Since 1980, the U.S. has sustained nearly 200 weather-related disasters in which overall financial damages reached or exceeded $1 billion. If you’ve lived in Tennessee for any length of time, you won’t be surprised to know Tennessee and the Southeast pop up again and again on that list.
While we are blessed to live in a part of the U.S. people flock to, we also are unusually vulnerable to dangerous summer weather in the form of tornadoes, hail storms, wind storms, lightning strikes, and more.
As you think about summer storms, ask yourself these 3 key questions:
- What can I do—that is in my control right now—to protect my home, auto, boat, and general property from severe summer-storm damage?
- What insurance coverage do I need to protect myself financially if anything I own is damaged by summer storms?
- What should I do if my home, auto, boat, or other property sustain any damage?
First, start by taking the following actions. These things are in your control, and a smart way to typically minimize the damage from summer storms:
- Hire professionals to inspect your roof, to make sure it is fully waterproof and that rain runs off it properly.
- Inspect and clean gutters and downspouts.
- Install shutters to protect windows from high winds and hail (or, as a backup, use plywood covers).
- Install a sump pump in your basement.
- Make sure trees—especially those near your house—are properly trimmed.
- If possible, park your car, RV, motorcycle, and boat in a garage or otherwise under cover.
- Place a hail-resistant cover over your vehicles and boat.
- Complete a printed and/or video home inventory.
- Make sure everyone in your family knows the safest evacuation routes.
- Survey your property for flood potential, and make sure you have flood and sewage backup coverage. (Please see the information immediately following regarding flood insurance.)
Do You Have the Right Coverage?
If you’ve completed the steps above, you’ve gone a long way toward keeping yourself, your loved ones, and your property safe. But now you must take an additional critical step: make sure you have the right kind of insurance, and know what is and is not covered. Be sure to understand the following:
- Most homeowners’ insurance doesn’t cover flooding. In most states, flood insurance is only available from the state Department of Insurance (in our state, it’s called Tennessee Flood Insurance). This means you will need to get a separate policy for any damages caused by waters rising out of the ground or rivers, and by other bodies of water overflowing their banks.
- Most homeowners’ insurance does cover damage to your property resulting from hail, wind, and lightning.
- You must have comprehensive insurance coverage on your car to recover financial losses resulting from hail, flood, or damage from falling trees or limbs.
A Special Word about Boats
Depending on the specifics of your policy, your boat insurance will cover all or part of the costs of repairing or replacing your boat if it is accidentally damaged or destroyed. You should be sure you fully understand how you will be compensated if you need to file a claim. For instance, an “actual cash value” policy will pay you the depreciated value of your boat if you sustain a loss. An “agreed amount” policy will pay you up to an agreed-upon amount specified by your policy.
Also . . . be sure you understand your deductible(s). Your deductible pertains to physical damage to your boat when it is stolen or damaged. It’s important to note that various deductibles may apply to your hull, to specific types of storms, and to special coverages you may have.
Responding to Summer Storm Damage
We hope you never have to deal with damage to your home, car, boat, or other property caused by summer storms. But here’s what to do if it occurs:
- Document—as specifically and rigorously as possible—the time, date, and severity of the storm. Do this using photographic and written documentation.
- Immediately call your insurance company.
- Work only with licensed contractors to repair damage, and vet the contractor through the Better Business Bureau to protect yourself from fraud and/or shoddy repairs.
Summer in Tennessee can be a magical time to spend with family and friends, and build wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. But remember that severe summer storms are always part of every summer experience in Tennessee. Take time right now to protect yourself and your loved ones, so you can kick back and more fully enjoy all that summer offers you.