Protecting Your Finances During Storm Season - MetroFamily Magazine
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Protecting Your Finances During Storm Season

by Sue Lynn Sasser

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

Severe weather can strike at any time during the year, as we’ve already seen this year. In Central Oklahoma, the greatest potential for destruction comes during the spring and early summer. Thunderstorms this time of year frequently bring hail, heavy rains and tornados—all of which can do considerable damage to homes, cars and other personal property.

Tips to help protect your personal belongings—just in case!

  • Read your insurance policies (car, homeowners, rental and others) to determine if you have adequate coverage and appropriate deductibles that meet your current needs. Tornados, for example, are considered “wind storms” and damage from them is covered under most homeowner’s policies; damage to vehicles should be covered by the comprehensive portion of your car insurance policy.
  • Check policies for “loss of use” or “additional coverage” to help provide temporary housing in case you need temporary housing following a storm. Most policies cover these costs up to a certain amount.
  • Update your personal belongings inventory. Store your inventory in a safe location, preferably in a safe deposit box at your financial institution or some other off-premise, secure place. You may want to include a video or photographs to assist in settling claims.
  • Check on the need for flood insurance in your area as it’s generally not included in the standard homeowner’s policy. Call the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-800-638-6620 to learn about flood insurance in your neighborhood.
  • Develop or review your family’s emergency plan, including where to meet during severe weather warnings or in case you cannot return to your home.
  • Keep a stash of bottled water, canned food, batteries, cell phone, flashlights, emergency radio and other supplies on hand. You may want to invest in a hand-crank generate to recharge cell phones or radios. Be sure to store all supplies in your “safe” place.
  • Maintain a backup of electronic personal or financial files. Be prepared to take your hard drive or external drive with you when seeking shelter during a storm. You may also want to keep copies of your insurance policies and other financial records in a file that is easy to grab in case you need to take shelter quickly.

If you have damage, take the following steps as soon as possible:

  • Call your insurance agent to report the damage. Ensure your agent has your emergency contact information.
  • Try to protect your property and salvage what you can.
  • Inspect your home, personal property and vehicles closely and make a list of all damages. Avoid making a speedy settlement to ensure you are including everything in your claim. You may want to consult a third-party, such as a financial advisor, attorney or independent insurance adjuster, before settling—depending upon the circumstances.
  • Last but not least, beware of being defrauded by rip-off home repair companies. A storm is like a magnet for con artist to pose as roofers or contractors and start canvassing neighborhoods for potential victims, making promises of “cheap” repairs.

Before signing a contract or engaging any services, check out the vehicles to see if they have local or out-of-state tags. The potential for fraud increases with out-of-state “storm chasers.” Also, contact the Better Business Bureau, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office or even online services like Angie’s List to see if the company has a good record. Or, ask your insurance agent or real estate agent. They may have a list of local repair people with whom they work regularly. While taking these steps does not eliminate the potential for problems, it will greatly reduce the potential.

Severe weather events are part of life in our area. It pays to take precautions to protect your family’s finances.

Sue Lynn Sasser, PhD, is an associate professor of economics at the University of Central Oklahoma.

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