Droughts, fires, floods, and storms – natural disasters can wreak havoc on your home and your property. Yet, many of us live in regions that are prone to them. If you live in such a place – or if you’re considering moving into one – how do you protect your investment?
Two ways: 1. Know your risks. 2. Have the right protection.
Know Your Risks: Is your region prone to a natural disaster?
A natural disaster can happen anywhere at any time. Weather patterns in a region are a good predictor of whether your area will likely be at-risk now and in the future.
The average weather pattern in a place over several decades is called a climate. An area’s climate affects the weather and the type of natural disaster(s) they are prone to. For example, we know the West has a very dry climate that causes frequent wildfires; the Northwest is known for its wet weather, which could lead to severe flooding. The Midwest is associated with brutally cold winters which can lead to devastating winter storms. And the warm coastal climate of the South East is the prime environment for hurricanes.
If you want to know the most common weather risks to your home or in your area, you can do a free climate risk assessment on ClimateCheck.
Know Your Risks: 6 Common Disaster Risks
Disasters come in many forms, from tornadoes and hurricanes to floods and droughts. Following are six types of disaster risks that may affect your home or property.
1. Heat Risk
Extreme heat occurs when there is high heat and humidity, and temperatures exceed 90 degrees for a period of days. In terms of disasters, extreme heat can sometimes lead to fires. (See the Fire Risk section for more detail.) U.S. counties with the greatest risk for heat include 37 counties in the south with a third of them located in Florida.
2. Drought Risk
Droughts occur when there is not sufficient precipitation. Not only does this put a stress on the water supply, but it can also have a severe impact on your landscaping. Soil dryness can also lead to settling issues with your home’s foundation. Unfortunately, for most homeowner policies, settling or shrinking is not a covered loss. U.S. counties with the greatest risk for drought include 34 counties in the west, with 21 in Colorado.
3. Fire Risk
When drought occurs and heat becomes extreme, the conditions are right for a fire to start. Wildfires can destroy your home or community. Wildfires account for about $16.5 billion in damages annually in the U.S. In the event of a fire caused by a natural disaster, your home’s dwelling coverage will pay to repair or rebuild your home up to your policy limit. U.S. counties with the greatest risk of fire are located in the West.
4. Flood Risk
This includes coastal flooding as well as flooding from surface water or nearby lakes and streams. Rising sea levels and extreme weather have contributed to flooding, which cost as much as $20 billion annually in the U.S. A traditional homeowner’s policy does not cover flooding. For your home to be covered you will need to purchase a separate flood policy. U.S. counties with the greatest risk of flooding are mostly located in the south, including Florida, Louisiana, and North Carolina.
5. Severe Storm Risk
Storms include high wind, wet or snowy weather events. These could be hail storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, or other types of destructive weather. Storm damage in the U.S. averages about $17 billion annually. Your homeowner’s policy may cover some aspects of storm damage, including hail, wind or lightning. If you are unsure, check with your insurance’s Service Department to see what is covered under your policy. U.S. counties with the highest risk of storms are located in the Northeast or Southeast.
6. Earthquake Risk
Earthquakes typically occur along fault lines and can cost millions in damages. In the U.S., they are more common in California and Alaska. A pair of earthquakes struck Ridgecrest City, California, in 2019, causing nearly $40 million in damage. Importantly, while earthquakes cause significant damage to buildings and property, they are not covered by the typical homeowner’s policy. In some states, however, you can purchase coverage for earthquakes for an additional premium.
Have the Right Protection: Do you have enough insurance for a disaster?
If a natural disaster happens in your community, and your home and property are damaged, you want to be able to rebuild. Yet, many homeowners find themselves having to fund portions of the rebuilding process because they’re underinsured. Here’s what you need to know.
- During a disaster, your neighbors will be rebuilding at the same time. When demand exceeds supply, that can drive up prices for materials and labor. These increased costs usually aren’t factored into homeowner’s coverage, and you have to pay out of pocket for the difference. Some policies carry a mandatory endorsement added to the policy that provides an additional 25% of coverage to cover these additional costs. There is a fee for this endorsement, known as extended repair/replacement cost.
- You may be required to meet new and stricter building codes when you rebuild. You may use up to 10% of Coverage A for the increased costs you incur due to the enforcement of any ordinance or law. For an additional premium, increased amounts of coverage can be purchased via an endorsement.
- If your area is prone to floods or earthquakes, you will want those additional policies. Your homeowner’s policy does not cover these events. Keep in mind that there is a 30-day waiting policy for flood insurance.
- Rebuilding a home can take a long time. Your policy’s living expense coverage will provide a flat percentage toward living costs, usually 30% of the Coverage A amount. Some states have time limits (e.g. 12 months) on when you can use that coverage. Plan to cover those additional expenses out of pocket.
You want to be fully prepared for a disaster, and not just with a disaster plan. Talk with your insurer about your home and property to ensure that you are fully covered, no matter which location you call home.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
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