The past week has been a sobering reminder of the power that nature has over us.  It has been hard to look away from some of the images coming out of Texas.  In Connecticut, we are not immune to hurricanes, either.  In fact, next month is the 5-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy here in Connecticut.

Events such as Harvey and Sandy make you think about disaster preparedness. Keeping supplies on hand for emergencies is always a good idea, as is having a plan in place should disaster strike. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a detailed guide for improving personal preparedness you can obtain at Ready.gov.

When it comes to your home, there are a few steps you can take to make sure you’re prepared for the financial fallout of a natural disaster. We assume that we’re covered by homeowner’s insurance, but there are there are some situations that your policy may not cover. Additionally, the speed of getting reimbursed for your loss could take longer than you might think. Read on for three major insurance considerations and what you can do about them.

1.) Natural disaster exemptions

Many insurance policies specifically exclude natural disasters, or are very selective about the kind of damages they will cover as a result. For example, some policies won’t cover damage caused by wind-blown objects, even if they are directly related to a storm. For storm damage, many policies will only cover the damage caused by the actual wind or water. General policies almost never cover flood damage of any kind. In short, if you’re depending on your general homeowner’s insurance, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

What you can do: Familiarize yourself with your policy now. Review your policy, and if necessary, talk to your agent and determine what your insurance will actually cover.

2.) Unmaintained trees

Storm damage may be caused by fallen trees. Trees provide shade and attractive landscaping, but can wreak havoc on your roof, fence or car – maybe all three. You may be on the hook for damages if you haven’t maintained those trees, which may be used as a reason to deny your claim as your insurance company could claim that the damage was inevitable. 

What you can do: Obviously, the answer to this problem is good maintenance. It might be wise to hire a professional arborist to provide an inspection and assess the level of risk the trees pose, so it’s documented. If they tell you there’s nothing wrong before the storm, you’ll have leverage with the insurance company.

3.) Getting Reimbursement

How quickly will be you be able to get reimbursed and get on with your life?  There is not an easy answer to this question.  If the situation involves many homes in an area, there could be issues for adjusters getting access to your home and many other families could be in the same situation.  At the same time, you need to give yourself adequate time to make an inventory of your lost contents.  

What you can do:  Keeping your rainy day fund active to cover emergency home repairs is a sensible plan. Consider having a savings account that you don’t touch as a part of your preparedness plan.

Finally, don’t forget that it is not just natural disasters that can spur you to action with your insurance company. My washing machine broke last week and flooded my basement, requiring a claim.