Consumer Alert: Commissioner Stewart Encourages Delawareans to Prepare for Hurricane Sandy

Dover – October 26, 2012 — As Delaware braces for Hurricane Sandy to arrive next week, Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart encourages Delawareans to make preparations before the storm hits. Now is the time to take several simple steps that could make filing a claim after the storm easier. The Delaware Department of Insurance offers these tips to help protect your family and your investments:

It’s Not Too Late to Create a Home Inventory

• To make the claims process easier, it’s imperative to have a complete list of the belongings in your home. An inventory should include all of the vital information about your belongings (brand name, price, date of purchase, model, serial number and receipts) and should be accompanied by photos of the items. There are several simple ways to start building a home inventory. You can download a home inventory spreadsheet that will help get you started. If you are using an electronic or paper spreadsheet, remember to take pictures of your belongings, and save them in the same place as the home inventory.

• Or you can download the free Home Inventory app for iPhone or the Android version. The app will guide you through capturing images, descriptions, bar codes and serial numbers, and then storing them electronically for safekeeping. The app even creates a back-up file for e-mail sharing. This app is available on our website at www.delawareinsurance.gov

• Talk with your agent or company to make sure your homeowners or renter’s policy is adequate to cover your new investments.

• If you don’t have time to create a comprehensive list of the items in your home, then quickly videotape and/or photograph every room. The more detail you include, the easier it will be for your insurance company to evaluate your loss. When making your list, make sure to open drawers and closets, and don’t forget to take stock of what’s in your garage and storage buildings.

• Once you have made your inventory, or taken photographs of your home, e-mail the information to family or friends living out of the hurricane threat or your insurance agent.

Collect Your Insurance Information

• Store copies of your insurance policies with your home inventory. Make sure to have a copy of your policy declarations page listing all of your coverages, as well as your insurance cards.

• It’s also important to have 24-hour contact details for your insurance agent and insurance company. Make a list that includes your policy numbers, your insurance company and insurance agent’s phone numbers, website addresses and mailing addresses. Also, check to see if the company or your agent has set up an emergency information hotline. It is a good idea to store this information, and your home inventory, in a waterproof, fireproof box or safe. If you evacuate your home, don’t forget to take this information with you.

• Before a storm hits, review your insurance policies. Make sure you know what is and is not covered. If you have questions, contact your insurance agent or company.

NOTE! Flood damage is NOT covered by a standard homeowners or renter’s insurance policy. If you have a separate flood insurance policy, remember to include a copy of the policy and the contact details for the insurance company on your list. Be aware that there is a 30-day waiting period before a flood insurance policy is effective. For additional information on flood insurance and knowing your flood risk, please see Consumer Alert 2012-1, or you may contact your insurance agent, or the National Flood Insurance Program at 1.800.638.6620, or visit www.floodsmart.gov.

Prepare for the Worst

• There are steps you can take to help mitigate some of the damage caused by a hurricane or tropical storm. If your home is equipped with storm shutters, make sure you can quickly put them in place. Clear your yard of debris that could become projectiles in high winds and trim dead or overhanging branches from trees surrounding your home. It’s also a good time to make a quick review of your home to make sure the roof sheathing is properly secured, that end gables are securely fastened to the roof, and that doors and garage doors are latched properly.

• For personal safety, identify the nearest storm shelter and have an evacuation plan for your family. Also, make sure you have hurricane survival supplies including: bottled water, a first aid kit, flashlights, a battery-operated radio, at least three days of non-perishable food items, blankets, clothing, prescription drugs, eyeglasses, personal hygiene supplies and enough cash for at least three days.

• If you are forced to evacuate your home, turn off all utilities and disconnect appliances to reduce the chance of additional damage and electrical shock when utilities are restored.

