CONSUMER FORUM

Fresh water, batteries — and insurance: Storm preparation includes updating coverage

Posted June 22, 2014, at 7:53 a.m.

Maine’s major seasons recently may have felt like “mud” followed by “blackfly,” but we’ve just entered a much more serious time of year. Summer means more than camp and golf. It can also hold the threat of severe weather; the hurricane season began officially on June 1.

Consumers would do well to heed a recent urging of Eric Cioppa, Maine’s superintendent of insurance.

Cioppa said in a news release that a few basic precautions could save lives, minimize property damage and speed up recovery efforts following a severe storm. Wind, fire and flooding are the leading causes of damage and injury in any big storm. Doing what we can ahead of time just makes sense.

The first thing people might want to look at closely is their homeowners’ or renter’s insurance. Know what’s covered, and determine whether your coverage is adequate.

Cioppa said most people don’t know that a standard homeowners policy does not cover damage from flooding.

He also advises that homeowners “should review their policy, purchase additional coverage if needed, consider whether flood insurance makes sense for them, and complete an inventory of possessions.”

“A Consumer’s Guide to Homeowners Insurance” can be found online at http://www.maine.gov/pfr/insurance/consumer/Homeowner.htm.

Mainers who live in a flood plain will likely need to have flood insurance to satisfy requirements of their mortgage loans.

The National Flood Insurance Program’s website ( www.floodsmart.gov) contains tools to help you determine your risk of flooding. You may also call the program at 1-800-427-2419.

There’s a 30-day waiting period for flood insurance to take effect; if you’re in doubt about your flood risk, act quickly.

The inventory of your personal property can be critical if you need to file an insurance claim. Your inventory should include a photo or video of each room in your home. Include items you don’t use all the time (seasonal sports gear, tools, holiday decorations). You may want to take multiple, detailed photos of expensive items. As you acquire more valuables, you may want to add a “rider” to your policy to cover them.

While you can keep a copy of your inventory at home, you should keep a second copy — along with insurance policies and other important papers — in a safe deposit box or other secure place.

A free checklist to help prepare your inventory is available at the Maine Bureau of Insurance website ( www.maine.gov/insurance).

Update your insurance coverage regularly. Know whether your coverage is for the actual cash value of the items or the replacement value; the difference can be considerable.

Preparing for storms also means preparing an emergency kit. It should contain several days’ supplies of water and nonperishable food, a non-electric can opener and cooking utensils. Include medications you and your family would need, plus a first aid kid and supplies for pets.

A battery-powered radio could be essential in a prolonged power outage. Include a list of important names and phone numbers, including contact information for your insurance agent.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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