Insurance Commissioner Walter A. Bell said Tuesday that the Alabama Department of Insurance has launched its response efforts to Hurricane Katrina.
“We will hit the ground running once FEMA opens its disaster centers,” Commissioner Bell said. “We are operating under our Disaster Response Plan. We are coordinating with the Governor’s Office, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, other state and federal agencies, and the major insurers to make sure that Alabama citizens are taken care of in a prompt and fair fashion.”
Governor Bob Riley, who toured affected areas Tuesday, said steps taken by the Department of Insurance after Hurricane Ivan will help streamline operations following Katrina, noting that in July the Insurance Department launched a reorganization. In the reorganization, the Deparment created a consumer services division from parts of other divisions that handled consumer protection duties.
“Under Walter Bell’s leadership, the Department of Insurance has centralized its consumer service component,” Governor Riley said. “This will help the Insurance Department more effectively serve Alabama families and business owners in the coming days.”
Commissioner Bell said the first priority was to make sure adjusters were properly credentialed to enter affected areas.
“Our staff has coordinated with the companies and adjusting firms leading up to Cindy and Dennis, and have touched bases again with these folks,” Commissioner Bell said. “We will have adjuster-credential operations based in Baldwin and Mobile counties shortly.
“In the coming days, we expect FEMA to settle on locations for disaster centers. As with Hurricane Ivan, we will staff these centers for as long as necessary.”
Commissioner Bell said he will adjust the Department’s operating hours as necessary once the volume of inquiries increases.
One important fact that must be remembered is that homeowners’ policies generally do not cover flood damages, which was a major source of damage in Mobile and Baldwin counites. Flood damage is covered by flood insurance purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program.
If you do not have flood insurance, and you reside in Baldwin, Mobile or Washington counties, you may apply for assistance by calling the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 800-621-3362.
Citizens can reach the Department by phone at 334-269-3550 or at 800-433-3966 (in-state toll free). The Department’s web site is http://www.aldoi.gov/, which has email links for questions and an official complaint form.
Once homeowners are available to return to affected areas, they should first contact their agent to file a claim. If the agent is not available, then they should contact the insurance company. Here is a list of claims hotline numbers for the major property insurance carriers in the state:
CINCINNATI CASUALTY 877-242-2544
MET LIFE 800-854-6011
STATE FARM 800-732-5246
ST. PAUL’S TRAVELERS (BUS.) 800-238-6225
TRAVELERS (HOME) 800-252-4633
AMERICAN MODERN 800-375-2075
NATIONAL SECURITY 800-239-2358
*NATIONAL FLOOD PROGRAM 770-396-9117
(* -- The National Flood Insurance Program is a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and is not regulated by the Alabama Department of Insurance.)
Commissioner Bell also urged Alabama citizens to follow certain procedures in order to safely and effectively prepare for an insurance claim.
- If your home is damaged or is currently awaiting repairs, take steps to protect your home from further damage and document the state of your home with photos or video.
- Beware of downed power lines, especially near water – to avoid risk of electrocution.
- When returning home, do not drive through flooded areas or through road barriers – they are there for your safety. Remember: Turn around, down drown.
- If your house is damaged, shut electricity off at the breakers. Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety.
- Maintain copies of your household inventory and other documentation. This will assist the adjuster in assessing the value of the destroyed property.
- Immediately report property damage or additional damage to your insurance agent and company.
- Do not have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs.
- Beware of fly-by-night repair businesses. Hire licensed and reputable service and repair people. Get references and use local businesses, when possible.
- Take precautions if the damage requires you to leave your home. Let your agent or insurance company know of your temporary forwarding address and phone number.