RICHMOND — Although hurricane activity in the Atlantic has been relatively quiet so far for 2018 with only five named storms to-date, the Virginia State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) reminds Virginians not to let their guard down. With more than three months left in the Atlantic hurricane season, the Bureau encourages Virginians to act now to protect their property from loss.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1 and runs through November 30. Late August to early October is often the most active and dangerous time for tropical cyclone activity. No matter where you live in Virginia, hurricanes and their accompanying winds and rains can threaten lives and property. Once a hurricane develops in the Atlantic Ocean, it will be difficult to find an insurance company willing to write related coverage until the storm threat passes.
The Bureau of Insurance encourages homeowners, renters and business owners to review their insurance policies now to ensure they have enough coverage in the event of a hurricane or other disaster. Know what each policy does and does not cover and understand any deductibles you may have to pay in the event of a claim. Ask your insurance company or agent how you can minimize property damage and, if such damage occurs, how to expedite the processing of claims with your insurance company.
“Don’t wait until it’s too late. The time to prepare for hurricanes and other disasters is now,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “Know your risk and make sure you have the coverage you need before a hurricane starts to form.”
Prepare a complete inventory of your personal property including serial numbers, photographs and videotapes. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ free smartphone app – myHOME Scr.APP.book – can facilitate this process. Download the app from iTunes or Google Play. Keep your home inventory and your insurance policies in a safe place, and take them with you if you evacuate.
If your property is damaged by a hurricane or other disaster, call your insurance agent or company as soon as possible. Make any necessary emergency repairs and take reasonable steps to prevent further damage to your property. Record all damage to your property and include photographs, notes and repair-related receipts.
If you evacuate, know the name of your insurance companies and take your homeowners, auto and other insurance policies and home inventory with you or save them electronically. They will contain your policy number and your insurance company phone numbers if you have questions or must submit a claim.
The Bureau also encourages policyholders to consider the following:
- Is your home covered in the event of a flood, surface water or storm surge? Homeowners insurance policies issued in Virginia generally do not provide coverage for damage to your home and belongings due to flood, surface water, or storm surge. However, flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). To learn more, contact your insurance agent or the NFIP at 1-888-225-5356 or visit www.floodsmart.gov. There is typically a 30-day waiting period for a new flood insurance policy to take effect.
- Does your homeowners policy contain a special deductible for wind or hurricane losses? These deductibles are applied separately from any other deductible on a homeowners policy and may be written as a flat amount, such as $1,000, or applied to a loss as a percentage of the insurance coverage on the dwelling. The deductible is the amount that you are responsible for paying before the insurance company pays its portion of the claim.
- Does your homeowners policy provide coverage for such things as sewer backup? Most homeowners policies do not provide coverage for sewer backup, but policyholders may purchase additional coverage for this.
- Are vehicles covered in the event of a hurricane or windstorm? If you have other than collision coverage (often referred to as “comprehensive”) for your vehicle under your automobile policy, your vehicles generally will be covered for flood and wind damage.
The Bureau of Insurance has specially trained staff who can assist consumers with their insurance-related questions and concerns. To learn more, contact the Bureau of Insurance Property and Casualty Division toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at (804) 371-9185. The Bureau also offers free consumer guides for homeowners and commercial property owners with information about what to do when a disaster strikes. These and many other insurance guides are available on its website at www.scc.virginia.gov/boi.
For additional emergency preparedness information relating to hurricanes and other types of disasters, visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management website at www.vaemergency.gov