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Review your insurance before disaster strikes

Did you know that there's typically a 30-day waiting period before a new insurance policy goes into effect? Even if you don't live in a flood-prone area, it's important to know if your insurance covers floods and other disasters.

What damage is covered by your insurance?

If you do not know the answer to this question, it’s very important to take the time now, before disaster strikes, to review your insurance policies.

Start by reviewing what your policies cover. Use the Reading your insurance policy (PDF) to describe the coverage you have under each policy. If you have questions or concerns, discuss them with your insurance agent before disaster strikes. You may decide you need additional coverage.

If you are a renter, do you have renters insurance? Renters insurance covers your personal property and is usually not very expensive to purchase. If you do not have renters insurance, ask your vehicles insurance agent about the cost of adding on renters insurance. According to a recent flood recovery research study, renters typically did not qualify for very many government recovery programs; they needed to rely on their own insurance coverage.

Keep in mind that few insurance policies cover the cost of all damages no matter what the cause. Flood damage is not usually covered by standard homeowner policies and you may have to purchase additional flood insurance. For more information, see Protect yourself with flood insurance on the National Flood Insurance Program website.

In general, property insurance will include some coverage for “fire or lightning damage” and/or “wind and hail damage” which is typical damage from tornados. Again, you may need to purchase additional coverage to be adequately covered.

How are damage claims paid?

To be better prepared, ask your insurance agent whether claims on your policies are paid on the basis of replacement cost or current market value. Will the reimbursement cover the total replacement cost or just a given percentage of the replacement cost?

Regardless of how claims are paid, it’s important to prepare yourself by having a complete household inventory of your personal property.

  • List all of your property in a notebook, take photos, and/or videotape your property.
  • Store a copy of this inventory in a location outside of your home, like with a trusted family member, so it stays protected in case a disaster strikes your home. If you are prepared with a complete household inventory, the claims process will be much easier for you after a disaster.

By checking out how your property is insured, you will be better prepared for disaster when it happens.

Rosemary K. Heins, Extension educator emeritus in family resource management

Reviewed by Sara Croymans, Extension educator in family resiliency

Reviewed in 2023

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