Dealing with Hurricanes: Tips for Insurance Consumers
Tami Torres or Bob Lotane
The Florida Department of Financial Services is mobilized to assist with insurance and banking questions and concerns. Residents should call our toll-free hotline at 800-22-STORM.
Before the storm:
Take steps to protect yourself and your family, evacuating if ordered to do so. Don't take unnecessary risks. Human lives are more important than property.
Safeguard important documents such as your insurance policy information, company contact numbers, and mortgage documents.
Have plenty of cash on hand since access to ATMs, debit cards and credit cards will be limited in the event of power outages.
Protect windows. If you need to protect your windows, get plywood panels 5/8" thick. Where plywood is scarce, a second option is oriented strand board. If you have to prioritize which windows to protect, cover larger ones first, like bay or picture windows. Sliding glass doors are often made of tempered glass, so worry about these last.
Limit flying debris. Clean your yard and remove anything that will become airborne missiles, including dead tree limbs.
Reinforce your garage door. Your garage door is your home's largest single opening, next to your roof, making it vulnerable to high wind.
Batten down the hatches. Hurricane Katrina will bring rain, so be sure to close and lock all windows, doors, skylights and vents in your home to prevent water intrusion.
Buy tarps. If the storm damages your roof, you'll want to cover the area with water-resistant material, like a tarp or plastic sheeting when it is safe to do so.
If forced to evacuate your home, let your agent or insurance company know your temporary forwarding address and phone number.
Immediately report property damage to your insurance agent and company.
Make emergency repairs to protect from further damage, document the damage and repairs in writing, and with receipts and photos. Keep receipts for those repairs so that your insurance company can reimburse you.
If you use a generator for power, remember to keep it outside and in a well-ventilated area because generators produce carbon monoxide. Keep it out of the garage.
Beware of downed power lines, especially near water – to avoid risk of electrocution.
If your house is damaged, shut electricity off at the breakers.
Because Katrina is a slow moving storm and expected to drop several inches of rain, flooding is a real danger. Never drive through floodwaters or on flooded roads. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Water only two feet deep can sweep away most cars.
Maintain copies of your household inventory and other documentation, including photos. This will assist the adjuster in assessing the value of the destroyed property.
If considering the assistance of a public insurance adjuster, verify that they are licensed by calling the department's toll-free consumer helpline at 1-800-342-2762.
Be sure you understand how much a public insurance adjuster is charging and what services are included before signing any contract.
Beware of fly-by-night repair businesses. Hire licensed and reputable service people.
A key safety step you can take today (recently learned from a first responder) is to designate an emergency contact on your cell phone using a simple code:
ICE In Case of Emergency
Our cell phones are often a lifeline for us in a crisis. Paramedics, police and firefighters often waste valuable time trying to figure out whom to call in an emergency.