• For more information about how to prepare your family and home for the threat of tropical storms or hurricanes, visit the American Red Cross’ or download their Hurricane Safety Checklist at www.redcross.org

After the Storm

• The days following a natural disaster can be confusing and stressful, but it is important that you focus on filing your insurance claim(s) as quickly as possible to help protect your financial future.

• The first step to getting your home restored is to contact your insurance company and/or agent with your policy number and other relevant information. Be aware that your policy might require that you make this notification within a certain time frame.

• Take photographs/video of the damage before clean-up or repairs. After you’ve documented the damage, make repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property (cover broken windows, leaking roofs and damaged walls). DO NOT have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs. Be prepared to provide the claims adjuster with records of any improvements you made prior to the damage. Save all receipts, including those from the temporary repairs.

• If your home is damaged to the extent that you cannot live there, ask your insurance company or insurance agent if you have coverage for additional living expenses.

• Cooperate fully with the insurance company. Ask what documents, forms and data you will need to file the claim. Keep a diary of all conversations you have with the insurance company and your insurance agent, including names, times and dates of the calls or visits and contact details.

• Be certain to give your insurance company all the information they need. Incorrect or incomplete information may cause a delay in processing your claim.

• If the first offer made by the insurance company does not meet your expectations, be prepared to negotiate. If there is a disagreement about the claim, ask the company for the specific language in the policy in question and determine why you and the company interpret your policy differently. If you believe you are being treated unfairly, or if the delay is unreasonable, contact the Delaware Department of Insurance at 1-800-282-8611 (in-state).

• Even after settling your claim, if you think of items that were not in your initial loss list, contact your insurance company. Unless the company has paid the entire limit for the coverage of those types of items, it is possible the company will make an additional payment.

Protect Yourself From Home Repair Fraud

  • Home repair fraud increases exponentially following a major storm. Protect your investment by getting more than one bid from contractors and requesting at least three references.
  • Do not pay a contractor the full amount up front or sign over your insurance settlement payment. A contractor should expect to be paid a percentage when the contract is signed and the remainder when the work is completed.
  • If the contractor finds hidden damage that was not discovered in the original assessment by the adjuster, contact your insurance company to resolve the difference. For any disagreements that cannot be resolved, contact your state insurance department about your recourse.

These storm tips, as well as more information about homeowners insurance, the home inventory smartphone app and an online complaint form, are available on the Delaware Department of Insurance website at www.delawareinsurance.gov. Call the Department of Insurance at 1-800-282-8611 (in-state) with any questions you have about insurance coverage or if you have any problems with your insurance companies.


Hurricane Sandy Prompts Precautions in Delaware

With the first hurricane of the season tracking up the Atlantic Coast, Delaware emergency management officials are urging the public to take this storm very seriously. While it is too early to accurately predict the strength and exact path of Sandy by the time it reaches the Delmarva area everyone is encouraged to be prepared for disruptive weather.

Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Lewis D. Schiliro urges everyone to use this time to review their household emergency plan and to check emergency supplies.

“It is very important for the public to also monitor the weather and be aware of pending effects of a storm well in advance in order to plan and act safely. “Have a plan, get a kit and stay informed,” Schiliro said. “We want everyone to have food and water for at least three days, batteries for lights and radios and a means of charging cell phones.   Remember that part of your emergency plan is to have a destination in mind if you have to evacuate.”

Our citizens should also check on their neighbors who may be in need of assistance, Schiliro said.

Additional things to consider in planning for an emergency include food and medications for those that might have special dietary or pharmaceutical needs and/or appropriate equipment for family members who might use assistive technology. Families also need to remember the needs of pets and stock adequate food and supplies as well as appropriate carriers or restraints should evacuation be required.

A very important component of each household emergency plan is to have important documents like medical records, deeds or leases, insurance records and birth certificates copied and stored where they can be easily accessed and packed in case of evacuation.

Schiliro reminds all best assist emergency management officials by staying informed and following recommendations and instructions.

