published Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Inside Insurance: Know what to do when disaster strikes

By David Colmans

Some people say, “Don’t worry about it!” Others say, “Nothing’s going to happen.”

Somewhere between “We’re all doomed” and “Don’t worry, be happy,” a reality exists that has a nasty habit of showing up every few years somewhere.

Consider these examples: The earthquake and tsunami devastation in Japan, and what may still happen there. The destruction wrought by Hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, Rita, and Ike. Tornadoes recently smashed their way through the South and other parts of the country, and don’t forget the incredible flooding that affected many parts of the U.S. this winter.

So many federal, state, business and volunteer organizations try their best to warn us to be prepared for a variety of infrequent but definitely predictable catastrophes that can and do occur. But we go on with our daily activities and we do not want to consider even the possibility that there’s danger out there.

It’s horrible to watch news reports of literally thousands of people suddenly washed away by a tsunami that followed a 9.0 earthquake in a nation with one of the most sophisticated economies in the world. And don’t forget a nuclear power plant was operating in the same coastal area where the quake and tsunami struck.

Closer to home, take a moment and go to http://www.ceri.memphis.edu/seismic/recenteqs/REQ2.html and look at the earthquake map and see what’s transpired in the last several years in our own back yard.

On April 28th, Georgia and many other states will participate in the Great Central U.S. Shake Out. The goal of this event is for as many families as possible to practice how to protect yourselves during earthquakes, and to get prepared. The details are found at http://www.shakeout.org/centralus/.

As you may have heard, we are now in severe weather season across the Southeast and serious weather events have already been recorded. Does your family have a weather alert radio on at all times in your home? They’re readily available from big box home improvement retailers and worth the minimal investment.

All state and local emergency management agencies, the insurance industry and hundreds of safety, church and volunteer organizations continually remind us to prepare a family disaster plan so that everyone knows what to do in case of fire, tornado, floods or other calamities where danger is a real threat.

The question is: Do You Have A Plan and Has Your Family Rehearsed It? Does everyone know what to do and where to go should something catastrophic happen? Go to http://www.ready.gov for help with a family plan.

Do you know what is and what is not covered in your homeowners, renters or auto insurance policies that are related to high winds, flooding, fire, earthquakes or lightening? Earthquakes and flooding are typically not covered by homeowners insurance or renters insurance. In this part of the country, earthquake coverage is added to your homeowner’s policy by an addendum and there are typically policy limits as to what is and what is not covered and for how much. Flooding typically requires a separate policy in order to have any coverage from rising water. Without renters insurance you have no coverage for your possessions that may be damaged or destroyed.

What happens if you are in a high water situation and your vehicle fills with water? Are you covered?

This is yet another part of your planning process to be prepared for the unexpected. Call your agent or insurance company and make sure you know what coverages you have and what you may need before a calamity. Having the right answers to these questions can make all the difference when disaster strikes.

David Colmans is the executive director of the Georgia Insurance Information Service. Contact him at (770) 565-3806 or by e-mail at dcolmans@giis.org.

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