As we approach the peak of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon is reminding home and business owners to take steps to protect their property. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the peak of the season is from mid-August to late October.
“Of course having homeowners and flood insurance are two of the biggest steps you can take to safeguard your property from hurricanes,” Donelon said. “Insurance is a tool for protecting property just as plywood or generators are. If you wouldn’t wait until the last minute to take those precautions, don’t wait to make sure you are properly covered by homeowners and flood insurance. Know that most property insurers stop writing policies when a storm enters the Gulf of Mexico and most flood policies don’t take effect until 30 days after you apply.”
Following Hurricane Katrina, FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) saw a significant increase in the number of flood insurance policies in Louisiana – from about 380,000 policies in 2003 to nearly 500,000 policies by 2006, an increase of about 30 percent. Unfortunately that figure has been on the decline in recent years and the number of flood policies has decreased to 450,000 policies today.
“The spring flooding experienced by tens of thousands of residents across our state was a real wake-up call for many and I hope will prompt others to review the type of insurance coverages they have in place,” Donelon said.
As of August 10, nearly 5,000 NFIP claims have been filed with more than $225 million paid out on claims from severe storms that took place in March. Flood damage is not covered under most homeowners’ policies.
The Louisiana Department of Insurance offers the following tips:
Review your property insurance coverage. Check to see if you have a hurricane deductible and flood insurance. Named storm and hurricane deductibles typically run two to five percent of the insured property value. Make sure that your level of coverage is still sufficient to fix your home or replace valuables if you experience damage from a storm. If you have made any significant changes or upgrades to your home, tell your agent so that any claims you make in the future will reflect the upgrades.
Store copies of your important documents off-site. In case of an emergency evacuation, you’ll want to have copies of your family’s essential documents and copies of your insurance policies filed away in a separate location or backed-up on a secure internet site or jump drive.
Update your home inventory. You can use an app or plain old pen and paper, but make sure to take an inventory of your possessions. A home inventory will make the claims process easier in the event of property damage or loss. Include identifying information such as brand names and serial numbers and take photos of your valuables and other contents.
Property owners may also want to look into storm mitigation incentives. Things like secondary water barriers, roof bracing and window and door strength can make a difference to your home’s safety during a hurricane. They can also make a difference to your premium when you report these upgrades to your insurance provider. You can find information about storm mitigation incentives a LDI.LA.GOV/HurricanePrep.