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9/18/2012 - Five tips for homeowners with hurricane season still in effect

Homeowners should speak to an agent before disasters approach.

Prior to Isaac, no hurricane in 2012 had made landfall in the U.S. After the late August storm, which in some cases was as bad as Katrina if not worse, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America notes that hurricane season is alive and well.

Christopher Hackett, director of personal lines at PCI, indicated that while it may be late in the season, some of the most devastating storms have occurred around this time.

"Historically, many of the deadliest and most costly hurricanes have hit at this time of year," said Hackett. "We urge residents along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to be prepared and alert, and ready to take steps quickly to safeguard their lives, their families and their property."

With this in mind, PCI offers a few recommendations policyholders may want to take as it pertains to their homeowners insurance policies, for September is traditionally a peak month for hurricane activity.

1. Review insurance to see if more may be necessary. Depending upon where people live, standard home insurance may not be enough, as flood insurance is not included in a traditional policy. Other plans that may need to be added on to a policy include personal-articles coverage and protection from excessive flooding.

2. Speak with an agent. Though policyholders may be familiar with their plans, it often pays to talk to an agent to make sure that the right limits are in place. If more coverage is necessary, homeowners may want to ask their agent about the cost of rebuilding their property. Depending on the materials used, it may cost more to rebuild should something happen to it than what its current value is. This is one of the reasons why insurers advise not taking into account a home's value when determining how much coverage to get.

3. Know what the deductible is. Deductibles are the portion of a policy that homeowners pay before coverage kicks in and are usually either a fixed dollar amount or a percentage of the home's value. Knowing what a plan's deductible is will spare policyholders any surprises when it comes to time to make a claim.

4. Obtain coverage long before a storm's arrival. It's not unusual for homeowners to review their insurance plans shortly after a hurricane. However, PCI says this really ought to be done when weather conditions are calm, as there may be a delay for policyholders who obtain a new plan. For example, obtaining flooding insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program carries a waiting period of 30 days before the policy becomes effective.

5. Inventory. While homeowners may need to wait a short time for coverage to kick in, they can expedite how quickly claims are processed by cataloging their valuables. Listing their approximate value, when they were purchased and including a picture can speed up how quickly a claim is dealt with, PCI advises.

For the full list of recommendations from PCI, click here to read more.

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