How to Cope When Storms Strike
Residents of Kansas and Oklahoma, where several tornadoes struck May 10, are assessing the damage left by the storms. A couple of states away, Tennesseans in 52 counties are trying to recover from flooding. Many still can't return home.
Cleaning up after these disasters will be a monumental task, especially in the parts of Tennessee that have been declared federal disaster areas. The victims -- and the rest of us -- can learn about coping with disaster from Louisiana homeowners. After Hurricane Katrina, Kiplinger.com columnist Kim Lankford wrote about what we could learn from the nation's costliest disaster. Here are her tips for homeowners.
1. Prevent further damage to your home. Cover a damaged roof with a tarp, for example, but don't make any major repairs until you meet with an adjuster.
2. Keep receipts if you have to stay in a hotel. Homeowners insurance usually covers additional living expenses if your house is uninhabitable. However, you probably won't get paid until after an adjuster inspects your property. After Katrina, many insurers made an exception, automatically distributing enough to cover two weeks' worth of additional living expenses to anyone in an area subject to mandatory evacuation.
3. Be prepared to wait. It can be hard to get through to your insurance agent if there has been a large disaster. And it can take weeks for an adjuster to meet with you and examine your property. Keep track of the adjuster's name and phone number and log every conversation.
4. Gather documentation of what you had. If you have pictures or a video of your property before it was damaged, it can make the claims process go more smoothly.
5. You might not have enough coverage. If you haven't updated your coverage to keep up with rising building cost, you might have too little insurance. And your homeowners policy won't pay for flood damage -- you must have coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program. If your coverage falls short -- or you have no coverage at all -- you may qualify for money from FEMA or a disaster-assistance loan from the Small Business Administration.