Lessons Learned From the Washington, Illinois, Tornado
On November 17, 2013, more than 60 tornados touched down in Illinois and Indiana. There were five Pekin Insurance employees that had either severe damage or totally lost their homes. In February 2014, the five of us met with management from Human Resources and Marketing to share our experiences and discuss the role insurance has played in our road to recovery. After some very good and open conversation, we came up with several lessons we learned that we felt were important to share with others.
LESSON 1 – DON’T BE THAT GUY!
I believe the tornado that ripped through Washington, Illinois, was probably the most recorded ever of its kind. With technological advances and nearly everyone owning a cellular phone that can record, many people took the risk to document the storm. I am included in that group. I stood on my front porch and then in my living room to take several pictures before I darted for cover in my basement. After many instances of going outside when a tornado siren sounds, I have finally seen what I was looking for and will not needlessly risk life and limb to see it again! I implore everyone to heed the warning and take cover. Let the news services or some other fool take the chance. Take cover and DON’T BE THAT GUY!
LESSON 2 – KNOW YOUR INSURANCE POLICY!
Hopefully everyone has either a Homeowners policy or Renters insurance to cover their property. Do you know the different coverages within the policy?
Loss of use coverage takes care of things like hotel costs or rental expenses if your property is uninhabitable, the expense of fuel and food costs that exceed your normal costs, and storage and moving costs to name a few.
Contents replacement is just that. What many people don’t grasp is what is considered contents. A good rule of thumb is, if you were looking to move, what could you take with you? Obviously clothes, dishes, furniture, and pictures make that list. How about your stove, refrigerator, washer, and dryer?
Separate structures coverage takes care of items such as a shed, detached garage, or outbuilding. Also included in this coverage are driveways, sidewalks, patios, and brick landscaping borders.
Does your policy account for all of these potential losses?
LESSON 3 – DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH COVERAGE?
How about special jewelry? Maybe an heirloom that has been handed down that is irreplaceable? Do you have special medical equipment?
Have you added on or done a major remodel such as finish a basement? If you did, have you talked with your agent to add that to your coverage or did you keep it to yourself to avoid increased insurance premiums? You need to realize that if you don’t have it included, and you suffer a loss, that it will not be covered if it isn’t included!
Another area often overlooked are items like boats and motorcycles. These are basically seasonal things that we keep stored through the cooler months, often in our garages. They may not be insured while stored because they are not being used. Well, if there is a fire or tornado that takes that item and destroys it, you can’t get it replaced if it isn’t insured!
Don’t avoid insurance premium increases and leave valuable property exposed to risks!
LESSON 4 – VISIT WITH YOUR AGENT AT LEAST ANNUALLY!
You need to keep your agent up to date on any changes made in your property and review what coverage you have.
It is YOUR responsibility to understand YOUR policy, not the agent’s!
LESSON 5 – WORK WITH YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY/CLAIM ADJUSTER.
When settling a claim, don’t be in a hurry. Know that there will be a period of shock after a devastating event and the process of settlement will take some time. Don’t be in a rush to get your money!
Take the time to ask questions about the claims process. Understand the many steps involved and be patient. The claims process following a devastating loss is a lengthy one. It can take many months to over a year before it is complete!
Be patient and understand the process!
LESSON 6 – BE PREPARED FOR AN UNEXPECTED EVENT!
There are many things you can do to be prepared for the unexpected including having photos or video of your contents. You don’t need to get too detailed. You just need a reminder of what you have. Store the information on a thumb drive or other device and keep it in a safe place. Maybe send the file to a loved one to keep on their computer.
Have a safe room or safe area that is easily accessible. Ensure everyone that lives there understands where it is and when to go there.
Have plenty of fire extinguishers. Places like kitchen, garage, and basement are good locations.
Have an escape plan and make sure everyone knows it. Ensure little ones know how to get out of a window to safety and then everyone knows where to meet. Make sure smoke detectors are in working order. Change batteries twice a year. (When you change your clocks is a good time!)
Test your sump pump each spring. When the winter thaw begins, basement flooding can be a real problem. Poor a couple gallons of water in your sump pump to make sure it works before it is too late!
The bottom line is we can’t control many of the events that can lead to devastating losses. What we can do is be as knowledgeable and prepared as
possible to deal with the after effects of such events!
Sales Manager – Financial Products