For information on making a household emergency plan and building a supply kit, visit dema.delaware.gov,Ready.gov or Listo.gov . For regional weather updates, visit http://weather.gov/phi


Animal owners should prepare now for storm

DOVER – Farmers and pet owners should take immediate precautions to protect their animals with Hurricane Sandy expected to arrive near Delaware over the weekend, the state’s agricultural and animal welfare officials are urging.

“Preparing and acting early can save the lives of your animals,” said Delaware State Veterinarian Dr. Heather Hirst, who heads the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Poultry and Animal Health Section. “People who own animals should not wait until the last minute to get ready for a storm.”

The Department’s Delaware Animal Response Program works with state emergency officials and animal welfare organizations to assist animal owners with preparation, sheltering in place and evacuation.

“Owners have a responsibility to care for all of their animals, and should be taking steps now to make sure they are safe,” said Deputy State Veterinarian Dr. Gina Jensen.

If evacuations are ordered, please have several evacuation route options planned. Delaware shelters which welcome small pets will be designated as pet-friendly shelters, and that information will be provided as shelters become available. Ultimately, owners are responsible for the care of their animals. If evacuated to a pet-friendly shelter, please be prepared to provide any ongoing medications, such as insulin, and also provide a photo ID of your pet.

Hirst said farmers and livestock owners should especially plan in advance by examining their land and structures. “A storm presents multiple threats to animals – high winds could collapse buildings, power could go out, or low land could flood,” she said. “Think about where you could move animals in case of flooding and evaluate your outbuildings. Livestock owners should make sure generators are running properly and have fuel.”

The Department of Agriculture recommends that animal owners take the following precautions:

Livestock and small flock owners

>> Check and secure all buildings and enclosures. Repair or secure loose boards, doors, window covers, metal sheeting, wire and equipment that could blow around in high winds.

>> Provide water and food. Make sure your animals have alternate water sources in case power is lost and pumps and automatic waterers are not working. Have enough food and water on hand for seven days. Move feed to higher ground to prevent mold contamination from flooding.

>> Mark animals. Identifiers for returning lost animals could include ear tags with farm name and phone numbers, brands, paint markings on hooves or coats, or clipped initials in hair coats. Leg bands can be used for back yard poultry.

>> Stock up on supplies. Make sure you have basic veterinary supplies on hand and that your livestock are current on vaccinations.

>> Study evacuation options. If you decide to evacuate your livestock, determine several locations that the animals could be taken and map out several routes to each location. Make arrangements in advance with owners to accept your animals, and be sure to contact them before taking the animals there. Options could include private stables, race tracks, fairgrounds, equestrian centers, private farms and humane societies. It is best to evacuate at the first recommendation to do so.

>> Choose indoor sheltering or outdoor enclosed areas. If you decide to confine or shelter indoors, consider the structure strength and how it will hold up during high winds and torrential rain. If you give your animals the option of moving outside of their barn during the storm, survey your property to find the best location, do not let animals become trapped in low-lying pens, give them enough space to move around to avoid blowing debris and make sure the areas are clear of overhead power lines or poles.

 

Poultry

The Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc., recommends that commercial poultry growers take steps that include the following:

>> Check your back-up generator. Make sure you have fuel for several days, and that automatic starting systems are ready to go.

>> Check propane gas. Make sure you have enough gas, and arrange an early delivery if necessary.

>> Check feed inventory. Arrange for an early delivery if necessary.

>> Have a back-up communications plan. Make sure cell phones are fully charged in case land-line telephone service is lost.

>> Think long-term. Be prepared to keep birds for longer than normal if processing plants are unable to operate. Make plans for larger-than-normal carcass disposal if necessary.

>> Check with your poultry company or flock supervisor regularly during any emergency situation.

