Emergency Preparedness and Home Insurance

Sometimes when people think of emergency or disaster preparedness, they think it applies to someone else. If you live in California, you have to worry about earthquakes. If you live near the Gulf Coast, you have to contend with hurricanes. People in the northern states confront snowstorms year after year.

Well, if you’re a homeowner in Arizona you have to prepare for monsoons (we have had a ton of rain this monsoon season), flooding, and dust storms. Taking steps in case of any type of emergency means being proactive, including having the right home insurance policy.

Important Records 

Just like a business, your personal papers are important to your home operation. At the Ready.gov website provided by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration), they offer tips on what you need to do to prepare.

One way to plan is to have copies of all your important documents, which are then stored in a secure place. Experts suggest your secure place should be far enough away in case of widespread disaster, yet close enough for quick access.

One suggestion is to have two separate safe and secure locations for storing your papers: a safe deposit box containing items such as:

  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Wills
  • Deeds
  • Titles to Automobiles
  • Household Inventory
  • Bonds and Stock Certificates
  • Important Contracts

In addition, you should have a secure, yet active file, containing items such as:

  • Tax Receipts
  • Unpaid Bills
  • Employment Records
  • Health Benefit Information
  • Credit Card Information
  • Insurance Policies
  • Medical Records
  • Inventory of Safe Deposit Box (and key)

Another important part of your records should be a complete, up-to-date list of emergency contacts, including name, phone numbers, and email addresses. For more information and a complete list of items to store, check out this publication on USA.com.

Emergency Kit 

An emergency kit contains basic household items you will need in the event of an emergency. Be sure to assemble it well in advance and store it safely somewhere your entire family knows about, as you may have to evacuate without much notice.

Experts recommend having enough non-perishable food and water to last at least 72 hours. In addition, you should include:

  • Battery-operated radio
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • First-aid kit
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket
  • Matches
  • Fully-charged cell phone
  • Paper and pencil
  • Sturdy shoes and clothing 

For a complete checklist from FEMA, click here.

Home Insurance 

Finally, be sure you have the right home insurance in case of an emergency. In the 2012 post, “Do You Have Enough Insurance to Cover Rebuilding Costs After a Disaster?”, the Small Business Administration suggests taking steps to protect your small business. We’ve adapted them for home use:

  • Check Your Insurance Coverage. Contact your insurance agent to find out if your policy is adequate for your needs. Tailor your polity to the specific needs of an Arizona home. Remember to review and update it often. The home you bought even just five years ago could cost more to rebuild today. CBSNewswatch.com article reports, “Nearly 6 of 10 American houses are underinsured, with most insurance policies having only enough insurance to pay about 80 percent of the costs to replace or rebuild their homes, according to property data provider MSB”.
  • Ask questions. Make sure you understand your policy limits, the deductible, and what is actually covered.
  • Consider emergency riders. The U.S. Geological Survey reports that floods are the leading cause of natural disaster property losses. Most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flood losses. Make sure to talk with your insurance agent about the types of disaster prevalent in Arizona and how to obtain coverage.
  • Take inventory. Inventory your personal items before disaster strikes. Record the price and estimated replacement cost. Keep receipts, take photos and video of your property, and store this information at a secure location.

With a little forethought and preparation, you can prepare yourself and your home for any emergency. Contact your local insurance agent to make sure you have the coverages on your policy.

Mesa Arizona Homeowners Insurance Coverages Photo

This week we are having fun with our collection of funny insurance pictures. If you have any and would like to share them with the insurance community please let us know.

Here is this weeks picture sent in by the insurance agents in Mesa AZ.

Chandler AZ insurance Coverage

Some Tips BEFORE the Disaster Hits

Hello homeowners, we are homeowners insurance with offices located in Mesa, Gilbert, Tucson and Phoenix. We want to pass along some advice for you regarding your homes and homeowners insurance that you should be looking at today! Start with your TTD – THINGS TO DO list.

With all the devastation in our surrounding states from forest fires, we’d like to bring you some advice.

Before the fire or disaster strikes, do this, like, right NOW:

A)    Plan ahead. If family members are away from home, arrange ahead of time a DCP – designated convenient place to meet away from your home or the possible disaster in your area. Pick a gas station, convenience store, grocery store, maybe a mall, or a school, somewhere YOU all know EXACTLY where to go to meet up, this is your DCP and #2 on your TTD list. Keep in mind, family members must be prepared for this as well, regardless of where you are, you may not be able to get back to your home, you may have to depend on a son or daughter who is at home to do this, so run down the list of TTD with them beforehand, walk thru it once or twice a year. Update it as you need to.

B)    Plan ahead. Tell ALL family members where you will be planning to go, pick a motel or hotel 20 miles away, write down their phone number on your TTD list, plan on calling them for a reservation when the evacuation order comes. MAKE it number 3 on your TTD. Next, pick an alternate motel or hotel that is 30 miles away, write down that phone number on your TTD list, if you cannot get a reservation at No. 3, this is your number 4 – TTD, your contingency plan, communicate this with ALL family members! Put this TTD LIST of Things To Do and let your entire family know where it is, or better yet, give a copy to your neighbors and your closest family members.

