COMMENTARY: The preparedness piece that is often overlooked

As we recently observed Hurricane Preparedness Week, we can’t overlook the benefits of having the right insurance. The loss of a home due to a disaster is a traumatic experience. Insurance can restore a dwelling place and make the homeowner whole again, but what happens to those homeowners who fail to maintain insurance on homes, apartments, or businesses? No emergency plan is complete without insurance to aid in recovery from a disaster.

When we discuss emergency preparedness, the common topics are evacuation and temporary relocation, communication plans, and emergency supply kits. People are increasingly realizing that planning for emergencies is a way of securing the safety and wellbeing of their families.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of people are opting to live without securing the wellbeing of their dwellings by not having the correct insurance or canceling once a home is paid off. This decision could have a long-lasting negative impact on a family. In recent years, more and more people who have paid off mortgages either choose to not pay the premiums or cannot afford them anymore. They recognize that the potential loss is high but figure the risk is low. While that may be true, the impact of a loss could be catastrophic.

Renters are sometimes under the mistaken impression that if the landlord has insurance on the dwelling, their property is protected, as well. Typically, though, the policy purchased by a landlord covers the structure, exterior and finishes of the home, while the renter’s personal property is not covered. Annual rental insurance is usually not very expensive, but it will cover items such as furniture, clothing and other personal property not covered by the landlord’s policy.

The standard homeowner’s insurance policy will cover property that becomes damaged or is lost in most natural disasters, with the exception of damage by floods. Policies usually also cover the cost of temporary housing and food if the resident is ordered by authorities to evacuate.

The National Flood Insurance Program provides coverage in high-risk areas prone to flooding and offers lower-cost preferred-risk policies in most other areas in Delaware. In Sussex County alone, more than one-fifth of all properties lie within a designated high-risk floodplain. Property owners can learn about their flood risk by going to DNREC’s online Flood Planning Tool at http://de.gov/floodplanning.

The Delaware Emergency Management Agency, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and the Office of the Delaware State Insurance Commissioner join to encourage homeowners, renters, and business owners in Delaware to conduct an annual review of their property insurance policy with an insurance agent or company to make sure they have adequate protection.

A little bit of time and money invested now could help to reduce the devastating effects of damage or loss to a property during a disaster and restore residents to their homes.

Part of being prepared for emergency situations means knowing what is in your insurance policy. This is very important. Consumers should regularly review their policies and coverage with their agents or brokers to make sure they are properly covered. If consumers are experiencing difficulties, they are encouraged to contact the Department of Insurance’s Consumer Services Division at 674-7310.

Hurricane Preparedness Week reminds us about the threat we face in Delaware. It also should remind us that it only takes one storm, one disaster or one hurricane to change your life. We encourage all Delawareans to prepare.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Trinidad Navarro is the insurance commissioner of Delaware. A.J. Schall is the director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency.

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