Tornadoes, gale force winds, lightning and damaging hail storms have local companies scrambling to help homeowners recover.
I had to ask myself, what would I do, if I arrived home from an out-of-town business trip, and drove into my neighborhood to find large downed split trees, portions of roofs ripped off, downed power lines, overturned vehicles, broken fences and heavily damaged siding, and went into my home to find the basement flooded?
Like most people, I might face these circumstances with some disbelief, then make sure our family and pets were safe, and do the next logical thing, and contact my homeowner insurance company to file a claim.
If you are like most homeowners, you may not be an expert in assessing such damage either. Based on recent experience by many homeowners along the Colorado Front Range, you’ll probably want to take pictures of your entire property, including your perimeter fencing, making sure to get pictures of downed and broken trees and outside furniture, damage to vehicles, siding, windows and window seals, garage doors, and maybe even get pictures of damage to storm drains and gutters, while taking miscellaneous pictures of damaged and missing roof tiles and other debris. In most cases, your insurance company claims agent will probably request this kind of information at some point. One insurance company interviewed for this article recommended having at least two copies of such damage, and keeping one copy for your own files.
If some condition of your property possibly poses an immediate danger to you or your neighbors, such as broken gas or water lines, a repair might have to be immediate, and advise for homeowners is to keep all receipts for such repairs. Certain dwellings in covenant controlled neighborhoods and homeowner associations (HOAs) may require maintenance of community property, such as repairing walkways.
Here is a bit of personal experience I would like to share, to help people before such a storm hits. Be sure to get a homeowner’s insurance policy with good terms and conditions to cover severe weather threats you may likely face. One person interviewed for this article knew their home was not in a flood plain, not even in an area of a 500 year flood event, so they decided not to get flood damage coverage. Unfortunately, while out, high wind and hail broke windows in window wells allowing large amounts of rain water to flood their basement. Additionally, it is worth talking to people about experiences they’ve had with various insurance carriers. While some carriers advertise that they will cover and protect you from all sorts of threats, actual experience with claims departments can vary, and in some cases the claim response does not match the advertised benefit. There are some large insurance carriers who face class action law suits for not insuring to policy. It is worth taking time to shop, compare, and then research insurance company reputations. Ask your agent specifically if you are unsure about your coverage, and have them point terms out to you in the policy language, advises one insurance agent.
Next, once a major storm has hit and creates damage, it is well advised to have a certified independent claims specialist to represent you during assessment, mitigation, clean-up and repair to homes. Many contractors will drive through a damaged neighborhood leaving countless brochures for performing roof repairs or other needed services, yet few, if any, roofing companies are also likely to be able to adequately assess, and then repair other structural damage to your dwelling. In states that fall within the boundaries of ‘tornado alley’ there are some certifications that carry considerable merit, such as HAAG engineering certified assessment credentials. While such certifications help assure a high standard of training and ability to inspect, it is still important for a homeowner to make a diligent effort to research any contractor’s business reputation and client list.
At a certain point, if hail damage is excessive, and there is evidence of other storm factors, such as damaging wind forces or tornadoes, then assessments and repairs will also likely include the need for use of a general contractor. In this circumstance, it is great if you are a general contractor by trade, and also have the time on your hands to do extensive home repairs, but if you are not skilled for large scale home repairs, then you’ll likely be seeking out a reputable, credible, and certified claims specialist and general contractor, as well. One interviewed claims expert, Kurt M. Todd, who is a licensed insurance adjuster, HAAG certified and a general contractor indicated: “homeowners should contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and check references for any company who offers services to manage or perform repairs to homes after damaging storms.” Mr. Todd explained, “many roofing companies will offer free estimates to repair damage done to roofs (and it can be helpful to get such bids), but most roofing contractors are also not in the businesses to repair damage to sidewalls, fences, trim, or windows and doors.” Mr. Todd indicated reputable claims agents/contractors use the same claims estimating software as insurance companies do, and the present ‘industry standard’ software is called Xactimate.” A claims adjuster from another interviewed insurance company stated there are numerous state and federal laws that govern the homeowner claims and repair process, and a trained and certified storm damage contractor will have a working knowledge of those laws, as well as local ordinances and building codes. As indicated in a previous article about recovering from the devastation of major tornado damage, HAAG tornado damage assessor, Tim Marshall stated, “there is nothing preventing a homeowner or contractor from building or rebuilding a dwelling to a standard that is better than code,” and in some areas of the country that experience frequent storms, building or rebuilding to a higher standard just makes sense.”
In a geographic region where natural disasters can affect large areas, and cause large scale storm damage to civic infrastructures, such a storm may warrant a Federal natural hazard declaration, and subsequently trigger allocation of FEMA recovery funds for the stricken area. Such Federal declarations can help whole communities to recover when a natural disaster goes beyond the availability of local or municipal funds needed to repair community infrastructure. Infrastructure that can be affected by disaster include federal highways and roads, electric substations and phone lines, local power and water utilities, hospitals, as well as community services and police functions. The United States President, and Governor of each State, can join forces to engage personnel back-up using the National Guard or Coast Guard, if needed, as was the case in areas of New Jersey following the landfall of Hurricane Sandy.