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For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
David Paulson, 410-576-6357
dpaulson@oag.state.md.us

Attorney General Gansler Offers Tips to Prepare for Hurricane Irene
Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst

BALTIMORE, MD ( Aug. 25, 2011) - As Hurricane Irene bears down on the East Coast, do you know if your homeowners insurance policy includes water and sewer back-up coverage?  Is your insurance coverage for the actual cash value or replacement cost value for damage to your home and contents?  Is your sump pump working?

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler urges all Marylanders to make sure they’re prepared to protect life, limb and property should Hurricane Irene bring high winds, heavy rains and flooding to our communities this weekend. As part of your storm-prep routine, you should take this time before severe weather hits to safeguard your home and contents and make sure your insurance is sufficient to meet your needs. 

“Cleaning up after the hurricane is a terrible time to discover you don’t have the right insurance,” said Attorney General Gansler. “Before the hurricane hits we all hope for the best, but we should prepare for the worst.  Make sure your home is protected and your insurance will cover any loss that you may sustain from Hurricane Irene and the next big storm.”

To help Marylanders prepare for the worst, Maryland Attorney Gansler and his People’s Insurance Counsel Division offer Maryland homeowners and renters these storm preparation tips:

Review Your Insurance Coverage

Protection from Flooding:

Standard homeowner insurance policies do not cover damage from flooding.  According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), between 20 and 25 percent of flood claims occur in medium or low risk flood areas.  If you live in an area prone to flooding during heavy or prolonged rains and do not have a flood policy, take measures now to remove personal belongings from the areas of your home prone to flooding. 

A flood policy is generally obtained through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  Insurance companies are engaged by the NFIP to issue the standard policy and there is generally a 30-day waiting period before flood coverage goes into effect.  Contact your insurance agent for additional information on flood insurance or visit the official website of the NFIP at www.FloodSmart.gov.

Homeowners Coverage:

The typical homeowners policy (HO 3) is an all-risk policy that offers broad protection and covers all perils (e.g., fire, windstorm, theft) except those perils that are specifically excluded (e.g., flood).  It is important to review your policy to understand what coverage you have and decide what additional coverage you may need.

Consider whether your policy has coverage for water damage and sewer back-up.  Insurance companies in Maryland are required to offer this coverage to consumers and, if coverage is desired, companies will provide it for an additional charge.  Look at the Declaration Page of your policy to see if water and sewer back-up coverage is listed.  Call your agent if you are not sure you have coverage and consider adding it to your policy if you do not have it.  Even water and sewer back-up coverage will not insure every situation where water enters your home and causes damage.
 
A malfunctioning sump pump in your basement or blocked sewer line can result in costly damage to your home.  Check your sump pump now to make sure it is working.  A home that loses electrical power during a severe storm will also lose the protection provided by the sump pump from rising ground water entering the home.

In reviewing your coverage, consider:

  • Does your policy include water and sewer back-up coverage? 
  • Is your sump pump covered?
  • Does your policy cover the expenses of a temporary residence if you are unable to live in your home?
  • What is your deductible and, if there is a separate deductible for storm or wind damage, what is the amount of that deductible?
  • Is your coverage for actual cash value or replacement cost value?
  • Will the siding be replaced if damaged, and if replacement siding does not match, will residing the entire house be covered?

Measures to Take in Your Home

  • Take photos or videos of your property;
  • Record an inventory of your belongings - include clothes, jewelry, furniture, audio/visual equipment, computers, and other valuable items;
  • Keep records of sales receipts;
  • Keep records of model and serial numbers of all items;
  • Move personal items from the floor of the lowest level of your home;
  • Check that the sump pump is operating;
  • Store copies of any documentation of your belongings outside of your home.

For questions regarding flood insurance and home insurance policies, the People’s Insurance Counsel can be reached by emailing pic@oag.state.md.us or by calling 410-576-6432. 

The People’s Insurance Counsel Division advocates for consumers of homeowners insurance and medical professional liability insurance consumers.  The Division produces materials to assist consumers in their insurance coverage decisions, assists individuals with their complaints filed with the Maryland Insurance Administration and investigates insurance company practices that adversely affect insurance policy holders.

For more information on home insurance issues visit: http://www.oag.state.md.us/PIC/index.htm

Brochure - After The Damage - Who Should Remove The Water? : http://www.oag.state.md.us/PIC/resto.pdf

   

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