Is flood damage covered by my insurance?

Flood - Homes under waterHomeowners do not often know if water damage is covered by their insurance policy until they need to know.  Some types of damage caused by water are covered in a homeowner policy, but a flood is generally not one of them.

Check out these articles to find out more about flood coverage and what you need to know about your policy before you need it!

Flood Insurance:  The Basics Everyone Should Know

Water Damage to Your Home

Floods: Preparing For The Worst

What are the pros and cons of hiring a “Preferred Contractor”?

FEMA Contractor  Photo by Marilee Caliendo/FEMAWhen faced with the critical decision of what contractor to hire to rebuild or repair your home after a disaster, you will learn that some insurance companies have vendors that they like to use on a regular basis.  Some even have more formal preferred vendor programs where contractors will get referred on a regular basis.

Keep in mind that just because a vendor or contractor may be recommended by an adjuster doesn’t necessarily mean that company is the best choice.  Selecting the right contractor to work on your home, especially after a disaster is a crucial decision that requires time to do your homework before you sign any contract.  See our article, Pros and Cons of Hiring a “Preferred Contractor” Vs Your Own Contractor, and get tips on the benefits and concerns you need to know.

If your house was on fire, what would you take with you?

Earthquake Fire Damage in Napa, California Photo by Christopher Mardorf / FEMA.Here’s an interesting question posted on The Daily Post…If your house were on fire, what would you grab first?  Replies to this post give food for thought about how ready you are in the event of a disaster like a house fire.   If you have papers, photos or irreplaceable items, consider a fire box or a safety deposit box.  There really may be no time to grab anything, especially if you are helping kids or pets out of the house.

Here is an interesting project using photos to answer this question…it’s a fair question to ask yourself, how much time it would take to gather all your “important” items?  Within 60 seconds, a house fire will create choking smoke and release dangerous fumes.  Check out this PDF that describes why you need to know How to Get Out Fast and what happens within the first 5 minutes!

Why does my house still smell like smoke?

Here is a noteworthy fire restoration tip…

After a localized disaster like a kitchen fire, an entire home can become charged with smoke.  One area that is often overlooked is the duct work and heating system.  It is always a good idea after a fire to have the ducts and heating system inspected, cleaned, and deodorized.

If duct cleaning is not done, you may have a continual smoke odor in the home, and when the furnace is turned on, you may have soot and smoke odor re-introduced into your home.

Are You Creating an Insurance Inventory? Don’t Fake It!

Windsor, Colorado. May 24, 2008 --Famers Moble Claims center rolled in at 3am on Friday and started prosessing claims.  The buse is three months old and has alrady been to 15 tornados.  Photo: Michael Rieger/FEMAWhen you are in the process of creating an inventory of your personal property, be sure to be honest about what you are claiming as lost, damaged, or destroyed.  The National Insurance Crime Bureau warns if an insurance company determines that a fraud is committed on a portion of an insurance claim, they could deny the entire claim.

Also, see the article What is Insurance Fraud from the Utah Insurance Department, to read more about the cost of a casual attitude many have about falsifying claim information.

For more tips and resources, see our page on Insurance Claim Resources.

For highly detailed insights, facts, and illustrations to aid the disaster survivor, get The Red Guide to Recovery – Resource Handbook for Disaster Survivors, available now as an e-Book from Barnes & Noble and iTunes, or as a Mobile App from iTunes.

Make Sure You Have Enough Insurance!

Glenwood Springs, CO, June 8, 2002 -- An ambulance passes a long line of residents evacuating West Glenwood after the Coal Seam fire jumped the Colorado River. Photo by Bryan Dahlberg/FEMA News Photo

After the Southern California wildfires of 2003 and 2007, numerous families found themselves under-insured and unable to rebuild their homes for the amounts they were insured for.   This was due in large part to agents selling policies with cheap premiums that were based on undervalued replacement cost values and/or policies that had limited coverage.

In these cases, there were a number of issues working against the homeowner.  One was the simple fact that they didn’t have enough coverage to rebuild the home anywhere close to the size or quality of what existed prior to the loss.  Another issue involved the additional living expense (ALE) allowance which pays for a homeowner to live in a temporary home for a limited amount of time while the home is being rebuilt.

Many homeowners were forced to dispute with their insurance companies about being under-insured, which ran down the clock on their ALE and caused these people to be forced to pay their mortgage on the home, which at the time was only six inches of ash, and pay the rental costs of the temporary residence.  These homeowners were faced with a double whammy of paying for their mortgage on a home they couldn’t live in and the rent on a temporary home.  Couple this with the reduction of proceeds due to deductibles and depreciation, these people were in bad shape.

To avoid this kind of pitfall, take the time to read your policy and ask your agent to answer any questions you may have regarding what you have coverage for and your limit amounts.  You may also want to ask some local contractors what it would cost to rebuild your home exactly the way it is to see if you have enough current coverage.

Some of the insurance coverage you may want to consider includes the following:

  1. Dwelling – This covers the structure of the house.
  2. Other Structures – This usually covers structures that are separate from the house, or connected to the house by a fence, wire or other form of connection, but not otherwise attached to the dwelling, such as a tool shed or detached garage.
  3. Personal Property – This covers the contents of your home that are your personal property. This includes furniture, appliances, clothing, etc.
  4. Additional living expenses – This pays the additional costs of living away from home if you can’t live there due to damage from a fire, storm or other insured disaster. It covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while your home is being rebuilt.
  5. Building Code Upgrades – This provides coverage for upgrades that the community requires for building codes when a home is being repaired or rebuilt as a result of a covered loss.
  6. Debris Removal – This covers the cost of removing debris after a covered loss.
  7. Landscaping – This covers trees, shrubs, grass, irrigation systems, etc.
  8. Personal Liability Protection – This covers you in the event that a lawsuit is presented against you or covered family members for bodily injury or property damage.

Handling Harsh & Hostile Heat

Most people have endured high heat at some point, but it is an unbelievable reality for over 100 million people experiencing it at the same time.  At one point 4 million of those people were without power. Would you know what do to?

With over 12 states posting excessive heat warnings, there are lots of reminders on how to cope.  Here are some from trusted resources:

National Weather Service:  Heat a Major Killer

FEMA:  Monitoring the Severe Weather and Excessive Heat

CDC:  Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety

Watching out for Hurricanes and Heat

Every week, FEMA posts a blog to share what they are watching regarding weather related activities or other events.  This week, they share information about storm activity and expected heat waves.  FEMA provides great resources and tips, and we hope you find them useful.

FEMA Blog:  What We’re Watching 6/22/12

Also see from

Hurricane Tips and Information

Extreme Heat Tips and Information