(BPT) - The U.S. has experienced significant shifts in the frequency, severity and locations of natural disasters - including floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires - during the past decade.
As a result, more than 800 emergency or disaster declarations were made in the U.S. from 2005-2015, according to FEMA data. The insured losses stemming from natural catastrophes such as these average $24 billion annually.
Homeowners face severe risks from these disasters, yet many have not connected the dots between these shifts and the impact on their home insurance needs. A recent survey commissioned by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) found that fewer than 22 percent of homeowners view weather patterns or disasters as an important factor when updating their homeowners insurance policy. Missing these links can be costly.
'Changing weather patterns can dramatically impact what insurance should be carried on a property,' says Mike Consedine, NAIC chief executive officer. 'When homeowners don't regularly review their policies, important gaps in coverage can be missed. You should re-evaluate your risk profile at least once a year to ensure your existing homeowners policy provides the protection you need.'
Despite Consedine's recommendation, the survey revealed that 56 percent of homeowners have not reviewed their insurance policies in more than a year. Fourteen percent are unsure when - if ever - they last reviewed their policies.
If it's been awhile since your last insurance review, there's no better time than the present. When evaluating your policy, consider the following questions:
1. Am I now at risk? Are earthquakes, wildfires or other disasters now a threat in my state or region? If you live in Oklahoma, for example, the risk of earthquakes has significantly increased in the last decade. Do I need flood insurance? Some incidents such as floods are not covered by a typical homeowners policy, so you'll need additional coverage.
2. What has changed in my home? If you've moved in with your significant other or an adult child has returned home, consider the impact their belongings will have on your coverage. Create a home inventory and update it annually. The NAIC's MyHome Scr.App.book app (available for iPhone and Android) lets you quickly capture images and descriptions of your possessions. Keep in mind personal items like jewelry, antiques and artwork may require special insurance coverage.
3. Do I save my receipts? Take photos or save receipts from major purchases and store them in a safe place away from your house or apartment. Quick access to these receipts will make filing a claim much easier.
4. What home improvements have I made? Renovations and additions can change the value of your home. Make sure your homeowners insurance policy reflects your home's current value. Some security or smart home features may qualify you for premium discounts.
5. How can I learn more about being prepared? Get educated about your insurance options now to avoid surprises later. Insure U's new Disaster Prep Guides can help determine the best course of action before, during and after a disaster strikes. The guides include information and tips for tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and wildfires.