Emergency preparedness means checking insurance coverage

Creating an emergency preparedness plan should include checking on insurance coverage for the house and personal belongings, says Liberty insurance agent Jeff Watt.

As September is National Preparedness Month, the Federal Emergency Management Administration created the theme, “Prepared, Not Scared. Be Ready for Disasters” in an effort to help children understand disasters affect everyone.

“Preparedness starts by knowing your risk and what to do before, during and after a disaster,” states a FEMA release.

One effort families can do to help themselves is to have insurance.

Jeff Watt, a Farmers Insurance agent in Liberty, said residents in Missouri need to make sure their homeowner’s policy includes and adequately covers the main dwelling, meaning the value listed is enough to replace the home if destroyed.

Secondly, Watt advises coverage of separate structures such as barns and sheds. Lastly, personal property, which includes anything not permanently attached to the home including appliances, electronics, clothing and other personal items, should be covered.

Watt said families should also look at the place where the home is located. If the home is near a stream or in a low-lying region, families might consider flood insurance.

A fourth coverage Watt recommends is emergency insurance. Most home insurance can come with a 12-month or 24-month catastrophic loss coverage.

“There should be a dollar value associated with this coverage to provide you emergency lodging, clothing and food,” he said. “If you are a renter, you have coverages and protections, too. Many renters only carry a basic policy because they want cheap and they are ‘only in an apartment.’ Remember, your personal property is still valuable to you.”

Watt offered several tips to prepare for the claims process. He first suggested people document belongings in writing as well as pictures.

“At least take pictures in each room capturing your significant items,” he said. “Writing down your significant items with a value is a big help, too. If you have valuable items such as jewelry, guns, tools, artwork or other significant items, be sure they are listed on your policy.”

Watt said families should involve children in the cataloging of items.

“One of the best things your children can do is to inventory their own rooms,” Watt said. “For moms and dads, you will quickly learn what is most important to that child. Then, if a storm is approaching, these items could become what you grab and are the safety blanket to that child.”

Carolyn Wells, the emergency preparedness manager at Liberty Hospital, suggested families stay involved from the youngest to the oldest so that families are comfortable with the plans.

“This month is a great time to reinforce awareness,” she said. “Families can put together some basic kits for home and the car together. Create a plan on how to communicate in case of a disaster. Be proactive.”

Watt said families should review insurance policies often. If it has not been done in the last 12 months, he said people should make an appointment with their agent.

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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