Are you prepared for damage from natural disasters?

You've probably seen on TV footage showing the aftermath of natural disasters: trees tossed through roofs by wind storms, homes burned to the ground by fire, living rooms underwater after a flood. First you feel sympathy, then concern. What if something like that happened to you? Would your homeowner's insurance policy cover the damage? The answer is..maybe. Insurance coverage for damage caused by such events varies widely, depending on where you live and what kind of coverage you've purchased. The best way to determine what coverage you have - and need - is to talk to your insurance agent. To help start that conversation, here's a guide to typical disaster-related insurance coverage.


Nearly all homeowner's policies cover fire damage, weather caused by a lightning strike, kitchen fire, or some other cause. However, some cover the entire cost to rebuild your home to current standards regardless of the rebuilding cost, and others cover only up to a specific limit. If you've built an addition or remodeled since your policy was originally purchased, ask your agent to make sure you have adequate coverage to rebuild. Most agents have access to an insurance industry tool called, RCT or Replacement Coat Estimator. This tool will help calculate what the replacement cost should be based on the specifics of your home. Also, ask about loss-of-use coverage, which would help pay for additional living expenses while your home is being rebuilt or repaired.


If you live in a flood-prone area, your mortgage lender probably requires you to carry flood insurance. Most home insurance carriers do not write flood insurance. Instead, you must buy coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which works with private insurers that sell and administer the flood policies for the NFIP in participating cities and counties. NFIP insurance covers damage caused to your home and its contents only in specific situations-when inland or tidal waters overflow, for example. To find out what flood zone your home is in your agent can run a "Flood Determination". This along with other factors will identify what coverages are available and the costs.


I'm wondering about my coverage for a man made "disaster" - theft. What do I need to do to make sure my valuables are covered if my home is burglarized?- Angela Mathe

You may think you have sufficient coverage for your personal property. However, most homeowner's policies put a limit on the amount they'll pay out to replace certain valuable items, such as jewelry, camera's or collectibles. You can buy additional coverage - sometimes called scheduled items or a rider policy - to cover personal property that is valuable or hard to replace.- Van Walsh

Wind & Hail

Most homeowner's policies cover wind and hail damage to your property's main structure-such as a torn-up roof or a window broken by flying debris. However, many policies limit coverage on building and other structures outside your main dwelling, such as fences, outdoor equipment, or a satellite dish. And although some insurers offer limited coverage to cut up and remove a tree that's been blown down by wind on your property, the cost to replace a tree knocked over by wind is never covered.

If you lose power in a windstorm or hailstorm because your circuit breakers trip, most policies will offer limited coverage for resulting losses, such as food that spoils after the refrigerator stops working. The rules may be entirely different when it comes to hurricanes or tropical storms, so check your policy; you may have to but special coverage.


Most homeowner's policies do not cover earthquake damage. In some states, however, including Alabama, you can obtain earthquake insurance by adding a special coverage endorsement to your homeowner's policy.