RICHMOND — The Atlantic hurricane season is not yet here and it already has had its first named storm for 2017. The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) reminds Virginians that it’s never too soon to plan for hurricanes and other disasters.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30 each year. The Bureau encourages Virginians to review their insurance coverage and options now. Once a hurricane develops in the Atlantic, it will be difficult to find an insurance company willing to write related coverage until the storm threat passes.
Even areas hundreds of miles from the coast can experience floods and other damage caused by high winds and torrential rains that accompany hurricanes and tropical storms. “Don’t wait until it’s too late,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Jacqueline K. Cunningham. “Make sure you have the insurance coverage you need before the first hurricane starts to form. Contact your insurance agent or company or the Bureau of Insurance if you have questions.”
The Bureau reminds Virginians that hurricane damage often comes from flooding as well as high winds. Homeowners insurance policies issued in Virginia typically do not provide coverage for damage to your home and belongings due to floods, surface water or storm surges. However, the federal government does sell insurance for direct flood and flood-related property damage to homeowners, renters and businesses in eligible communities through its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). To learn more, contact your insurance agent or the NFIP at 1-888-379-9531 or visit www.floodsmart.gov. Ask whether your flood policy provides coverage for your contents. Keep in mind that there is typically a 30-day waiting period for a new flood insurance policy to take effect.
The Bureau encourages policyholders to prepare a complete inventory of their personal property including photographs, videotapes and serial numbers. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ free smartphone app – myHOME Scr.APP.book – can facilitate this process. The app is available from iTunes or Google Play. Keep your home inventory in a safe place. If your property is damaged by a hurricane, contact 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. Make a list of all damage to your property and include photographs, notes and repair-related receipts.
Some homeowners policies contain a special deductible for wind or hurricane losses. These are applied separately from any other deductible on the homeowners policy. Some insurance companies automatically include a wind or hurricane deductible, while others offer this deductible at the policyholder’s option. Wind or hurricane deductibles may be written as a flat amount, such as $1,000, or they may be applied to the loss as a percentage of the insurance coverage on the dwelling.
If you must evacuate, know the name of your insurance company and take your homeowners, auto and other insurance policies and your home inventory with you or make sure you have saved these important documents electronically. The policies will contain your policy numbers and the phone numbers of your insurance companies in case you have questions or need to file a claim.
The Bureau offers free consumer guides for homeowners and commercial property owners with information about what to do when a disaster strikes. These and many other consumer insurance guides are available on the Bureau’s website at www.scc.virginia.gov/boi.
The Bureau’s specially trained staff can assist consumers with their insurance-related questions and concerns. For more information, contact the Consumer Services Section of the Bureau’s Property and Casualty Division toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at (804) 371-9185. The mailing address for the Bureau of Insurance is P.O. Box 1157, Richmond, Virginia 23218.
For additional emergency preparedness information relating to hurricanes and other types of disasters, visit www.ReadyVirginia.gov. This statewide public education effort is designed to prepare Virginians for all kinds of hazards.