consumerism, weather

Insurance Matters – Post Irma and Post Harvey (H. Michael Mogil, CCM, CBM, NWA-DS*)

During the past two weeks, I spent many hours helping Dave Elliott and his team at WGUF-FM (98.9) radio here in Collier County, FL. Stephen Johnson (control room) and Scott Fish (101.9 – Gator Country radio, simulcast with WGUF) rounded out the team.

While my focus was weather, I also did some research and reporting on preparedness and post storm recovery matters. I also listened to discussions among our team and calls from listeners. I’d like to start sharing some these here to help Irma victims (and also those in Texas affected by Harvey).

This article will address a few hurricane-related insurance matters. Before beginning, let me note that I am not an insurance adjuster or a structural engineer. The items described here are simply to get readers to think things through before they either ignore insurance or go crazy about dealing with it. Always, get professional advice before addressing any matters involving insurance.

(1) Read your insurance policy BEFORE contacting your agent (Fig. 1). If you don’t have a clue about policy coverages and exclusions, I predict that you will get frustrated quickly.

(2) Take pictures BEFORE cleanup. Make sure you show water levels and the wrack (debris) line, tree damage, roof tiles or shingles lying on your lawn (where they fell) with your house in the background of the image. These pictures can help your adjuster piece things together long after the storm’s visual impacts disappear.

(3) Call your insurance agent, but, be prepared for long wait times. Insurance companies typically have agents available to help you. However, when the number of potential claimants becomes large, agent access can become difficult. Some companies are setting up mobile customer support centers in affected communities. Check with your insurance company, if they haven’t already e-mailed you information.

(4) Find out what you can do to mitigate further damage, even before your claim is approved. Often, putting blue tarp on a roof and covering damaged windows are encouraged. Be sure that anyone you contract with is a reliable, certified and bonded contractor. In Florida, you can contact the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (850-487-1395). To report unlicensed activity, call 1-866-532-1440). In Texas, you can contact the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation or American Contractors – Texas; however, not all contractor and building licenses seem to be listed here.

(5) File a claim with FEMA for either uninsured or uninsured losses online, or by phone (800-621-3362). While the focus is on homeowners, there is a question that should direct your application to the Small Business Administration for possible small business coverage.

I filed this morning and it takes less than 20 minutes to do this online. You can also call FEMA directly to file a claim. Even if you don’t qualify for assistance, you should still file a claim.

If you have a FEMA flood insurance policy, check the policy for filing procedures.

(6) Remember that if you don’t file a claim and do things to facilitate its successful conclusion (in your favor), the answer will always be “denied.”

I hope this helps some people get a better handle on their insurance matters in the wake of these two destructive storms. I will update this article as I come across additional insurance information.

For those in disaster areas, please take care and recover safely and quickly.

For those in any area, please think about contributing to reliable and effective charities. Remember, that after the initial rush to get utilities restored, cleanup begun, properties secured, and finding water, ice and food, people will need money to put their lives back together.

© 2017 H. Michael Mogil

Originally posted 9/15/17

* The National Weather Association Digital Seal (NWA-DS) is awarded to individuals who pass stringent meteorological testing and evaluation of written weather content. H. Michael Mogil was awarded the second such seal and is a strong advocate for its use by weather bloggers.

 

weather, weather safety/preparedness

Getting Ready For A Hurricane and more… (H. Michael Mogil, CCM, CBM, NWA-DS*)

There are plenty of “to do” lists out there addressing what to do to prepare for a hurricane, undertake during a hurricane, and address following a hurricane. Some of the more detailed lists can be found at the following web pages:

Weather Ready Nation

FEMA – Hurricane Harvey

American Red Cross

• Your local TV stations (if you are in hurricane country)

At each of these, be sure to look for sub-page links that may provide even more detailed information. FEMA’s – Hurricane Harvey web page (found under the main page “Navigation” menu bar) provides considerable tailored information specifically for Texans. Look for a similar FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) page to surface as Irma starts impacting the U.S. The Red Cross web site includes information about many topics, including how to locate loved ones who may be within a disaster area. In addition, many local TV stations distribute hurricane guides (Fig. 1), tracking charts and other informational items via local supermarkets and drug stores.

Today, I’m going to expound upon these lists a little, providing some insights as to WHY certain things are recommended. I’ll also add a few “out the eye wall” ideas. Note that no list can be totally inclusive.

