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Home Insurance

Before (and After) a Disaster Strikes

Buy flood insurance. You can get the maximum coverage for about $350 to $600 per year if you live in a low- or moderate-risk area. To look up your home's risk level, get a price quote and find a local agent, go to www.floodsmart.gov.

Keep an up-to-date inventory, with photos and receipts for major purchases, in a safe place away from home. Having this information will make it easier to file a claim and minimize potential disputes.

Maintain an emergency fund. Keep enough money in a savings account to cover at least three to six months' worth of living expenses. Store some cash, insurance policies, tax records and key contact information in a portable file.

Call your insurer or agent as soon as possible after the event. Find out what you have to do to get the claims procedure rolling so that you don't lose any time.

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Take pictures immediately, especially if you need to make temporary fixes before an adjuster can see the damage to your property.

Hang on to receipts for repairs and living expenses while you're away from home. You may qualify to be reimbursed by your insurer.

Sign up for government assistance if you live in a federal disaster area. You could get a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency of up to $28,800 if you have uninsured losses on your primary residence (but not a second home).

Consider an SBA disaster loan. Small Business Administration loans are available to individual homeowners and renters, not just businesses. You can borrow up to $240,000 to repair or replace damaged property.

Visit a FEMA disaster recovery center. These centers in federal disaster zones include representatives from FEMA, the SBA, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and other federal, state and nonprofit agencies.