Insurance Is Key to Disaster Preparation

AUSTIN – With the official start of hurricane season on June 1 and an already active spring storm season, the Texas Department of Insurance encourages you to review your homeowner’s insurance to make sure you and your loved ones are financially protected from a disaster.  Follow these steps to make sure you’re ready.

Create a Home Inventory. Creating an inventory and storing it in a safe location away from home is a basic – and effective – disaster preparedness step.  According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), more than half of Americans don’t have a home inventory of their personal property. An inventory can help you determine the value of your property and whether or not you might be underinsured.

Visit www.tdi.texas.gov/pubs/consumer/cb086.pdf to download a home inventory checklist.

In addition, NAIC has created a smart phone app that makes it easy to create a home inventory.  The myHOME Scr.APP.book app lets users capture and electronically store images, descriptions, bar codes, and serial numbers of your personal property. The app organizes information by room and creates a back-up file for email sharing. To download the free app, go to the iTunes or Android app stores and search “NAIC.”

Review your inventory each year. Note the make, model, serial number, purchase price, and purchase date of any new items and keep receipts for major purchases with your inventory.

Review Your Homeowner’s Policy. Know whether your policy includes coverage for actual cash value or replacement cost in case of a loss. Actual cash value (ACV) is the cost to repair damage to your home or to replace its contents after accounting for depreciation. Replacement cost is the cost to rebuild or replace your home and its contents with similar quality materials or goods, without depreciation.

Make sure your policy meets your needs and that you understand the policy limits, deductibles, exclusions, and claim notification requirements. Keep copies of insurance policies and the home inventory in a location away from your home so they can be easily retrieved. Store electronic copies of your policies on a computer or server away from your home.

Keep contact details for your insurance agent and company with your policies and in your phone or other electronic device. Include phone numbers, mailing addresses, website addresses, and policy numbers for quick reference.

Make Sure You Have Windstorm Insurance.  If your property is in one of the state’s 14 coastal counties or parts of southeastern Harris County, your homeowners policy may not provide windstorm coverage.  You may be able to obtain insurance coverage for windstorm or hail damage from the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA). It’s important to know that TWIA coverage cannot be purchased or changed once a hurricane is in or near the Gulf of Mexico. For more information about windstorm coverage and inspection requirements, call your insurance agent or TWIA at 512-899-4900 or visit www.twia.org.

Consider Flood Insurance.  Most homeowners and commercial property policies exclude coverage for flood damage.  To protect yourself from losses caused by rising water, you’ll need a separate flood insurance policy, typically from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). NFIP is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Flood insurance policies usually require a 30-day waiting period before coverage takes effect on currently owned property, so don’t wait until a flooding threat is imminent. To get flood insurance, call your insurance agent or NFIP at 1-888-FLOOD 29 (356-6329) or visit www.floodsmart.gov.

Make a Safety Plan.  If a disaster threatens your area, you might have to decide whether to stay in your home or evacuate. When local authorities recommend evacuation, you should leave. The advice of authorities is based on knowledge of the strength of the storm and its potential for destruction.
• Map out safe routes inland or to safer areas. Be aware of low-water crossings and plan routes to avoid these areas.
• Locate nearby community shelters in case you must seek immediate shelter.
• Have an alternate plan to contact family members in case you must leave your home or if there is a disruption in local phone service.
For more information about safety planning and emergency preparedness, go to www.texasprepares.org

For More Information
If you have questions about insurance, call TDI’s toll-free Consumer Help Line 1-800-252-3439 or visit www.tdi.texas.gov.

Play Your Part in Biker Safety

With more than 8 million motorcycles on America’s roads and an accident rate way above that of four-wheeled vehicles — riders are 37 times more vulnerable than car travelers — one way or another motorbikes and bikers are always in the news.  But while we know motorcycling is a potentially high-risk activity, the fact is that many of those risks arise because other road users don’t give these machines and their riders the attention they deserve.  That’s the thinking behind Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, which happens in May every year. It’s marked by a plea to drivers of all other vehicles and all road users to “share the road” with motorcyclists and to be extra-alert to help keep riders safe. Of course, motorcyclists themselves also have a key role to play in having regard for each other and for motorists.

“Throughout spring and summer the number of motorcyclists on the road will increase. It is important for both motorists and motorcyclists to be aware of one another,” says David Teater, National Safety Council (NSC) senior director of Transportation Initiatives. “To better defend themselves, motorcyclists should follow the rules of the roadway and
wear protective gear, including a Department of Transportation compliant helmet.”

Ready to play your part? Whether you’re a car driver or motorcyclist, here are 6 safety suggestions from the NSC:

  1. Allow more distance following a motorcycle than you would for a car.
  2. At an intersection where you plan to turn left, be especially alert for motorcycles coming from either direction. They’re easy to overlook.
  3. Never try to share one lane between a car and a motorcycle.
  4. Motorcyclists should avoid riding in bad weather.
  5. Both car drivers and motorcyclists should be aware of a driver’s mirror blind spot when, for a few seconds, the bike cannot be seen.  This is especially important when changing lanes.
  6. Always use turn signals — for every turn or lane change. That goes for drivers and motorcyclists alike.

Watch Out for this DMV Insurance Trick

Unscrupulous high-pressure insurance sales people have developed a new tactic for trying to trick people into buying their car insurance.  They pose as officials from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV),
claiming their victims are paying too much for their auto coverage. Then they provide a phone number (theirs!) for a company they suggest can offer a better deal. If this happens to you, think: What respectable insurance company would want to build a customer relationship based on deception? For the record, the DMV doesn’t give advice on insurance or share the details they hold with insurers.