Stormy weather ahead: Tips to help minimize your risk

Spring and summer in Wisconsin, though welcomed after the long winter months, can brew up severe weather with the potential to damage property and result in financial loss for residents. Hail storms, high winds, flooding, and lightning are the most prevalent weather-related causes of property damage in Wisconsin. 

With deductibles averaging around $1,000, getting hammered by severe weather may cost you some money. Reduce the chances of taking a financial hit by doing what you can to prevent a loss due to severe weather.

Water damage

Home insurance in general has very limited water damage coverage, according to Bob Manor, Claims Manager at WEA Member Benefits. Water coming from seepage through the basement walls is commonly excluded, as is flooding. Drain and sewer backup is covered only if you have added an endorsement to your policy expanding your coverage. Water damage caused by bursting water pipes, for example, would be considered a covered loss.

“If you have a finished basement, it is unlikely you will be able to prevent damage to carpet and drywall in the event of flooding,” says Manor. “However, there are some things you can do to reduce your loss.”

  • Store unused personal property in plastic containers or bins. 
  • Make sure your sump pump is working properly prior to the storm season. 
  • Stack valuable furniture on tables or plastic crates during heavy downpours if your house is prone to flooding. 
  • Pull up soaked carpeting immediately to prevent the build-up of mold and mildew following a flood. 
  • Check to see if you qualify for National Flood Insurance
  • Consider adding sewer and drain back-up coverage to your home policy. 

“If you have home insurance through Member Benefits, call us to see if our sewer and drain back-up endorsement fits your needs,” suggests Manor. “This endorsement covers flooding that occurs as a result of your basement drain backing up, and we offer several coverage levels to fit your budget.” 

Wind 

Extreme winds brought on by thunderstorms and tornadoes can cause serious damage to your home and property, tearing off roofs, throwing debris through windows, or uprooting trees. Most home insurance policies cover damage caused by wind, but you can reduce your risk by: 

  • Pruning trees to remove dead branches and thinning out thick canopies. 
  • Inspecting your roof prior to storm season for loose shingles. 
  • Storing or securing patio furniture and grills and anything that could become a flying missile. “The cost of replacing patio furniture is seldom above the deductible, but it is one of the most frequently damaged items in summer storms,” says Manor. 

Hail 

Hail causes $1 billion in damage to crops and property each year. It can cause costly damage to vehicles, roofs, and siding. “There’s not much you can do to protect your home from hail,” says Manor, “however, good parking practices can save you hundreds of deductible dollars. And remember, there is a deductible for each car.” 

  • Garage your car in the summer. “When the weather is warm, people tend to be more lax about garaging their cars, but this simple step can save you money and time,” says Manor. 
  • When away from your house during a hail storm, try to park under or near trees, or on the leeward (eastward) side of buildings. This may minimize the effects of hail, as it usually comes from the west.

Lightning 

In addition to direct strikes, which can cause fire, lightning generates electrical surges that can damage electronic equipment like your computer. Typical surge protectors will not protect equipment from a lightning strike—the electrical energy from lightning is far too powerful. Surge protectors are effective for more common power surges caused by the operation of high-power electrical devices (such as air conditioners and refrigerators), faulty wiring, or downed power lines. “When possible, unplug any appliances and electronic equipment when there is a threat of storm,” Manor advises.

With our reliance on computers to store personal data including photos, video, financial information, and music collections, you stand to lose much more than the computer itself. “Our computers have become, among other things, the family photo album. You just can’t put a dollar amount on things like photos or video,” says Manor. He offers the following tips: 

  • Disconnect your computer and cable or satellite modem from the power source when you are not home, and especially while on vacation or on long weekends. 
  • Consider using an online data back-up service.
  • Keep other non-essential electronics unplugged when not in use. 
  • Avoid using your computer and other electronics when a lightning storm is in your area.

Know your policy

Your insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurance company. Make sure you know what’s covered, what’s not, and what the deductibles are. If you have questions about your policy, the time to ask is before you need to make a claim.

Know your stuff

Do you have an inventory of your personal property? No one likes to think about experiencing a household disaster, but taking stock of the items you own is wise protection. Compiling an inventory now can save precious time and frustration later. Use the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance's Personal Property Home Inventory form to help you with this task. Photos and videotapes of your belongings can also be beneficial.

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