None of us want to imagine the worst - but, as responsible owners of real property, sometimes we must.  Living in an area susceptible to hurricanes, floods and/or tornadoes, most of us are conscious of the threats we face.  But are we truly prepared should the dreaded "worst" happen?  How well do you know what your insurance policies cover on your home, car, boat, camper, or other valuables?  Do you know what your deductibles are?  Here are some things to help you should "the worst" happen:

  • Is your home insured for its present worth?  Check your policy or with your agent to see whether or not you have replacement value; if you do have it, is your home insured based on the probable replacement cost today, or is the valuation an old one?  The last thing you want in a time of emergency is to discover that your insurance limits aren't sufficient to cover repairing the damage to your home.
  • Living in Louisiana, there is usually a "wind deductible."  It's in your best interest to know what that deductible is, if any, and whether or not you would have the available funds to make up the difference.
  • Do you have a pictorial inventory of your home?  If not, take photos - a lot of photos - and try your best to label them, including, if you know it, the purchase price of the items shown in the photos; store the photos in a print album and/or an electronic album, but make sure any printed photos are stored somewhere other than a vulnerable place in your home.  A bank safety deposit box or even a friend or relative's home would be better.  If saved in an e-file, be sure it's somewhere you can access it no matter where you might be.
  • What are your additional living cost limits?  If damage to your primary residence is severe enough as to make it uninhabitable while being repaired, will your insurance coverage provide a comparable place for you to live while those repairs are being done?  Will that coverage also provide enough to continue to pay your mortgage?  Your insurance agent will be happy to discuss these things with you, in most cases - but don't wait until you need the coverage to find out what your coverage is; it may be too late by then.
  • Do you have flood insurance?  Even some areas in Louisiana which were not in designated as flood zones have flooded in recent years; if flood insurance isn't required by your mortgage company, it would be a good idea to talk to your insurance agent about purchasing it, regardless.  If "the worst" happens, the insurance costs for flood insurance in Flood Zone X is usually nominal, and comforting to have.
  • Be prepared to evacuate your home.  There are few things scarier than your fire alarm going off in the middle of the night, or a robo-call from Homeland Security or other local authorities requiring residents to evacuate immediately; it's hard to think of everything when faced with a sudden catastrophe.  Put together an "evacuation package" and store it somewhere it can be accessed conveniently for a quick exit from your home.  Passport, checkbook, insurance policies,credit cards, and even a bit of cash might help lessen the trauma; following Hurricane Katrina, credit and debit cards from some New Orleans banks were frozen as the banks were flooded, so keeping emergency funds or a credit or debit card which won't be affected by a local catastrophe could be helpful
  • Have a family evacuation or emergency drill.  While not wanting to scare your children, it might be helpful for them to know in advance what to do during an emergency.  While reassuring them that what you're practicing for may never happen, you can also turn the drills into a game, giving a reward for correct answers to "what do we do if..."
  • Do you have some items of specific value?  Did Grandmother leave you a small Renoir, or do you have a stately Steinway grand which would be very expensive to replace or restore?  Talk with your agent about a stated value insurance for those items.
  • Remember your movable valuables - cars, boats, RVs, ATVs, etc. Do you have insurance on those items in case they are damaged by wind, hail, flood, etc?  Do you have any insurance which might cover storage of them if their normal storage at home is not avaialble?

No one wants to imagine the worst.  But everyone should be prepared for it, while hoping that they never have to face it.