RALEIGH — North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey is encouraging North Carolinians to prepare their homes and belongings for any natural disaster or emergency that could occur as we approach the official peak of the Atlantic hurricane season Sept. 10.
Hurricane Dorian and Tropical Depression Erin are currently churning in the Atlantic. Erin is expected to bypass the eastern U.S. as it heads toward Canada, but the path of Dorian is still uncertain.
“We’ve learned from Hurricane Florence and tropical storms in the East, tornadoes in the Piedmont, and mudslides in the West that no one is immune from natural disasters,” Commissioner Causey said. “Prepare your home now to put you on the best footing for recovery once the emergency passes.”
Commissioner Causey also warns residents that the days after a storm hits are the times when roofing scams often occur. Since July 2018, the Department’s Criminal Investigations Division received 112 complaints regarding potential fraudulent roofers. Several of them took the resident’s insurance money and promised roofing services they never delivered.
Before acting on a contractor’s offer for services, Commissioner Causey asks residents to heed the following advice to avoid becoming a victim:
- Beware of contractor or roofing representatives going door-to-door after a disaster.
- Call your insurance agent or insurance company before signing a contract or paying for repairs. Don’t let the contractor work directly with your insurance company unless your agent gives approval.
- Work with only licensed and insured contractors.
- Get more than one estimate. Don’t be pushed into signing a contract right away.
- Get everything in writing. The cost and the type of work to be done, time schedule, guarantees, payment schedule and other expectations should be detailed.
- Require references and check them out.
- Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license. Write down the license number. Also take down his or her license plate number.
- Never sign a contract with blanks. Fraudulent contractors may enter unacceptable terms later.
- Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is completed.
To help residents prepare for the onslaught of inclement weather that often accompanies hurricane season, please understand the following information.
- Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. Know exactly what your insurance policy covers. Homeowners’ policies do not cover flooding. You can only purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. However, there is typically a 30-day waiting period before flood policies take effect so don’t wait until a storm is approaching to purchase coverage. If you live in a rental property, your landlord’s insurance only covers the building. None of your personal belongings are insured unless you purchase your own renters’ policy.
- Compile important documents. Gather important paperwork, including insurance policies, medical records, and prescriptions. Be prepared to bring copies with you if you are forced to evacuate your home.
- Create a home inventory. Go room to room in your home and write down the brand name, description, estimated value and date of purchase of items in your home. It is also helpful to compile receipts, appraisal documents and serial numbers. Take videos or photographs of your belongings. Store your home inventory and related documents in a safe, easily-accessible place online, on your smartphone, on your computer or in a fire-proof box or safe deposit box.
- Identify potential hazards around your home. Hanging tree branches, loose shingles, patio furniture and other outdoor objects can cause damage or injuries in a storm. Make repairs or secure large objects to reduce the threat.
- Review contact information. Make sure you have up-to-date contact information for your insurance agent and insurance company and make sure they have accurate contact information to reach you.
After the Storm
The storm has hit and the power is out. Now what?
- Operate portable generators outside and away from doors and windows and direct the generator’s exhaust away from the home and any other buildings. The CDC recommends placing the portable generator at least 20 feet away from the house.
- Never operate a portable generator inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace, shed, or on the porch. Opening doors or windows will not provide enough ventilation to prevent the buildup of lethal levels of CO.
- Never ignore a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm when it rings. Get outside immediately. Call 911.
- Get to fresh air immediately if you start to feel sick, weak or dizzy, and then call 911. CO poisoning from portable generators can happen so quickly that exposed persons may become unconscious instead of experiencing these symptoms.
If you have any concerns with your insurance needs, call the Department of Insurance at 855-408-1212 or visit us online at ncdoi.com.
To report suspected roofing or contractor fraud, contact the N.C. Department of Insurance Criminal Investigations Division at 919-807-6840.