Severe Weather Ushers In Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week
Madison, WI—Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week began April 13, and Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel suggests the severe storms last Thursday should serve as a reminder of the importance of being prepared.
"Southern Wisconsin was spared from the most serious damage brought by last week's storms," said Commissioner Nickel. "But our hearts go out to the families in Illinois who are facing devastating losses including at least two deaths. It should serve as a reminder that it is important to be prepared for severe weather," continued Nickel. "In the aftermath of any storm, remember there are a number of government agencies—including the Office of Commissioner of Insurance—here to help."
A spring storm brought severe weather across southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. The storm included high winds, heavy rainfall, and numerous tornado watches. In Illinois, there were reports of several tornadoes including the devastating tornado in Fairdale that caused two fatalities.
Typical homeowner's policies usually provide coverage for damage that is the result of severe weather such as damage from hail or high winds. An exception is that damage caused by flooding is typically not covered. For protection against floods, you must purchase a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Check with your insurance agent or insurance company about signing up for NFIP protection.
Damage resulting from sewer backup and sump pump problems is also rarely covered in homeowner's policies but may be added through endorsements. Endorsements are added to insurance policies in order to provide additional coverage to the homeowner's policy.
During Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week Commissioner Nickel encourages consumers to work with their insurance agent to ensure that their level of protection will result in adequate financial protection from losses resulting from severe storms and that the coverage in place is suitable for the risks they face.
Nickel suggests the following steps if your home is damaged by a storm:
- Pay attention to local news to find out if state and federal agencies are available on-scene to help with relief efforts.
- Notify your insurance agent or insurance company as soon as possible to begin filing a claim. Make sure you provide a telephone and/or e-mail address where you can be reached. Your insurance company may also have representatives on the scene immediately following a major disaster to speed up the handling of claims.
- Make a detailed list of all damaged or lost personal property. It will help to take photos of the damage. Your adjuster will need evidence of the damage and damaged items. Do not throw out any damaged property without your adjuster's agreement. If local officials require the disposal of damaged items before the insurance company's claims adjuster can inspect the damages, take photos and keep a swatch or other sample of damaged items for the adjuster (e.g., cut swatches from carpeting, curtains, chairs). For more information on completing a home inventory please visit
- Separate damaged items from undamaged items.
- To avoid scams, make sure to take your time. If you feel pressured to sign a contract quickly, take a step back and investigate. Rebuilding your home or business is important, but quickly signing a contract with an unscrupulous party can make a bad situation worse.
- Contact your insurance company again if an adjuster has not been assigned to you within several days.
"It's important to take photos after any severe weather event where you have damage to your property," noted Nickel. "Take photos of the damage and do not move or pick up anything until the insurance company claims adjusters are able to view the damage. We also want to let people know that we're here to help."
Additionally, consumers should prepare ahead of time by making sure they have a comprehensive inventory of their personal property. A review should include all insurance coverage, not just a homeowner's policy. Reviewing auto insurance policies will help determine if you're covered for storm damage to your vehicle. Consumers should also consider adding coverage for their living expenses if their homes become uninhabitable due to storm damage. Business owners should consider purchasing business interruption coverage to protect them if storm damage shuts down their business for an extended period of time.
Homeowners may also want to download myHOME Scr.APP.book, an application from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) which is available both in the ITunes and Android stores. The free myHOME Scr.APP.book application lets users quickly photograph and capture images, descriptions, bar codes and serial numbers, and then stores them electronically for safekeeping. The application organizes information room by room and even creates a back-up file for e-mail sharing.
Consumer publications such as "Consumer's Guide to Homeowner's Insurance" and "Settling Property Insurance Claims" are available through the OCI Web site at oci.wi.gov. Publications can also be ordered free from the agency by calling 1-800-236-8517 or writing to OCI Publications at P.O. Box 7873, Madison, WI 53707-7873.
Created by the Legislature in 1870, Wisconsin's Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) was vested with broad powers to ensure that the insurance industry responsibly and adequately met the insurance needs of Wisconsin citizens. Today, OCI's mission is to lead the way in informing and protecting the public and responding to its insurance needs.