beware of glass items in the kitchen and bathrooms
· Keep wastebaskets covered or out of reach
· Make sure decks or balconies have secure railings
Take along a safety gate to keep small children away from stairs or areas that may be dangerous
After the Storm – Fixing the Damage
· If you suffer property loss in your home or vehicle, contact your agent or insurance company as soon as possible to arrange a visit from an adjuster. The Department of Insurance will be in close contact with top insurance companies doing business in the state. We will have up-to-date consumer hotline numbers available for those who need to contact their companies.
· Before doing any repairs to your house, photograph and make a list of the damage.
· Protect your home from further damage by making temporary repairs only until your insurance company advises you. Save any receipts for materials purchased for repairs.
· Do not have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs.
· If necessary, rent temporary shelter. If your home is uninhabitable, most homeowners policies pay additional living expenses while your property is being repaired. Before renting temporary shelter, check with your insurance company or agent to determine what expenses will be reimbursed.
· Unless you have extra coverage with your homeowners policy, food lost in a power outage is probably not covered. Consider purchasing an endorsement to cover food losses in the future.
· Most damage resulting from fallen trees is covered by your homeowners policy. Check with your agent or company before calling the tree removal service as removal costs may also be covered.
· 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 affect. Contact your agent for more information.
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