One key is to make sure you understand your insurance policy, said Bill Begal, president of Begal Enterprises, a disaster restoration firm based in Rockville, Md. “It’s a binding contract,” he advised. “If you don’t understand it, ask someone to explain it to you.”
Begal, who deals with insurance adjusters frequently in his business, said knowing the scope of your coverage makes it easier to deal with any glitches that may come up after you’ve incurred damages. Your insurance agent isn’t likely to be around when the adjuster is processing your claim, he noted, so having the clear understanding of your policy can help if there’s a disagreement about whether you can hire a certain contractor or how much coverage you have.
Here are some more tips for being prepared for a disaster:
* Take photos of each room in your house and all valuable possessions.
Visual evidence of what you own and the condition of your house can be priceless if everything is destroyed. Drop prints of the photos in your safe deposit box. Store digital versions using a virtual storage service or simply email them to yourself in case they’re needed.
* Get your pet microchipped.
If you get separated from your pet, an implanted microchip can make reuniting easier. Animal shelters and veterinarians routinely check to see if displaced pets carry them. Not having a chip can prolong the amount of time it takes to get your pet back.
* Have a way to charge your electronics.
Chargers that can juice up cellphones and computers using a car’s cigarette lighter or solar power may be invaluable if the electricity in your town is knocked out.
* Don’t hire a contractor without checking out the business.
The Better Business Bureau warns that unscrupulous contractors have been known to head to communities hit by tornadoes, hurricanes and other disasters. If someone shows up at your property looking for work, make sure you confirm that the business is legitimate before signing anything or handing over any money. Don’t accept verbal promises — get everything in writing.
* Expect inflated prices on work and materials.
In a large-scale disaster, transportation becomes difficult and labor becomes scarce, so prices rise. Expect to pay extra to get repairs done if yours is just one of many homes damaged.