Prepare your homes, families for hurricane season

Margaret Brackett Contributing Columnist

September 4, 2013

This week Russ Dubisky, executive director of the S.C. News Service, has agreed to answer questions to familiarize our readers with updated South Carolina information.

“The South Carolina Insurance News Service is a trade association that represents 14 of the leading property/casualty insurance companies that do business in this state. We communicate on behalf of our member companies to be an information-based resource for interested parties. Our organization also believes in consumer initiatives that help develop a more educated consumer public,” said Dubisky.

Newberry residents should understand that hurricanes are massive storms that cover large areas of land and cause widespread damage. Even though this community is not located along the coast, we still have exposure to hurricane related damage.

Even though experts have downgraded this year’s forecast, that doesn’t necessarily mean we are out of the woods yet. Hurricanes are unpredictable. We don’t know when or where they are going to strike with until they’re only days away. We still have several months left and it only takes one storm to make this a bad season.

It is a good practice to have an annual insurance review to make sure your policy is updated to include any updates you’ve made to your home or your contents. You want to make sure you know you policy limits, coverages, and deductibles and double check that you have enough protection to help you recover from a loss. Contact your agent or your company to answer any specific questions that you may have.

Free software is available on the S.C. Insurance News Service web site at The information helps you determine how much the contents of your home are worth and could help the claims process go more smoothly.

Prepare a disaster kit

Pack important items so they will be portable if your home is damaged to the point that it is uninhabitable.

Some of the things you should include in your kit:

• Medicines, prescriptions and first aid kit

• Bottled water

• Clothing and bedding (sleeping bags, pillows)

• Flashlight, battery-powered radio and extra batteries

• Special items for infants, elderly or disabled family members

• Computer hard drive or laptop

• Toiletries, including baby wipes for easy cleanup

• Pet food and other items needed for pets

Put together important documents in a waterproof case to take along. Be sure to include:

• Insurance policies

• Home inventory

• Prescriptions

• Passports, birth and marriage certificates

• Drivers licenses or ID cards; Social Security cards

• Bank, savings and retirement account numbers

• Recent tax returns

• Wills, deeds, stocks and bonds

Preparation, risks

If a storm is imminent, prepare the exterior of your home and yard if storm winds and water. Nail any loose shingles or boards, and cover windows with plywood or storm shutters. Bring lawn furniture, potted plants, garbage cans, grills and outdoor decorative items into the garage.

One of those risks associated with hurricanes and tropical storms is flood. Even though we are not near the coast here, we have to realize that floods can happen almost anywhere. Floods are the most common natural disaster in the US and 25 percent of all flood losses occur in areas that are deemed low to moderate risk.

Severe thunderstorms often lead to tornadoes or hail which can be damaging to your home and vehicles.

We’ve had a very wet summer so far. In addition to the increased risk for flooding, heavy rainfall can loosen roots and saturate the land to a point that increases the risk of fallen trees.

Most standard homeowner’s insurance policies cover damage resulting from trees hitting homes or other insured structures, if a falling tree hits a car, the damage would be covered under the auto insurance policy’s comprehensive provisions.

Many insurance policies will also cover the cost of removal of the tree from your property, up to $500 or $1,000, and some insurers will cover removal of a downed tree that is blocking a driveway or ramp designed to assist the handicapped. However, if a tree falls on your property without hitting a structure or car, the removal expense is typically not covered – a factor that is often misunderstood.


If a neighbor’s tree falls and damages my property, is the neighbor responsible for the damages? In almost every case, a fallen tree is going to be considered an “act of God,” so there is no fault, or liability associated with the vast majority of these claims. The owner of the property that was damaged will typically have to file their own insurance claim in these instances.

To avoid problems with trees, we encourage homeowners to remove limbs that hang over your house or other structures, including buildings in your neighbors’ yards. Also, watch out for trees with cracks or hollows and trees with mushrooms growing on bark, all signs of poor health.

See more of Margaret Brackett’s interview with Dubisky in Friday’s edition.