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As natural disaster season comes back around this year, we are still refining ways to be prepared for the least impact possible. Too little, Too Late should no longer be our cry. We’ve also learned by now that we cannot depend on government to see the urgency in meeting our immediate needs over others. With any challenge in life, the best defense is a good offense. Not to appear insensitive to people still suffering the aftermath of this year’s hurricanes, earthquakes, and Nor’easters, but according to several clients we interviewed, they were only guilty of trusting their home and personal insurance policies. In their defense, who in their wildest imaginations would have expected  storms to hit the northeast in such bizarre weather patterns? Powerful preliminary steps can be taken so that when you step out of that storm shelter this year, you step out as Victor, not Victim.

“Many are unprepared for the financial aftermath they sustain from disasters like Hurricane Sandy,” says David Chang of Chang & Carlin, LLP. “Bankruptcy and foreclosure can be consequences, but you may be able to keep your house, IF you are prepared to deal with insurance companies.”

During the immediate wake of disasters, vital weeks can pass: locating family members, restoring power, living in shelter facilities, and just scrambling for basic survival supplies. Yet, these first days are critical to getting assistance from pre-paid policies. Again, as we have counseled so often, people with a three to six months savings in living expenses did obviously better in the recovery. Pay your savings each month JUST LIKE AN INSURANCE POLICY! Carlin offers further advise for avoiding bankruptcy and keeping your home after catastrophic events. Let’s suggest, while things are basically calm, and before Tornado season hits, that we consider his steps responsibly in a

Pro-active Preventive Action Plan:

1. Before your home sustains damage, review your policy in detail for flooding or wind damage, check for the “what happens IF” clauses and deductibles. Keep a folder of photos of the exterior and interior of your home and property.

2. When you are alerted that storms are approaching, review your claim options and be prepared to file them early. Reuters reports that “Federal flood insurance typically carries a 60 day deadline” before denying claims. Who’s going to need three months? Ask Hurricane Sandy victims, four months and waiting!

3. As soon as you can view your property, contact your insurance company for each incident where you note damage. Send pictures, before and after, details from your cell phone, or email, and print copies. If immediate repairs are necessary to your safety and survival, try to send them an estimate for cost of repairs. Chang warns to “NOT specify the cause of the damage (wind broke my window vs. my window is broken.)” If you start rambling, “Well, the sliding door had a crack in it already, and the siding was coming loose on that corner,” legal and insurance attorneys have to record your statement. Talking too much may give them reason to deny or decrease your claim. Maintain your integrity of what they are obligated to cover and what you’ve been meaning to fix or secure for years.

Follow the Emergency Preparedness Kits from your local Red Cross Chapter, and keep all these important documents up to date and ready. If you have additional concerns about bills you should pay, creditors or medical debt you are accumulating, please call us. Any concerns you have for Preventive loss of home or property, please have your insurance company and attorney verify your coverage while you have time to do the research and make adjustments.

Stay Smart, Safe, and Secure!