Hurricane season and insurance policies

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hurricane season officially starts on June 1st and insurance agents are encouraging people to get prepared, now.

"You know we have to be very, very alert in southern Mississippi because we're so vulnerable to these storms in such," said Shelter Insurance Agent Joe Bryant.

Bryant says he's been in the insurance business for years and when it comes to hurricanes, he's seen it all.

He stated that hurricane damage is different than tornado damage.

"A tornado might come through and two blocks away it destroys a house and you have no damage at all," says Bryant. "But, a hurricane is very wide and numbers are always very large."

Bryant suggests that if someone has damage to get it checked as soon as possible.

"If a hurricane comes and you have any damage, you need to get it reported immediately," said Bryant. "It's very important that [insurance companies] know when what has occurred, because insurance companies will base the number of people they send on the number of reports they get over the first 24 hours."

He also says people report the damage, they need to immediately start preserving and removing their items.

"Some people have the misconception of don't touch anything - leave it just like it is," said Bryant. "No, we know what happened. We know what happened it was a terrible disaster that came through. Do whatever you can to protect your personal property."

He says many insurance companies will usually reimburse their clients for anything they spend to protect their items immediately after a storm.

"If you had to buy a tarp…. that's part of the expense that you'll be reimbursed for that storm," said Bryant. "If you must pay a neighbor to come over and help you, make sure you give the insurance company [what you spent] so you can be reimbursed."

Bryant says that if you don't already have home or automobile insurance, you want to get on it now. He says flooding insurance has to be in effect for 30 days before you can file a claim.

He says it's common for people to want to get home insurance days before a storm, but he says that's not an option.

"When a storm hit certain coordinates within the Gulf, insurance cut off what we call binding insurance," says Bryant. "Meaning they cannot insure anything new and you can't make any changes on existing policies."

Bryant recommends always paying your insurance, storm or not. He says that if you're insurance expires before a storm, you will not be covered.

He says you need to know your coverage and your policies.

"You could have a policy with a $5,000 deductible but it could have a $10,000 "named storm" coverage," says Bryant. "So, once they name that storm, your deductible really increases."

He says home insurance is the broadest type of insurance police covering things such as property and structure damage, loss of refrigerated items, loss of use, etc.

He says automobile insurance does not have the variables and deductibles that home insurance covers.

"Your automobile coverage in a storm is going to comprehensive coverage," says Bryant. "If you don't have comprehensive coverage, then you're not covered."

Bryant says that trees are the biggest concern in this area during hurricane season and he encourages people to remove any trees over their property.

"If you have a tree, in your yard and the wind blows it over into the neighbor's yard, the neighbor is responsible for removing that tree from his yard. You're not responsible because you're not liable for what you didn't do. It was an act of God. It was nature that blew that tree into his yard."

Bryant says above everything you want to do whatever you can to protect your property. He says after any damage - large or small - you need to immediately file a claim and then proceed with preserving your items.

For more hurricane insurance tips, go to www.shelterinsurance.com.