Tornado season is upon us once again. From March to July, these destructive whirlwinds are far more likely to wreak havoc on our families and our homes. While tornadoes are not particularly common in the Northeast, Mother Nature is unpredictable.
Tornadoes have accounted for nearly 40 percent of insured catastrophe losses in the past two decades.
So what steps can you take to ensure that you and your family are protected if a tornado strikes in your area?
Educate and equip yourself ahead of tornado season
Before we address options from an insurance perspective, the most important thing you can do to protect your most precious assets during tornado season is research. “Insurance can do a lot of things,” said Ray Eng, vice president of insurance sales for AAA Northeast, “but it can’t keep you and your family safe in a natural disaster.”
Tornadoes tend to arrive with little to no warning, so it’s wise to have a contingency plan in place if you do wind up in a dangerous situation. Resources like the National Weather Service offer tips to keep your family safe. Review them early and develop an emergency plan so that everyone in your household knows where to go and what to do if a tornado does hit.
Be sure to stock up on equipment such as first-aid kits, nonperishable food, clean water and extra cash in the event that you have to face a recovery period. You might even opt to fortify a room in your home.
Protect your property
Once you have your family’s safety covered, it’s time to turn to your homeowners insurance. Don’t wait until a tornado arrives to review your coverage. Confirm that your policy is adequate for damage caused by a tornado. Generally, insurance carriers throughout the Northeast do not have any exclusionary provisions regarding wind, Eng said. So tornadoes and other wind-related damage should be covered by standard homeowners and business insurance policies. If you have doubts, reach out to your insurance company with any questions you may have.
Remember, however, that your home isn’t the only property you need to protect from tornado damage. Prior to a catastrophic event, you should take an inventory of your personal property as well. Particularly, high-value items in your home, such as electronics and furniture, need to be accounted for in the event of a major loss. You never know whether you will need to file an insurance claim on personal property destroyed by a tornado, and it’s better to have this information on hand just in case. Likewise, review the comprehensive section of your auto insurance policy to verify that damage to your vehicles by a tornado is covered.
Consider loss of use
Another possibility that you may not have considered while preparing for tornado season is loss of use coverage. Depending on how extensive the damage is to your home, you may need to live elsewhere or require additional living expenses throughout the recovery period, Eng said. If, for example, you need to stay in a hotel or dine out for a while because your home is partially or temporarily uninhabitable, this would fall under loss of use coverage. Typically, loss of use is included as part of your homeowners policy, but again, it’s worthwhile to confirm this with your insurance agent before you ever need to file a claim.
Most of all, make sure you’re clear on what your policy covers. Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood damage, which is usually available for purchase separately. So, if the damage to your home is the result of rainwater that accompanies a tornado, you may not qualify for additional living expenses, let alone be able to file a relevant claim. If the tornado winds themselves are directly to blame – say, if debris swept into your home, leading to damage – then you should be covered. The same principle applies to mandatory evacuations, as your coverage would hinge on the reason behind the evacuation.
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