C)    Have you got a pet (or pets)? Make sure you have a weeks supply of food for each pet set aside. Put this food and where it’s stored on your list of TTD as #5.

D)    As you make your TTD List, keep in mind how much space your vehicle has, will it (whatever IT is that you are wanting to take with you) fit with everything else on the list?  Keep this in mind when you organize your TTD. Be prepared to leave sentimental objects behind, you will NOT have time to dwell on it later.

E)    INVENTORY – Take a pad of paper and walk through your home and write down everything you have, include taking picture,s which are also helpful.  Download your pictures to a flash drive for convenience, but either have a flash drive OR get actual pictures and assemble them all together (pictures should include all room furniture, unique items, grandfather clocks, fine art, jewelry, electronics, heirloom items, irreplaceable items, and collectibles). Put this inventory paper in a safe place, ready to go. Include this INVENTORY on your TTD list.

F)    BUNDLE – collect the most important papers and keep them in a safe and secure location that you can easily open, grab the bundle, and go. This should include: your family’s birth certificates, social security cards, passports, insurance papers, car titles, and all photos taken of your home possessions and valuables, either the actual prints OR the flash drive that has the pictures. Include this BUNDLE of paperwork on your TTD list.

G)    Make a list of irreplaceable family pictures that you do not want to lose, this should be a picture checklist, and when you are told to evacuate, grab this checklist and gather up ONLY what you have written down beforehand, you will NOT have time to get sidetracked once the evacuation order comes! Include this on your TTD list.

When ordered to evacuate, keep your time in mind, hurry, but be organized (be aware, it’s possible you may NOT have 30 minutes, maybe 10 or  or even less!):

A)    TTD #1 – Get your family and pets in the car.

B)    TTD #2 – Contact immediate family members and tell them to muster at the pre-designated meeting place, you are evacuating.  KISS – keep it short and simple. This is your No.2 TTD item. Do NOT plan on having family or friends come to your home once the evacuation order is placed, all roads lead OUT and to safety.

C)    Proceed with your TTD list of THINGS TO DO.

D)   Focus on driving safely. Get to your motel/hotel safely.

E)    RECEIPTS – Typically your homeowners insurance policy will cover reasonable expenses for room and meals. Save your receipts if you are told to evacuate your home by emergency personnel. Most policies cover this but have daily limits.

F)    Once you have reached your safe hotel/motel, THEN contact family & friends and inform them of same.

If you need help accessing your homeowners policy for disasters and the like, we’re here. Contact your insurance agent before you actually need us. Our advice is free. Bring your inventory list with you.

Prepare for Fire Season by Evaluating Your Homeowners Insurance

The 2012 Arizona wildfire season has already started, and the U.S. Forest Service estimates that the 2012 season could be as bad as the historic 2011 fire season. The 2012 National Seasonal Assessment predicts an “above normal significant fire potential” for the mountains, with a normal significant fire potential predicted for other parts of Arizona. As of May 16, the Gladiator Fire had already destroyed four structures and threatened almost 400 more.

There are several steps homeowners can take to prevent fire damage to their property, including using fire resistant materials, providing a firebreak, and creating a defensible space around structures. If the worst does happen, homeowners also need to be sure that they are adequately insured to cover a catastrophic loss of their homes. The Insurance Information Institute lists four key questions homeowners should ask to ensure adequate coverage in case of a disaster:

    1. Is my insurance coverage enough to rebuild my home at today’s costs?

Insuring your home for its value may not be enough to rebuild your home at the price of current construction. Adequate coverage should include a replacement cost policy that will pay for the replacement of damaged property with comparable materials. Arizona homeowners might also want to consider an extended replacement policy that will pay an additional 20% above policy limits if a disaster–such as a widespread wildfire–raises the cost of materials and labor. Other options include inflation or ordinance riders which help cover the impact of inflation or new ordinances on construction costs.

    1. Is my insurance coverage enough to replace all of my possessions?

Most homeowners insurance policies cover possessions at a rate of 50-70% of the amount of insurance on the structure of the home. A home inventory is the best way to determine if this is enough coverage to replace your personal possessions if they are lost to a fire or other disaster. You can insure your personal possessions by either a cash value or replacement cost policy. Cash value policies cover the cost of replacing your property after depreciation. Replacement cost policies cover the replacement cost of your possessions at today’s prices. Your insurance agent can help you determine whether a cash or replacement policy is the best option for you.

    1. Will my insurance cover my extra expenses if my home is destroyed?

If your home is destroyed in a wildfire or other disaster, there will be additional expenses beyond replacing your home and possessions. Coverage for additional living expenses would pay for the extra cost of living away from home and includes expenses such as hotel bills and restaurant meals. It could also cover lost rental income if you rent out a portion of your property.

    1. Will my homeowners insurance adequately protect my assets?

This question isn’t directly related to disaster planning, but it is still an important factor in evaluating your homeowners insurance needs. Liability damage protects you against claims made for bodily injury or property damage caused by you, a family member, or a pet. Liability damage covers court costs as well as any costs incurred in a court judgment up to the limits of your policy. Additional coverage beyond your policy limits is available in the form of an excess liability or umbrella policy.

Wise preparation for fire season should include making sure your home is adequately insured. Your insurance agent can help you evaluate your insurance needs.