Document possessions for insurance purposes in case of a disaster

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Creating a video inventory is an increasingly popular way for home-owners to catelog their possessions.

Your car. Your house. Your computers. Even a shoebox full of family photos.

These are the valuable things that can be stolen by a fire, flood, tornado, burglary or other disaster.

If someone is unfortunate enough to suffer through one of those situations, those who have taken the time to document what they owned will be glad they did.

Area insurance agents have suggestions for getting a home or business "insurance ready" in the event a claim needs to be made.

Kathy Darby of Allstate Insurance Co. in Cape Girardeau, said people should have their policy number handy and be prepared to provide contact information -- even temporary phone numbers -- so the adjuster can reach them. Even videotaping or taking photos of possessions is a good idea, she said.

"People need to keep the tape in a safe place and off the premises," she said.

If a person can't videotape inventory, then she recommended photographing each room, including closets, open drawers, storage areas -- even the garage. Also, there should be a written inventory that lists each item, its value and the serial number.

Keep the inventory and receipts for major items in a safe, fireproof place such as a safe-deposit box or give the information to the insurance agent.

Regardless of the season, "there is never a bad time to create a tornado safety plan," Darby said. "It's important for the well being of your family to establish emergency procedures to follow if a tornado strikes."

If a tornado or any disaster hits, policyholders should report their claims as soon as possible -- no matter the level of damage, she said. Also, keep a sample of items such as carpet and upholstery for claims adjusters.

It's also a good idea to do an annual insurance review to make sure your homeowners or renters policy covers all of your possessions, said Darby.

"Talk to your agent about any new purchases ... make sure you've read your policy and understand your insurance coverage," she said.

Alice McFerron, the Aflac Insurance Co. agent in Chaffee, said knowing when natural disasters or injuries will occur is not possible, but planning for them is. One way to plan for the unexpected is to make sure adequate insurance is in place, such as homeowners, auto, health, life and supplemental to protect and recover from the financial impact such devastation can cause a person or family, she said.

"It helps give piece of mind when the right balance of insurance is in place," said McFerron, adding that supplemental insurance is of great importance in time of crisis to help replace the lost income that may occur due to an injury or illness.

"Not having a supplemental plan in place is like going into a rainstorm without an umbrella," she said. "You are protected but not completely. Supplemental insurance provides families with a financial safety net of cash when needed most."

Aflac policies pay cash benefits directly to the policyholder regardless of any other insurance in place, she said. The cash benefits can be used for any purpose, including helping to pay left over medical bills, everyday living expenses or loss of income.

McFerron said when it comes to unexpected natural disasters -- expect the unexpected. Depending on where you live, people should consider flood and earthquake insurance to supplement their homeowner policies.

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