For Immediate Release
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Long-time North Minneapolis resident Mary Ann Schissler experienced a near miss in the wake of a damaging tornado that leveled her neighborhood last May. Schissler was at home when a tornado tore through her community, knocking two large trees onto her roof. As she was carried from her home to safety, Schissler knew the damage to her house was severe – a home that had been in her family since 1921. But unlike some of her neighbors, after the storm cleared Schissler had the peace of mind in knowing that just two weeks prior she had purchased a new homeowner’s insurance policy.
Nearly one year after a tornado damaged Schissler’s home and hundreds more in North Minneapolis, communities across Minnesota are participating today in an annual Statewide Tornado Drill. As sirens all over the state sound for severe weather season, Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak reminded all Minnesotans to be prepared for bad weather, including the importance of reviewing their insurance needs ahead of the summer storm season.
“Last year, the nation faced one of the worst storm seasons in recent memory, causing billions of dollars in damages to homes, businesses, and property,” said Commissioner Rothman. “But having the proper insurance coverage meant the difference between financial security and financial disaster for countless storm victims across our state.
“Make no mistake: wind, hail, rain, and storms are coming – it is not a matter of if, but when,” Rothman said. “Now is the time for all Minnesotans to review their insurance needs and take a detailed inventory of their possessions.”
On Thursday, Rothman and Mayor Rybak visited the repaired home of Mary Ann Schissler in North Minneapolis to discuss how important homeowner’s and renter’s insurance are to avoid financial devastation in the event of a natural disaster. In all, Schissler’s home suffered $100,000 in damages; of which her insurer covered $91,800. To date, nearly $64 million in claims have been paid on insurance policies for damage caused by last year’s tornado. More than 90 percent of all tornado-related insurance claims have been resolved, with roughly 350 claims still outstanding.
Minneapolis is recovering strongly from the May 22, 2011 tornado: 2,847 permits related to tornado repair have been pulled with a value of $28.2 million. Ninety-three percent of the 206 properties that sustained major damage have been repaired or demolished, or that work is underway.
Mayor Rybak stressed the importance of having adequate homeowners, renters, and auto policies ahead of the summer storm season. “We can’t control when severe weather will strike, but we can control how we react,” said Mayor Rybak. “Doing everything within your means now to protect your home, belongings and automobile in advance of severe weather is an investment that will pay off in the long run.”
The Commerce Department, which deployed its Consumer Response Team (CRT) following the storm, has been providing support for victims of the North Minneapolis Tornado over the course of the last year. The Department’s insurance experts have fielded basic insurance questions, explained insurance rights, and dealt with complaints regarding delayed insurance claims, lender/foreclosure issues, and insurance contractor issues. Roughly half of all CRT calls have been from consumers with basic insurance questions about how to get their claims processed. The other half have been complaints about delayed claims.
“When the unimaginable happens, we are here to help,” said Commissioner Rothman. “Life changing moments can happen in a blink of an eye – and when they do, our experts are standing by to answer your questions, help you understand your rights, and to help ensure your insurance claims are handled quickly, fairly, and honestly.”
Under Rothman’s leadership, the Commerce Department has developed a one-stop Disaster Information Center to help all Minnesota homeowners and businesses review their insurance needs and prepare accordingly for natural disasters that may damage their home, auto, or property. Some of the tips included in the Center are:
Complete a Home Inventory
The Department of Commerce urges consumers to take inventory of their belongings ahead of the summer storm season. Research suggests that 48 percent of consumers do not have an inventory of their possessions. Of those who do, 32 percent have no photos and 58 percent have no receipts.
This Home Inventory Checklist walks consumers through each room of their home, helping compile a list of their property. By completing the checklist, homeowners who file a claim or qualify for assistance will know what they had in their home that may need to be replaced. Consumers can also download the free myHOME Scr.APP.book app for iPhone® users by visiting the iTunes® App Store or searching 'NAIC' in the app store from their phone.
Information for Renters
If you rent and you do not have renter's insurance, you may want to consider purchasing coverage. Renter's insurance is relatively inexpensive and portable. The average renter's insurance policy costs between $15 and $30 per month and can cover everything from electronics to clothing to household appliances. Replacing all your possessions in the wake of a storm will cost much more.
Storms can damage autos in a number of ways: hail damage to the exterior and glass; wind driven debris damage; damage from fallen trees; and tornado damage. Coverage for these types of losses is provided by your policy under the Comprehensive portion of the auto policy. Some policies call this coverage Other than Collision. Ask your insurance agent how much coverage you have. For more information about auto insurance, click here.
What to Do After a Storm
If a storm damages your property, follow these simple steps:
Be safe. Look out for downed power lines, etc. Do not try to go into an area until the official time is given.
Call your insurance company to report the damage. They will send out adjusters to review the damage and assess the loss. Take photos of the damage and remove personal property if your home cannot be secured. Do not dispose of property until an insurance adjuster has reviewed it for your claim. Many policies include reimbursement for storage costs incurred until your home is repaired.
Beware of storm-chasing contractors. Do not agree to a contract without checking their references and checking with the Department of Labor's Residential Contractors Division at (651) 284-5069.
Call the Minnesota Department of Commerce. For questions regarding insurance call the Minnesota Department of Commerce Consumer Response Team at (651) 296-2488 or (800) 657-3602. You can also visit our website.