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Insurance helps weather the storm

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Hurricane season has arrived with a vengeance. Tropical Storm Alberto has already kicked open the door and brought near-hurricane force winds to Florida's Gulf Coast. In their June12 Letter to Airmen on personal financial management, Secretary Wynne and General Moseley point out that personal well-being affects job performance. They urge Airmen not to wait until disaster strikes. 

Now -- before the next "Katrina" hits -- is the time to ensure our Airmen and their families are properly prepared for the season. The following information will go a long way in protecting Airmen from undesired consequences of a storm or hurricane. 

Natural disasters are expensive. As a result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Air Force members living in government housing filed over 1550 personal property claims. 

To date, the Air Force has paid $3.3 million to those claimants. Also, private insurance companies have paid our Airmen, living on and off base, more than $6 million to cover their storm related losses. 

Consider full replacement value insurance. Unfortunately, in most cases, neither the government claims process nor private insurance was sufficient to completely compensate Airmen for their storm losses. Many Air Force members with homeowners' or renters' insurance sadly learned that their losses exceeded the limits of their coverage. Whether living on base or off, Air Force personnel should review their policies and consider their needs for adequate insurance. 

Under limited circumstances, Air Force members who do not live in government housing and do not have renter's insurance may be eligible to file a claim against the Air Force. However, even if approved, those claims will be paid at a depreciated amount based on the age and original cost of the damaged or lost items. 

In contrast, renter's insurance that includes full personal property replacement coverage can replace or repair damaged personal property at current prices. The difference in compensation between depreciated value and full replacement value can be significant. 

Consider flood insurance. As made resoundingly clear from Katrina, hurricanes are not only a matter of great wind damage, but also flooding and water damage. Damages due to flooding are generally excluded under homeowners' policies. Therefore, Airmen should be aware of and consider purchasing flood insurance if they reside in areas that have any potential to flood. 

During Hurricane Isabel, some Langley personnel may have experienced first-hand what storm surge from a hurricane could do to their homes. Those with flood insurance should be able to completely repair and restore their home. 

Consider comprehensive coverage for vehicles. Another area of focus for our Airmen is their vehicle insurance needs. If household belongings are being damaged, it's a safe bet that any vehicles left behind will be damaged as well, especially if there's flooding. 

Airmen should know that current policy, absent a waiver for special circumstances, limits vehicle claims payments to $3,000 per incident, regardless of the number of automobiles affected. Therefore, Air Force members stationed in hurricane-prone areas should strongly consider purchasing comprehensive coverage for all their vehicles. 

Always inventory, photograph and safeguard your property. As always, it's important that all Airmen should make current and detailed inventories of their personal property. A simple list of personal property is helpful, but a picture, whether photographs or videotape, is worth a thousand words, and may be worth thousands of dollars in reimbursement for damages. A household goods inventory from a recent PCS move may help in proving ownership of personal property. 

Any record of ownership should be safeguarded. For example, if evacuated, Airmen should take their videotape or inventory with them, or should provide a copy to a friend or relative living in a different location. 

For more information contact the legal office at (321)-494-8076.