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Take your own inventory to help recover loss

December 02, 2005|by Lynn Little

Many of us have contributed funds to help those who suffered great losses from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We might not be thinking, however, about taking care of ourselves in the event a disaster would strike here. This should also be a wake-up call for us to take stock of what we have in order to help us recover from devastating and unexpected occurrences.

The most important step you can take is to make a complete inventory of your personal property. The list should include the item, a description, make, model and when it was purchased. For example: 27-inch color TV, Sony, serial No. 0000, purchased in 2001.

Take photos of special and expensive items, and videotape each room. More complete guidelines and free downloadable software for completing a personal property inventory can be found at the Insurance Information Institute's site (www.knowyourstuff.org/index.htm). Once completed, this inventory will support your claims in the event of a flood, fire, tornado, other natural disasters and theft. Give a copy of your inventory to a family member or friend who lives in another geographical area.

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Your home is probably the largest and most important investment you have made. Be sure you have enough insurance and the right kind of insurance to cover you in the event of a loss or a catastrophe. This includes not only insurance on the building (structure) of your home and coverage for its general contents (personal property), but also insurance to cover specific valuables such as collectibles and antiques. Most importantly, you should discuss your insurance questions and needs in detail with your insurance adviser or agent.

The Maryland Insurance Administration (www.mdinsurance.state.md.us) has prepared a consumer's guide to assist you in understanding homeowner's insurance and in obtaining the coverage that best suits your needs. The guide explains the basic coverages included in homeowners' policies and the types of policies available. Also included is information that will help you as you shop for a policy.

However, this is just a guide and is not intended to provide legal advice or opinions regarding coverage under any specific policy. You should determine the types of coverage you want to purchase and review your policy upon receipt to be sure it provides you with the types and amounts of coverage you wanted to purchase.

Did you realize that your homeowner's insurance does not protect you against damage from floods? Flood insurance was established by the federal government in 1968 in a program administered by the Federal Insurance Administration. The flood insurance program is totally self-supported. All dollars paid by the flood insurance program come from policyholder premiums.

To buy flood insurance, your community must be accepted into the flood program. Residents - both homeowners and renters - in qualified communities can purchase flood insurance from any licensed insurance agent who is writing flood insurance under arrangements with the Federal Insurance Administration in the United States. All premiums, policy wording and rules are the same nationwide.

For more information about flood insurance in Maryland, go to the Maryland Insurance Administration Web site and click on "consumers and publications." You also can contact the National Flood Insurance Program at P.O. Box 6465, Rockville, MD 20849-6464; 1-800-638-6620 (customer service) or 1-800-427-5593 (TDD); or go to www.fema.gov/nfip.

If you decide this is a good time to shop for homeowner's insurance, be sure you are comparing similar policies. Ask how much the deductible is, which perils are covered, how much liability insurance is included and if the coverage is for replacement cost value. Ask if you are eligible for any discounts. Prepare now for the unexpected.




Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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