Tony | Edited by Sam D
The chaos and clear-up after a storm can cause nightmares for homeowners, be it from flooding to serious property damage or even just a few tiles falling from the roof.
To make sure you're prepared, here are our key tips on what to do before and after a storm, and how to make an insurance claim if your home and its belongings are badly damaged......
What should I do before a storm arrives? First things first - make sure you have easy access to up-to-date emergency phone numbers as you may need to act quickly to sort the problem. Also, make sure your mobile phone is fully charged as a communication back up in case a landline is cut.
Then ensure you secure your home, lock gates, shut windows and store any important documents safely out of reach of possible damage - particularly from flooding. Try and store any loose objects such as garden furniture you may have in the open, or tie them down as best you can.
Check if a flood warning has been issued in your area. Keep an eye on whether there is a risk of flooding in your area:
- In Northern Ireland, check NI direct or twitter account for regular updates.
- In England, check Gov.uk.
- In Scotland, check SEPA.
What do I do if there's emergency damage from the storm? If you've been badly hit, act quickly:
- To report a possible gas leak, contact the National Grid on 0800 111 999.
- If you've electrical problems, call your local electricity distributor, NOT your energy company (see a list of emergency contact numbers here).
- Report any sewage hazards to your local council.
Need to carry out emergency repairs? Don't do anything unsafe yourself and where possible, contact your insurer first it should have a 24-hour claims line and it should then arrange for someone to do any work that's covered.
If you can't get through, or it won't be able to fix the problem quickly enough, arrange to have the damage fixed yourself by calling a qualified plumber, electrician or builder. Make sure you keep any receipts as this will form part of your claim.
What do you need to submit for an insurance claim? Provide full details of the circumstances surrounding anything that's been lost or damaged, plus any evidence. Take photographs of damage to your home, contents or car, or film the footage. This should all help provide proof.
How to claim if vital documents are damaged or destroyed Seek copies from the relevant provider, such as the DVLA for motoring documents, brokers or insurers for duplicate insurance documents, utility providers and the Passport Office. Check Gov.uk for details on how to replace birth certificates.
What will insurers accept as evidence of ownership if items are really badly damaged - e.g. if personal possessions have blown away? Any photographs of you with that item when undamaged, or held by friends and relatives, will demonstrate you owned the relevant item.
Also keep receipts, credit card bills or bank account statements that show purchases. Importantly, don't throw away damaged possessions without first discussing it with your claims adviser, as they will need to be assessed.
What if you can't live in your home? Are insurers likely to help me? Home insurance nearly always includes cover for alternative accommodation so let them know quickly, to avoid any delay.
When should I make an insurance claim? It's always best to act as swiftly as possible. The longer you leave it, there's a chance the cost to repair or replace the damaged property could rise.
What if I plan to redecorate the property myself? Don't rush to redecorate your home as it can take weeks for storm or flood-damaged property to dry out. And don't lift wet carpets unless absolutely necessary, as they may shrink.
What about protecting my home against a future storm (or flood) damage? Here are some tips for those who live in flood-prone areas:
Ensure drains and gutters are clear of debris so rainfall can flow away.
Place valuable and electrical items in high cupboards or on top floors to prevent damage.
Ensure outdoor furniture and other items which are likely to float away are safely restrained.
Store important documents in a watertight bag in a dry, accessible place - preferably upstairs.
Make a list of useful numbers you may need such as your insurer, local council and emergency services.
Buy air brick covers or flood boards to block doorways.