tornado

Helpful insurance links, resources for storms

Currently a Category Five storm, Hurricane Irma could make landfall in Florida by Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center. From there, the storm could move north and east to affect parts of Georgia and South Carolina. Irma's impact on renters, homeowners, and business owners could be significant. As a resource, we have put together a short fact sheet on insurance FAQs and contact information for U.S. areas most immediately affected by Irma.

A brief overview of common insurance coverages

Flood insurance: Flood coverage is required in some flood-prone areas, and possibly essential for homeowners, renters and business owners, as homeowners, renters and businessowners coverage typically excludes flood damage.

The National Flood Insurance Program oversees most U.S. flood policies. This is typical coverage under flood insurance.

Homeowners / renters insurance: These policies will cover structural, fire and other various damage inflicted by storms. A rental policy covers damage and loss to a leaseholder's apartment, including valuables.

Businessowners insurance policy (BOP): Businesses guarding against a wide range of risk, including property damage from storms, typically hold this coverage. The coverage often contains business interruption insurance, a must if operations are halted because of weather or another cause.

Auto insurance: Comprehensive auto coverage, will protect you in case of storm damage to a car. Note that flood coverage excludes car damage.

In all cases, it is good to known what each of your policies covers and excludes, and your insurance agent can be your greatest guide in this regard.

Beginning the post-storm claims process

To begin, policyholders are advised to inventory their belongings before a storm strikes (though, of course, that can be easier said than done when time is of the essence).

In the case of a loss, consider taking these steps:

⇒ Take care of this first if you need emergency assistance.

⇒ If -- and only if -- it is safe to do so, you may want to take action to begin reducing the impact of the loss. For instance, if there is water on your floor, and you have access to shut off your water, this would be a logical step, but only if it safe to proceed.

⇒ Contact your insurance agent. However, in the case of a major weather event, it is possible your agent might not be immediately available.

Resources -- national

FEMA offers numerous online resources on the flood insurance claims process, including infographics in more than a dozen languages and an in-depth fact sheet on claims.

Here is a list of toll-free numbers for property & casualty insurance carriers from the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCIAA).

The PCIAA website has plenty of valuable information as well, including tips for before the storm.

Resources -- state

⇒ The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation offers information for state policyholders. Visit the organization's website, or contact the office via multiple phone numbers, including toll-free in-state at (877) 693-5236.

The Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner regulates Georgia's insurance industry. Telephone: 800-656-2298. The commission website offers search functions to find local insurance agents in Georgia, as well as other insurance information.

⇒ The South Carolina Department of Insurance has a host of information for policyholders, including a brochure on what to do before a storm. Telephone:  803-737-6160.