The “Big One” is Here. (maybe)
The big evacuation certainly is….apparently the largest evacuation in the history of the US…and getting those millions of people back will be a massive logistical undertaking. Getting the food and fuel back in stations….and getting people moving safely back home…..even if their homes are completely spared.
Even if this does not turn out to be a massive claims event, even if we can all just breathe a sigh of relief, this collective exercise in disaster planning provides many important lessons.
The most important lessons are:
1.We all need to work TOGETHER with our families and friends to develop disaster strategies.
(“Prepping” is not just for your uncle that lives in the country.)
2. We all need to recognize that even the best disaster plans must be flexible…and you need several different options, ready to be engaged….at all times.
So now, let’s talk about the part of any disaster that will have a major impact on planning for virtually every family…INSURANCE!
Millions of Floridians have been paying insurance premiums for years. We’ve all been very fortunate because the economy has been very healthy, and total volume of insured homes and property is at all time highs. Importantly, carriers have been collecting these premiums, their investment returns on those premiums have been very healthy and their entire claims and adjustment processes have gotten very smooth and sophisticated….all of that should work out very well for both policy holders and the companies themselves.
For the vast majority of policyholders, there should be no reason whatsoever for any party other than the insured and their insurance company to be working together.
No attorneys, no private adjusters, no one else….just policyholders calling their insurance companies directly.
(As an insured, you have nothing at all to lose by working and communicating with your carrier first to see if they can make you satisfied…be smart, be direct and most of all, make sure you take careful notes and get commitments and substantive information in writing!)
Right now, these companies are busy staffing up their agencies with call centers getting into operation nationwide….ready to start talking to insureds and working with estimators and contractors to get things moving along. Now for some small number of people these things may change….but these determinations will come on a case by case basis….and those things won’t happen quickly.
Here is one important tip….above all else….get proactive and assertive with your claims…as soon as local officials allow you to…get in and make assessments of damage, and get your claim started…so that your claim number is at the top of the heap!
So what else is gonna happen? Well, for just about everyone….millions of people…both those that left…and those that hunkered down….we’ve all got some hot and very long days ahead of us. What we’re all seeing…with very few exceptions is that wonderful sense of community and everyone pulling together. Anyone that’s ridden out storms before knows (and expects that)…no matter what…for the rest of our lives…we’ll all be saying…
“I remember where I was during hurricane Irma!”
In the lead up to all this…it’s critical for everyone to remember…that everyone is stressed….and so we all want to be working extra hard to practice manners and humility and compassion…to everyone around us. No matter how old you are (and especially if you are officially a Florida Cracker)…it never hurts to bring back…and use on a regular basis “Yes Mamn! and No Sir!”…words can diffuse any tense situation.
So a few thoughts to keep in mind:
1.If you evacuated…and you’re hundreds of miles from home…..you really out to just consider staying there for as long as you can. Roads are going to be tough for a good bit. What’s the point of leaving momma’s good cooking and loading that car up…when you can stay safe and secure while the congestion clears?
2. Listen carefully to all local instructions. Don’t risk getting on the road headed home only to find that your area has not yet been cleared. If damage has been done, there’s probably not much difference you’re gonna make in the first days anyway.
3. When you do get back home, you will want to immediately begin taking full stock of your damage…and begin communicating with your insurance carrier directly. (I want to state again….the carriers have done excellent jobs of staffing up and being responsive to their policy holders….you should always give them every opportunity to satisfy you and your claim…before you consider seeking outside assistance with attorneys or public adjusters or anyone.)
4.Keep a notebook and write down all important dates, phone numbers and responses.
5.Document damage with phone and video.
6.Think long and hard before you sign anything or agree to anything…..with carriers or with anyone else.
7. And one final point…..we’re already experiencing pretty severe problems with qualified labor and contractors…even before the damage from the storm….things are going to get even more pressured as the days and weeks…and all the demands placed on these industries increase…so probably the best advice is to think long and hard before entering any contracting decisions. In considering this point…think long and hard about the pressures our state, federal and local officials will be under…for months they will be examining critical infrastructure in many areas of the state. If there is any way you and your family can reduce the pressures they are under to work on your project…the better off everyone will be.
To be more clear and blunt about this contracting point. If there is any way that you can make do without doing ANY contracting work for 6 months…a year maybe….live with relatives, park a mobile home on your lot…whatever. Just let the critical contracting needs and infrastructure decisions and priorities be addressed first….and then, months (years?) later…sit back and make contracting decisions under much less pressured circumstances.
THE BOTTOM LINE….DEEP BREATHS…
LISTEN TO AND UNDERSTAND THE CRITICAL PRESSURES THAT OUR FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL OFFICIALS ARE UNDER….
THEN RELY ON THE ADVICE OF PROFESSIONALS!
There are going to be some absolutely complex issues dealing with the conflict between different insurance policies…and the rights and responsibilities of contractors, insurance companies…and policy holders….your key is to keep out of those conflicts!
See this video that explains some of these issues: