Insurance: Review your policy now for hurricane coverage
|In preparation for hurricane season, which begins June 1, Island residents Maureen and Bill Shuman are putting photos of their personal property onto a memory stick that can be stored in a safe deposit box at an off-island bank. Island Photo: Molly McCartney
|Here are images of publications on hurricane preparedness available from the Florida Department of Financial Services in printed form or at the departmentís Web site at www.fldfs.com.
When it comes to insurance, Maureen and Bill Shuman are as ready as any Anna Maria Islanders can be for the hurricane season starting next week.
They have met with their insurance agent and reviewed their policies, so they are familiar with the scope of their coverage as well as their deductibles.
As part of that review, they raised the amount of coverage to reflect the remodeling work done recently on their Holmes Beach condominium unit. And although they live on the second floor of their building at Westbay Cove, they decided this year to add flood insurance to the wind and fire protection they already had.
From their years of working in the San Francisco Bay area, and the knowledge they gained there in preparing against the threat of earthquakes, the Shumans already knew to make a home inventory of their personal property.
Now that they are year-round residents here in hurricane country, they updated their home inventory and are photographing the interior of their renovated unit to show the new kitchen cabinets, updated flooring and personal contents.
"We're going to put the photos onto a memory stick that we can keep in our safe deposit box," Maureen Shuman said. "And the safe deposit box is in a bank off the Island."
The Shumans set a good example for others of what coastal residents should do in advance of the coming hurricane season, according to hurricane insurance experts.
In an ongoing campaign to help consumers better understand insurance products and policies as well as state laws and regulations, the Florida Department of Public Services, under the direction of Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, publishes a range of guides and brochures for the public.
You can receive any of those publications by calling the department at its toll-free phone number, 1-800-342-2762, or by downloading a range of items from the department's Web site at www.fldfs.com. A Spanish version of the guides is available on the Web site as well.
One of Sink's most useful brochures is the checklist for homeowners to use in preparing a room-by-room inventory that makes it easier to file an accurate claim in event of a loss.
Or as Maureen Shuman puts it: "You can't claim it if you don't have a record of having it in the first place."
The inventory brochure contains a checklist for the living room, dining room, kitchen, family room, bedrooms and bathrooms. There are spaces to write down the price, date of purchase and brand name for furniture items, electronics and miscellaneous items, such as blinds, table linens, mirrors, rugs and so forth.
Insuring your home
Among the most comprehensive of Sink's consumer guides is the 40-page publication called "Insuring Your Home." This guide explains various kinds of insurance packages, including the ones sold to owners of single-unit homes, condominium units, mobile homes and renters or tenants.
The guide also defines some common insurance terms, such as replacement cost, which the booklet says is the amount of money "needed to replace or repair your damaged property with materials of similar kind and quality, without deducting for depreciation."
Here is the example of the difference between coverage for replacement cost and coverage for actual cash value, according to the booklet:
"Let's say you bought a new television in 1994 for $700. In 2005, a lightning strike destroys the TV. A policy for actual cash value will only pay an amount that reflects the TV's current value - say $100.
"A replacement cost policy would cover the entire cost of a new TV of the same type - say $900. Legislation passed in 2005 requires full payment without a depreciation hold-back for personal residential policies in some cases."
Here are suggestions from Sink's pamphlet, "Are you prepared?"
- Purchase insurance now: Insurance companies do not accept new applications or requests for increased coverage once a hurricane nears Florida.
- Know what your insurance covers: Flood and wind damage are often covered in separate policies. Decide if you need this protection and contact your agent for more information.
- Make sure you have adequate coverage: Consider increasing your coverage if your policy doesn't cover the current value of your home and its contents, or the cost to replace the home.
- Know the name of your insurers: Write down the names of your agent and agency, your insurance company, your policy number and a telephone number to report a claim.
- Safeguard your records: Store important insurance and financial papers in a safe and accessible place.
- Secure your home: Fortify your home's roof, windows, garage and entry doors against hurricane damage.
Maureen and Bill Shuman don't have to protect their home's exterior because they live in a condominium.
Their condo association is responsible for insuring the buildings, although the cost for that policy gets charged back to unit owners as part of their quarterly maintenance fees.
But it is up to the Shumans to insure their appliances, air conditioning and heating equipment, water heater, floor coverings, window treatments such as drapes and blinds, and hurricane shutters.
At present the Shumans are shopping for hurricane protection for their windows facing Anna Maria Sound.
"We're looking at various possibilities, including hurricane glass, shutters and film," Shuman said. The problem is finding something that will be effective and work with their existing windows, he said.
In addition to preparing their unit and their insurance for the hurricane threat, Bill Shuman has taken on the job of serving as co-chair of the Emergency Response Program for his 15-building condominium complex.
As a result of his emergency planning job, Shuman said he is "more aware of the potential" for a hurricane season problem and the need to plan now for what might happen later.
Maureen Shuman, a member of the board of her condo association, has been working with her husband on the condominium's emergency response effort as well as their personal plan.
Her advice to Island residents, based on what she and Bill have learned:
"You have to review your coverage, especially if you have made any changes to your home. And you have to have a realistic inventory of your personal property. That means taking photos of what you have and storing [the photos] in a safe place."