Most of us think we couldn’t possibly be faced head-on with disaster. It’s always a neighbor, a friend of a friend, or – in worst case scenarios – a relative. But never us. That’s why thinking about insurance is, more often than not, at the bottom of our priority list. Even more so when considering a seemingly extraordinary event, such as a tornado.
But it shouldn’t be the case – tornado insurance is a relevant tool that ought to be thoroughly understood and properly considered by Tennessee homeowners. Our proximity to Tornado Alley is no joke. We need to be prepared.
You need to feel safe. And I’d like to help you achieve just that.
This is the first step in your journey to understanding your options, and to becoming better adept at protecting your home and your loved ones against tornadoes. I’ll go through the basics of tornado damage coverage and describe how it overlaps with homeowners insurance. Afterwards, I’ll explain what you can do to protect your family from a natural disaster before it even occurs.
Tornado Damages: What to Look For in a Policy
If you live in Tennessee, chances are that your homeowners insurance already shields you from some of the damages caused by tornadoes. Nonetheless, there are ways in which basic policies fall short, so it’s important to know just how much protection you’re being offered, and supplement your coverage through additional policies or endorsements.
When talking about tornado insurance, we usually focus on wind, hail, roof, and flood damage.
Wind and Hail Damage
Tornado winds are brutal – their speed can reach up to 250 mph. Damage can be either peripheral, if your house isn’t in the direct path of the tornado, or direct, if it is. Hail is also something to be reckoned with in Tennessee.
One important aspect about wind and hail damage is that some home insurance policies have something called a wind/hail deductible, which can be much higher than your policy deductible. Make sure to review your policy and see if it’s the case. At Williams, for example, we like to keep our deductibles the same in order to avoid confusion.
Another important thing to consider is that homeowners insurance does not protect your vehicles. So, even if your car was lying soundly in the garage when disaster struck, you would still need to turn to your auto insurer for claims pertaining to tornado damage.
Roof damage is often covered via a depreciation schedule, meaning that, the older the roof, the more you may need to pay out of your own pocket. The same logic applies if your roof is already damaged or in need of repair.
Most insurers are open to covering the full cost of your roof replacement, and this is naturally the better choice for homeowners, as it results in a much better claim experience. That’s why, at Williams, we’ve adopted replacement cost coverage as the primary course of action in such instances.
Flooding and Water Damage
Flooding is a sensitive topic when it comes to tornado insurance. While most tornadoes are accompanied by heavy rain, flooding damage is not something that homeowners insurance usually covers. An additional flood insurance policy would need to be purchased for this purpose.
However, if your property suffers rain damages owed to your roof being destroyed by a tornado, your homeowners insurance may still offer protection.
Types of Protection Against Tornado Damage
When choosing how to protect your assets against natural disasters such as tornadoes, there are two types of coverage you can consider: actual cash value (ACV) and replacement cost (RC) insurance.
Choosing one should depend on your financial possibilities, on the state of your property, and on the value of your personal belongings.
Actual Cash Value Insurance
In order to understand ACV insurance, think of the example I gave earlier about roof damage. Basically, the older an item is, the more it depreciates in value, and as a result, the less reimbursement you’ll receive from your insurance provider.
Replacement Cost Insurance
While pricier, this type of coverage is preferred by most homeowners, as it provides the full value of damaged items based on their value in today’s market, without accounting for depreciation. Simply put, it allows you to rebuild your home to the same value it had when you lost it.
How To Prevent Tornado Damage
Having good insurance is essential to minimizing damage in the aftermath of a disastrous event, but what’s more important is preventing the damage from occurring in the first place. Make sure to consider the following:
- Start with what’s most important: the wellbeing and safety of your family. Make sure your house has a reliable basement or storm cellar that your family can use in case of emergency.
- Have a plan, and stick to it: if a storm catches you off guard, and your loved ones are scattered at friends or family across town, instruct them to stay put, and to meet you in a previously agreed upon safe place, after the storm passes.
- Secure objects that can easily be destroyed and blown away by the wind, particularly if they’re of value.
- Protect important family memories (photos and videos) by storing them safely in cloud devices – this way, they will be safe even if your electronics are destroyed.
- Opt for wind-resistant roofing materials. Not only will this give you a sense of security and provide better protection if disaster strikes, but they will also significantly lower your homeowners insurance premiums.
Hopefully this information is helpful as you think about your options and best next steps when it comes to protecting yourself from tornadoes and natural disasters.
If you have any questions, drop me a line. We’re overseeing the safety of thousands of families across Tennessee here at Williams, and we’d love to help you, too.