Financially protecting yourself from the storm

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– In the wake of the devastating tornadoes in Moore, Okla., homeowners in Indiana are wondering about their own risk when it comes to natural disasters.

“Our biggest one is flooding, that’s probably the one with the most disasters tied to it. The other big ones are wind, tornadoes, ice,” said Janet Crider, the State Hazard Mitigation Officer with the Department of Homeland Security.

FEMA can make a disaster declaration if the damage is too much for a community to handle, but Crider said many people are surprised about the amount of money the government gives out.

“The average for tornadoes is about $4,000 per person,” Crider said. “That’s based on even people who have insurance. It carries them over until their insurance can come in, to provide food, temporary housing, things like that.”

That was the average in the state’s most recent FEMA emergency declaration after the tornado in Henryville. Several volunteer organizations stepped up to rebuild homes. Small Business Administration loans and the state’s Disaster Relief Fund can also provide assistance. However, Crider said the best line of defense in the face of the uncertain severe weather season is simple.

“The easiest, most effective mitigation is that insurance policy because it will keep you from ruin in a disaster,” Crider said.

Homeowner’s insurance is required in Indiana if you have a mortgage.  Crider said it’s important to know what your policy covers.

“A lot of people don’t understand that regular homeowner’s policies do not cover flood losses,” said Angela Whitaker with McGowan Insurance Group in Indianapolis. She said homeowners should get both flood insurance for their home and for the contents in it.

Whitaker also recommended reviewing policies annually with an insurance agent and after making larger purchases or improvements to your home. She said it’s best to prepare for the worst before the chaos of the storm.

“You’re wondering where your wedding pictures are and where your sentimental things are and to add onto that financial devastation, it’s really tough on people,” Whitaker said.

FEMA also provides information for homeowners to physically protect themselves from tornadoes by building safe rooms in their homes or small businesses. Crider said after the tornadoes in Moore, many people have been looking into building safe rooms and shelters here in Indiana.