Consumer Affairs and Division of Insurance Encourage Preparedness in Advance of Hurricane Sandy
BOSTON - With the potential impact of Hurricane Sandy on portions of Massachusetts now imminent, the Executive Office of Consumer Affairs and its Division of Insurance are encouraging consumers to take proactive steps to protect their property from flood and wind damage.
Governor Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency for the Commonwealth on Saturday as forecasters predicted Hurricane Sandy would hit land as a Category 1 hurricane bringing heavy rain and severe wind. Coastal areas could see hurricane-force winds and a storm surge, and much of the state could see heavy rain, as much as six inches.
"Even a glancing blow from a storm of this nature can create serious damage to a home, especially a coastal property that may be exposed to strong winds," said Barbara Anthony, the Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. "We encourage consumers to become familiar with what is covered under their insurance policies to help mitigate potential impacts of this storm. A little extra work now can go a long way."
Consumers are encouraged to review their insurance policies and make sure they know what is covered. “Generally, flood damage caused ‘from above,’ like as a result of heavy rain, is covered by home insurance,” noted Commissioner of Insurance Joseph G. Murphy. “However, flood damage ‘from below,’ like through basement walls or sewer backups, is not,” Murphy warned.
(Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program, http://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.) Home and personal property insurance generally covers damage associated with wind, like falling tree limbs which damage a house, garage or other structure or which impede access.
In some areas of the state, like Cape Cod, many insurers include wind deductibles as part of a policy. Most carriers apply the deductible as a percentage to the dwelling limit on the policy, typically ranging from 1 to 5 percent. For example, a deductible of three percent and a $200,000 dwelling limit means the consumer pays all covered wind-related losses up to $6,000 before the insurance company pays for any losses.
To prepare your property for this storm or future high-rain or -wind storms, the Office of Consumer Affairs and the Division of Insurance offer the following tips.
Prepare a home inventory: To make the claims process easier, it's imperative to have a complete list of the belongings in your home. An inventory should include all of the vital information about your belongings (brand name, price, date of purchase, model, serial number and receipts) and should be accompanied by photos of the items. If you don't have time to create
a comprehensive list of the items in your home, then quickly videotape and/or photograph every room. The more detail you include, the easier it will be for your insurance company to evaluate your loss. When making your list, make sure to open drawers and closets, and don't forget to take stock of what's in your garage and storage buildings.
For flood preparation:
- Raise or anchor equipment below base flood elevation;
- Install or maintain a sump pump;
- Remove all important papers which may be necessary for damage claims (including insurance policies, receipts and other records) from basement or attic areas where they could be damaged by water;
- Place sandbags at doors or windows that are on ground level;
- Learn the emergency flood plan for the area;
- Prepare an emergency kit including at least a three-day supply of water and non-perishable food, essential medication, a first-aid kit, a battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries.
For high-wind preparation:
- Trim dead wood and weak or overhanging branches from all trees;
- Check and secure anchoring for covered porches;
- Move all outdoor furniture, grilles, hanging plants and other transportable items indoors or to a secure outdoor location;
- Reinforce garage doors so that they are able to withstand high winds;
- Install tie-downs for sheds, fuel tanks, television antennas and dishes, and woodpiles;
- Install hurricane shutters or ¾-inch thick outdoor plywood to each window, along with shatterproof glass;
- Install head and foot bolts to doors;
- Reinforce roofs by installing hurricane straps or clips to help keep the roof attached to the walls.
After the storm:
- Be vigilant. Do not try to re-enter your home or attempt repairs until it is safe to do so;
- Keep children and pets away from downed or low-hanging power lines;
- Contact your insurance company as soon as possible;
- Do not make permanent repairs until the adjuster has inspected the property - but do take action to prevent further damage, like covering holes in the roof or removing water;
- Take pictures of any storm related damage to your property or belongings, particularly if you must throw away items of value that are bacteria-laden;
- Keep a record of all receipts, and document any time you spent securing your property, and your conversations with the insurance company.
Consumers with insurance concerns should contact the Division of Insurance at (877) 563-4467 or (617) 521-7794. The Division of Insurance is an agency within the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. Follow the Division at www.mass.gov/doi or its Twitter feed, @MassDOI. The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation provides a range of consumer information at www.mass.gov/consumer, through its Consumer Connections blog, and on Twitter @Mass_Consumer.