Regardless of what you read or hear, hopefully, you’ll employ common sense and logic to your actions. Also, be sure you get your information from reliable sources. It’s at times like these that well-thought out plans need to be put into play. And remember that governmental and volunteer service organizations may not have the resources or the capabilities to assist you for days, maybe even weeks, after a major hurricane strike.

• If you don’t have an emergency kit, create one. It should include items that can be placed in heavy duty, sealable, freezer storage bags. Group items to facilitate finding what you may need. For example, you might have individual, labeled, plastic bags that contain medical records, medicines (may not able to refill after the storm), identification (e.g., passports, birth certificates), small denominational cash (ATM machines may not be working, if power loss occurs), cell phones and electronic appliances (sealed to keep out water) and even food and snacks (to avoid contamination with ground water). If possible, put these smaller plastic bags into larger sealable plastic bags or sealable containers.

• Although many companies (e.g., banks, credit cards, utilities) may work with you after the storm to accept late payments (without late fees), it’s just easier to make payments in advance.

• You will want to ensure that certain food items are refrigerated and/or frozen even if you lose power. One way is to ensure that temperature settings in both fridge compartments are set as low as possible BEFORE the storm strikes. If you have created frozen plastic soda or water bottles or sealable containers/freezer bags in advance, these can be used to chill the refrigerator or freezer compartments. Large chunks of ice stay colder longer than bags of individual ice cubes.

Another way is to cook some of the frozen food beforehand. It will be easier for cold hamburgers to survive, for example, than to keep ground beef frozen.

• The same chilling factor can be said for your home. Chill your home as low as possible before power is lost so you’ll have at least a slightly more comfortable environment for a longer period of time.

• Stock up on non-perishables. This includes water, crackers, nutrition/energy bars, breads, cereals, pretzels, chips, snacks, chocolate (my favorite), canned food (e.g., tuna fish), peanut butter (doesn’t require refrigeration), and even astronaut food (possibly available at a local science store). Don’t forget toilet paper, tissues, paper towels and plasticware.

• Speaking about toilet paper, be sure to fill a bathtub or two with water to help with toilet flushing.

• If you lose power and want hot water for coffee, hopefully you’ll have an accessible natural gas line or propane canister. We have a small camping stove and some small propane canisters that we plan on using in an outside location, if needed.

• If you have power banks or power sticks, be sure these are fully charged before the storm strikes. These low-cost power supplies can help power smaller appliances during power outages. Be sure your appliances are fully charged in advance, too. If you have an emergency generator (note that many condo associations don’t allow these), be sure it is charged and/or you have fuel available.

• Bring any lose or liftable objects indoors. This includes hanging or potted plants, patio furniture, trashcans and toys.

• DON’T use any type of tape to protect windows. Most tapes are not strong enough to prevent glass breakage or shattering. Even if you aren’t in a flood zone, consider the flooding potential. Move valuable or important objects, non-refrigerated or non-frozen foods, furniture and electronics to higher levels in your home.

• If you need to evacuate (either by car, mass transit or plane), consider doing this during daylight hours. It is easier to see roads, obstacles and other vehicles, especially if you wind up on local roadways. Be careful of evacuating into the projected path of the storm. You might wind up leaving a secure structure only to stay the night in a less structurally secure motel or other building (or find yourself stuck on clogged roadways).

Also, turn off gas lines, water lines and electricity before leaving.

If you can’t evacuate (or chose not to), then plan to “hunker down,” hopefully in a safe place (e.g., non-flood zone) and with neighbors or relatives. Be sure to move your car to higher ground (away from trees and power lines), if possible.

• If you are elderly, or are in a senior facility, moving out of a flood zone early is better than waiting. Several such facilities in the Houston area failed to evacuate and were flooded, putting the elderly patients at risk.

• Before the rains arrive, consider cleaning roof gutters and downspouts to facilitate the moving of water away from your home. If there are storm drains near your home, take a few moments (even it’s not your responsibility) and clean out any leaves, twigs and other debris), to enable faster drainage.

• If you have kids or pets and evacuate (and you know that pets are welcome at the evacuation center), think about bringing games, toys, books and other items that can add fun and psychological stability to the situation.

• And, just in case, think about board games, cards, and jigsaw puzzles as things to do to pass the time in a potentially non-electrical home universe. This list is long and getting longer. I will be updating it periodically, including valuable suggestions that may come from my readers. In advance, thanks for your comments and feedback.

© 2017 H. Michael Mogil

Originally posted 9/5/17