What You Should Know About: Disaster Preparedness
Insurance and preparation are keys to surviving the next disaster
What you should know:
- A standard Homeowners Insurance Policy does not cover flood, earthquake or landslides but separate coverage is usually available.
- Insured losses due to natural disasters in the United States in 2017 totaled $78 billion, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
- A complete home inventory of your possessions will help you and your insurance company get through the claims process more quickly.
The Northwest has a history of devastating disasters, including earthquakes, wildfires, floods – even volcanic eruptions. Many of these risks are not predictable, while others come with only a little warning. If a major disaster hit your community would you be ready with a plan to gather your family in a safe location along with water, food and medical supplies to last you three days or more? And would you have adequate insurance to help your family and/or business recover quickly?
Planning ahead for evacuations and disasters, along with knowing you have the right insurance to protect the investment you’ve made in your home or business will help you minimize loss and ‘ride out’ the aftermath of a disaster.
Disasters & Insurance
Review your insurance policies to be sure you have the right coverage to meet your needs. Find out what your insurance will cover. Most Homeowners and Business Insurance policies do not cover damage caused by flood, earthquake, landslides or tsunamis.
Flood Insurance can be purchased in most communities through the National Flood Insurance Program. You may be able to purchase earthquake coverage separately through your Homeowners insurance company or through a specialty carrier, such as GeoVera.
To insure against earth movement, such as landslides, homeowners should speak to a reputable insurance broker about a “Difference in Conditions” policy offered by specialty or “surplus lines” insurers. Surplus lines insurers offer products that typically are not offered by “standard” insurers. Visit Surplus Line Association of Washington to find out more about surplus lines brokers/insurers in Washington.
Disaster Preparedness Tips
- Develop an effective disaster preparedness plan for your family. Visit FEMA’s National Preparedness Toolkit. For businesses, visit the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’s (IBHS) disaster planning toolkit Open for Business, which is designed to help businesses plan for any type of business interruption so it can quickly re-open and resume operations after a disaster.
- Develop a home inventory of your personal property. Don’t trust your memory. A complete inventory of your possessions will help you and your insurance company get through the claims process more quickly. Many insurance companies offer mobile apps to help you track your home inventory.
- Store your home inventory and insurance papers in waterproof containers offsite in a safety deposit box or with a friend. Many insurers also offer electronic copies of your policy form that can be stored online or on your own devices. Ask your insurer for details.
- Become familiar with your community’s disaster preparedness plans by visiting the community's official website or stopping by city hall. For more information about statewide emergency preparedness plans, visit the Emergency Management Division of Washington.
- Develop an emergency kit that includes at least a three-day supply of drinking water and food you don’t have to refrigerate or cook. The kit should also contain first aid supplies, a weather radio, battery-operated lights and batteries, candles, clothing, blankets, medicine, copies of your insurance policies and some basic tools. More disaster planning resources are available at www.redcross.org.
- Refill your vehicle’s gas tank whenever it gets down to a half tank. Plan an escape route in the event you have to evacuate your home.
- Know your evacuation routes. Check with city or county officials for low points in the event of a flood or tsunami. Know ahead of time the alternate routes open to you in the event of a wildfire or washed-out roadway.
- Determine the location of the nearest official shelter. The Red Cross can locate shelters near your home and explain what you should take with you.
- Agree on a meeting place for your family in case local communications networks are offline. Also determine a virtual meeting place such as a voicemail box or online social networking site. Designate out-of-state contacts and provide contact information to each family member in case you can’t communicate locally.