It's human nature to put things off, but Port Aransas insurance agents advise you to fight that urge if you want to make sure you're ready, insurancewise, if a hurricane strikes.
Hurricane Dolly was believed to be headed for the Brownsville area at the time of this writing. But, for a while there, the storm gave Mustang Island a scare, and that should serve as a wake-up call for any Port Aransans who have been sleeping on the job of getting their windstorm, flood and homeowners insurance affairs in order.
Folks who wait until a hurricane actually is threatening the Texas coast likely will find themselves out of luck if the want to buy new windstorm or flood insurance or pay late bills on existing policies, said Bryan Richter, the agent at the Farmers Insurance office in Port Aransas.
Insurance companies generally do not write new policies when a hurricane is in the Gulf of Mexico, Richter said. And a lapsed policy won't take effect again until after the hurricane is out of the Gulf.
Richter said folks who bought their windstorm and flood insurance years ago should make sure they're not un- der-insured. Construction costs have gone up over the years. The cost of replacing a given house today might not be the same as it was when an insurance policy on the structure was purchased a long time ago.
"If you got (a policy) 10 years ago, it's probably not the right amount of coverage," Richter said.
Here's a break for business owners: About a year ago, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association - the body through which insurance agents purchase windstorm insurance for customers - began offering business interruption coverage for windstorm damage. The insurance will pay $50 to $1,000 per day, with a total pay-out up to $100,000, to make up for lost business income when the merchant has been unable to operate due to a damaged place of business.
"It's a good benefit," said Sam Roberts, manager/producer at GSM Insurors in Port Aransas. "It's not all that expensive, and at least it gives the business owner something."
For both home and business owners, Richter said it's a good idea to videotape the entire exterior and interior of your building in order to provide proof of just what the place looked like and what possessions existed inside before a storm comes along and wrecks everything so badly that it's unrecognizable.
As a storm approaches, folks should make sure they know where their insurance policy papers are and that they'll be able to present them to their agent after the storm.
However, a homeowner's first move after a storm should be to go home and do everything reasonable to protect a damaged home from further damage. For example, tarps should be put over holes in the roof where rain could get in and cause additional, preventable damage after the main storm has passed, Richter said.
After securing your home or business after a storm, you should contact your insurance agent to start the process of getting the money you need to rebuild. If phones lines are down, go directly to the agent's office.
Roberts said folks should try to be patient. It might take a while for an insurance adjustor to come out and assess the dollar damage amount done to a person's property.
"We do our level best to get an adjustor out there as soon as possible," Roberts said. "The problem is, we have many, many claims and few adjustors, so it does take people time to get to everyone."
If possible, Roberts said, it would be a good idea to have a contractor's repair estimate already on hand when an adjustor shows up. And even if the adjustor doesn't offer as much as you think you're going to need to do repairs, all is not lost, Roberts said.
"You can negotiate with these people," he said.
Keeping receipts for insured possessions would come in handy when trying to prove that certain expensive possessions really did come with a specific price tag, Roberts said.
"If you can show someone a receipt, that's one thing," Roberts said. "Heresay is something else."