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Defend Against Mother Nature

Protect your home before a storm hits by getting enough -- and the right kind -- of insurance.

Storm season is coming, and with it the fear that a tree will crash through your roof or a pond will rise in your basement. You can't avoid a natural disaster, but you can prepare for it several ways and buy some peace of mind.

Buy flood insurance. It's not just for oceanfront and riverside property. If a torrential rainstorm soaks your cellar, your homeowners policy will not cover the damage. The National Flood Insurance Program Web site lets you enter your address to see if your home's location qualifies as a "preferred risk." If it does, for $352 a year you can cover the building for $250,000 and its contents for $100,000.

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If your home is deemed a moderately risky property (riskier than "preferred"), you can still cover the structure for $100,000 and its contents for $30,000 at a cost of $669 a year.

Plug home-insurance gaps. Ask your insurance agent if there's something your policy doesn't cover. For example, most homeowners policies do not cover damage caused by a sewage backup. Some insurers may let you buy a sewage-backup rider for $10,000 of coverage for about $50 per year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Trim threatening trees. It can cost $2,000 to remove timber that's menacing your roof or your neighbor's -- assuming, of course, that your town or neighborhood association allows you to cut down trees. But just having branches trimmed so that they're 6 or 8 feet from the house costs only $300 to $500 and should give you two years of protection.

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Timing is important. Arborists are busy after storms, so you may get faster service and a better deal when the weather is quiet.

-- Jeffrey R. Kosnett

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