Tips to Consumers to Prepare for Weather-Related Disasters

State Insurance Commissioner Diane Koken urged Pennsylvanians to review their insurance policies and provided recovery strategies if their homes and businesses suffer weather-related property damage.

Commissioner Koken outlined several steps to take to prepare for a weather-related disaster:

  • Take an inventory of your property, noting model numbers and serial numbers. Store the information off the premises, such as with a relative or in a safe-deposit box;
  • Talk to an insurance agent about insurance options and possible gaps in your current coverage;
  • Learn the facts about the different types of insurance policies that are available for homeowners, renters and owners of condominiums. Talk to an agent about the types of coverage needed; and
  • Learn the facts about flood insurance. As many Gulf Coast homeowners learned, a standard homeowner policy does not include flood protection.  


Commissioner Koken also offered the following tips to consider should a weather-related disaster occur:

  • If you suffer damage to your home or vehicle, contact your agent or insurance company as soon as possible to arrange a visit from an adjuster;
  • Before doing any repairs to your house, make a list of the damage and take photos or video. Retrieve any inventory lists you keep of your home’s contents;
  • Protect your home from further damage by making temporary repairs until your insurance company is able to advise you. Save any receipts for materials purchased for repairs. Do not throw away damaged property until the claims adjuster advises you to do so;
  • Do not make any permanent repairs until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs. If you make permanent repairs before the adjuster has seen the damage, your claim could be denied;
  • Most damage resulting from fallen trees is covered by your homeowner’s policy. Check with your agent or company before calling a tree removal service as removal costs may also be covered. Also, you may be held responsible if one of your trees has fallen on a neighbor’s property. Again, check with your agent or company;
  • Remember, no homeowner’s policy covers flood damage. The only way to protect against flood losses is to purchase flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program. Policies must be in place for 30 days before coverage takes effect;
  • If your claim is denied, review the terms of your policy for what is or is not covered. You may also file an appeal to your insurance company’s claim manager. If questions remain, feel free to contact the Insurance Department; and
  • Be very careful when choosing a contractor to make repairs. Before signing a contract, check references to make sure you are working with a reputable firm. Consult the Better Business Bureau.


“I have seen, first-hand, the devastation of Katrina,” Commissioner Koken said. “In some areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, cleanup is complete and rebuilding is underway. But in other areas, debris removal and demolitions continue and reconstruction is only just beginning.

“There, as here, consumers need to be prepared so they are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous businesses or people,” Koken added. “Examine your options, get more than one estimate for your loss, ask for and check references, and, most importantly, get everything in writing.”

The Insurance Department offers a brochure entitled “Are You Ready if a Disaster Strikes?” To obtain a free copy, visit the Pennsylvania Insurance Department Web site and click on "Publications," use the PDF link below or call the department’s Bureau of Consumer Services at:


  • Harrisburg Regional Office: (717) 787-2317 
  • Philadelphia Regional Office: (215) 560-2630 
  • Pittsburgh Regional Office: (412) 565-5020 
  • Toll-free, automated consumer hotline: 1-877-881-6388 


Questions? Contact: Rosanne Placey or Melissa Fox, Pennsylvania Insurance Department, 717-787-3289 

 “Are You Ready if a Disaster Strikes?”