Don't get blown over by expensive wind damage

Whether you live in Tornado Alley, Hurricane Country or anywhere else that gets battered by high winds, the right home insurance coverage can shield you from the high costs of rebuilding.

Does home insurance cover wind damage?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, standard home and business insurance policies cover wind damage, damage from wind-driven rain and damage caused by falling trees. In other words, if the wind knocks over a tree, the tree breaks a window and rain, blown in by the wind, damages some of your belongings, you'll probably be covered.

However, your state may have different rules. In Texas, for example, wind coverage doesn't come standard with home insurance policies in certain areas that are prone to hurricanes. Home owners in 14 coastal counties must buy wind insurance coverage from a special pool called the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.

Also keep in mind that things can get complicated when several disasters hit at once. Many home insurance policies have what's called an anti-concurrent causation clause. This clause stipulates that if two disasters occur simultaneously and the policyholder is covered only for one of them, the other disaster even if it's included in the policy) will not be covered. Take, for example, flood damage, which is almost always excluded in standard policies. If hurricane winds tear off a home's roof and that home then floods, the insurer may not cover any of the damage because flood damage is excluded in the policy.

Tips for minimizing or preventing wind damage

The right insurance is your last line of defense. The first? Preventing or minimizing wind damage in the first place. You can't make your home totally "windproof"-- a direct hit from a tornado almost certainly will cause significant damage. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA) has some suggestions for making your home more wind-resistant:

  • Identify your risk region. A FEMA report identified four zones where property owners are particularly likely to encounter high winds. A quadrangle in the middle of the country from the Texas Panhandle up to Minnesota, east to western Pennsylvania and south to Alabama) is at the highest risk for wind up to 250 miles per hour. The Atlantic and Gulf coasts are at high risk for hurricane winds. Knowing your local and regional dangers can help you make smart decisions.
  • Prepare your home and roof. You or a contractor might want to double-check the integrity of your roof, gables, double-entry doors and garage doors. Strong roofs and reinforced doorways create a protective shell around your home, according to FEMA. If wind gets inside your home, it can put pressure on the walls and severely damage them.
  • Protect windows and glass doors. Install storm shutters to protect any glass that separates you from the outside world. You can make your own out of plywood, if necessary.
  • Keep the roof over your head. If you live in a hurricane zone, fasten your roof to the wall with galvanized metal hurricane straps. This may require some expertise, so consider hiring a contractor.

If your home has been compromised -- for instance, a tree falls on your home or a storm rips off part of your roof -- be weary of the "do it yourself" approach. Wind damage can create all sorts of hidden dangers like electrocution and fire hazards. Call your insurance company immediately to have the damage examined. If it's safe to do so, cover broken windows to minimize additional damage.

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