Disaster Checklist



By definition, disasters are rarely tame or predictable, and few homeowners or businesses are truly prepared for the full extent and nature of a disaster when it does strike. While recovery is never easy, there are a few key steps you can take before and after an event to help make your insurance claim—which is, after all, the basis for your financial recovery—go more smoothly.


1. Take photographs of property before a natural disaster occurs.

Photographs will be important to prove the extent of your damages later. Take new photos every year, or after any development to the property.

2. For businesses, business information is critical.

Make sure your business-critical client records and communications systems are backed up off site so you can immediately retrieve key client information, financial documents, and sales histories. This responsiveness can make or break your public relations and disaster recovery efforts.

3. For businesses, have a response team in place.

Put a claim management team together before a disaster strikes and assign a lead spokesperson in the event of a loss. Only an individual who is knowledgeable in the area of insurance should handle interactions with your carrier. This is essential, since the smallest comment can make a big difference in how much money you recover.



4. Protect your property from further damage.

It’s your responsibility to perform emergency work such as putting up tarps, removing wet drywall and carpeting to prevent mold, and boarding up openings and installing fencing where necessary to protect your belongings and keep others from getting hurt.

5. Beware of contractors asking you to sign a contract for non-emergency services.

Ideally, you should not hire a contractor to rebuild your business until you have agreed on a repair/replacement scope of damage and an estimate of pricing with your insurance company. Then you will know how much you have to spend on reconstruction.

6. Document the damage.

Photograph or videotape the scene, including the “debris pile,” before you begin any cleanup efforts. When estimating damages, do not rely solely on your historical records. Instead, secure replacement cost estimates.

7. Request a complete copy of your insurance policy.

Read and make sure you understand your rights and obligations under your insurance policy before entering into any serious discussions or negotiations with your carrier. Seek out an attorney to help you understand what your policy actually covers and, just as important, what it doesn’t.

8. Document all your activities and expenses.

Keep a log of all activities and save all receipts after the damage, including those for property replacement and extra expenses. This will provide the documentation a disaster recovery professional requires to present expenses to your carrier, and you will know which expenses will be reimbursed as you rebuild.

9. For businesses, make decisions that are best for the survival of your company.

Policyholders often expect the insurance company to tell them what to do to save their business. Insurance attorneys are simply professionals overseeing your property insurance claim. Only you know your business and what’s best for your recovery.

10. Hire your own expert.

The insurance adjuster sent by your carrier to evaluate the damages is exclusively working for the insurance company, not for you. It’s your responsibility to document and submit your claim. Make sure you have someone who knows insurance inside and out on your side to ensure that you get a full, fair, and expedited settlement—while you concentrate on maintaining your home or business, not on claim details. Understand that your claim will have to be verified.

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