 

Pets

>> Make a disaster kit. Just like you have a kit for your family, your pets should have waterproof kits as well. Include medical records, vaccination history and medications, current photographs, veterinarian contact information, documentation of any behavior problems, alternate contact information, first-aid kit, leashes, collars, harnesses or muzzles with identification tags, a pet carrier, food and water bowls, litter pans, toys, blankets and food and water for at least seven days, with a can opener.

>> Update vaccinations. Make sure your pet is up-to-date before a storm event occurs.

>> Have an evacuation plan. Designated Delaware emergency shelters now offer housing for pets at or near human shelters. You should bring your pet disaster kit along, including food and water, and are encouraged to visit regularly and oversee day-to-day care for their pets. Owners should also have a list of other locations where they can evacuate with their pets, such as relatives, pet shelters or pet-friendly motels or hotels. Determine several routes to your local shelters before you leave.

 

Key tips are also available at http://dda.delaware.gov/storm_preparedness.shtml.

 

Contact:
Dan Shortridge
Chief of Community Relations
Delaware Department of Agriculture
302-698-4520


Prepare Now For Hurricane Sandy

(Smyrna)   Emergency Management officials continue to monitor the latest weather forecasts and hurricane tracks, as Hurricane Sandy makes its way northward toward the Delaware area.  With most forecasts calling for the storm to arrive near Delaware over the weekend, now is the time to exercise awareness and storm preparation. Delaware Emergency Management Agency officials remind the public that advanced preparation is importantFollow storm updates on Twitter #SandyDe.

Here are some important tips:

  • Make sure flashlights (one per person), extra batteries and bulbs and battery operated lanterns.  During periods of extended power outages, solar-powered landscape lights can be brought indoors at night to provide light, then placed back outside in daylight to re-charge.
  • If the home has cordless phones, remember, they will not work if the electricity is off, so you should have a standby telephone – either a cell phone or a telephone with a cord that can be plugged in.  A cell phone car charger can be used if power to the home is out for an extended period of time. 
  • Also, a portable radio and extra batteries are extremely important. A battery operated NOAA weather radio is also recommended.
  • Include a first aid kit in your emergency supplies. The kit should at least contain bandages, aspirin or other pain relievers, gauze pads, first aid ointment, elastic bandage and tweezers.
  • Have plenty of infant supplies on hand, including food, canned milk or formula, disposable diapers and other necessities.
  • Stock up on food that does not require refrigeration or cooking, such as canned meats, vegetables, fruits, juices, dry cereals and powdered milk. Store enough supplies to last for at least three days. This means you should also have a manual can opener.
  • Have food and water for pets and records of shots and medication.
  • Make sure to have a supply of water, for both drinking and for sanitation purposes. Store water in plastic jugs or covered containers. Have one gallon per day per person of drinking water for those in your household.  A pre-filled bathtub can provide water to refill toilet tanks.
  • Check your prescription medications.  If supplies are low, get refills before the storm arrives.

If you live in an area prone to flooding and you may be ordered to evacuate, plan your escape route early. Check the number of hours it could take you to evacuate to a safe area during peak evacuation traffic. Have emergency contact phone numbers for family and friends; exchange these numbers with those on your contact list.  Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can be used to let many people know you have reached your destination safety.  If you live near the seashore, plan to evacuate early.

If evacuating to a shelter, gather supplies that should be taken along.  Take sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, personal toiletry items, and medications.  If going to a shelter with children, remember to take along games, books and other items to occupy them.  Baby supplies – diapers, wipes, baby food and other supplies should also be taken to a shelter.  Consider in advance what will be done with pets in the event of an evacuation. 

 A complete inventory of personal property will help in obtaining insurance settlements and/or tax deductions for losses. Inventory checklists can be obtained from your insurance representative. Don’t trust your memory. List descriptions and take pictures. Store these and other important insurance papers in waterproof containers, electronically on a flash drive, or in a safety deposit box. If you evacuate, take insurance and property information with you. Proof of residency may be needed in order to reenter evacuated areas.

 For severe weather information, log onto www.dema.delaware.gov.