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Navigating wind and rain: ensure you have proper coverage for hurricane season

During the next five years, annual insured losses from hurricanes are likely to increase by at least 40 percent along the Gulf Coast according to Florida Risk Management Solutions, the largest risk modeler for the nation's insurers.  A 25 percent in the Mid-Atlantic states and the Northeast is also estimated.

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Despite these staggering forecasts, Loretta Worters of the Insurance Information Institute, does not see flood insurance purchase increasing dramatically as “human nature shows that people generally do not plan for disasters impacting them personally.”

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), flooding causes more than $2 billion in property damage in the United States each year. Yet, only 14 percent of Americans say they have purchased flood insurance for their primary residence, according to a recent survey of 700 homeowners conducted for Chubb by Opinion Research Corp. Because of the increasing strain on the National Flood Insurance Program and the possibility of its insolvency, Congress recently approved the National Flood Insurance Program Enhanced Borrowing Authority Act to increase its borrowing authority to $20.8 billion from its current level of $18.5 billion.

"Human Nature shows that people generally do not plan for disasters impacting them personally"

This increase in borrowing availability could prove vital in assisting troubled areas to protect against large flood losses. 

Although the overall commercial property-casualty marketplace has seen little impact from the severe 2005 hurricane season, coastal property is experiencing a sharp increase in prices for wind and flood coverage, according to the latest Commercial Insurance Market Index Survey by The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers.

The Council’s fourth quarter 2005 survey of insurance brokers showed the overall commercial p/c marketplace has not registered the price increases some analysts forecasted.

"The biggest problem we're running into is wind vs. flood," said Drew Powell, an independent insurance adjuster with Davidson & Co. of Mobile, Ala. "We have carriers who say, 'Oh well, it's all storm surge--we're not going to cover it.' "

What Powell tries to do is convince clients to "put a percentage of it on wind and try to settle it and be done with it."  "Before the storm surge even hit, you had 100 to 130 mph winds. It would be reasonable to assume that every structure there had moderate wind damage before the surge even hit," Powell said. "I would have liked to see insurers take a position early on to negotiate."

“There were certainly instances where windstorm and flood coverage was utilized to reimburse for Katrina-caused damage, Worters acknowledged.”

Preparing for 2006 hurricane season

Home damage can be caused by numerous flood exposures, including surface water run-off from a paved surface into the home; overflow or backup from a sewer or drain outside the home; or flood water entering the home through basement windows.

To better protect your home consider:

  • Cast-in-place concrete walls, which provide superior wind resistance and impact resistance to windborne debris.
  • Impact-resistant windows and sliding glass doors, which eliminate the need for additional shuttering.
  • A superior roof system with enhanced metal connectors, thicker decking than what is required by building code and a secondary water barrier.
  • A permanent power generator and entire-home surge protection.
  • An impact-resistant garage door.
  • Sustainable, low maintenance native trees and landscape materials sloped away from the house.

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