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Home inventory can aid disaster recovery

January 13, 2013 12:10 am

BY CATHY JETT
BY CATHY JETT

Superstorm Sandy drove home the importance of having a home inventory for Linda Clevenger.

The Stafford County professional organizer always tells her clients how important it is to document everything in their homes in case disaster strikes.

But the value of having such a document was brought into sharp focus after hearing a client relate stories of the devastation that her relatives and their neighbors on Long Island experienced when the storm surge hit.

Some had nothing left except for what was on the top floor of their homes, said Clevenger, who helped gather clothing, toys and household goods for her client to take to them in her RV.

Residents of that area had flood insurance because it was required, she said, but it didn't cover personal belongings such as clothing, electronics and furniture unless they had paid an additional fee to add content coverage to their policy. Even then, they'd need to be able to show what they'd lost in order to be properly reimbursed.

"If you don't have documentation, [insurance agents] are just going to guess what you have," Clevenger said. "It sets you up for frustration and being overwhelmed and almost depressed. Besides losing everything, now you're told that, 'Unless you have documentation, how can you prove anything?'"

A home inventory is basically a list that includes the name of each item in the home, date purchased or age, purchase price and a description. The latter should include including the make and model number, if applicable.

"Don't put just Sylvania TV, but include the serial number and a picture of it," Clevenger said. "Otherwise, how do you prove that you have a 50-inch TV and not a 32-inch?"

A home inventory can be done using a spreadsheet on paper, Excel on a computer or an online program such as the Insurance Information Institute's free home inventory program at knowyour stuff.org. It could even be part of a Cloud-based filing program such as StuffLogic.

Clevenger, who is getting certified to teach people how to use StuffLogic, also recommends including a receipt and, if an item is particularly valuable, an appraisal, for inventoried items. A video of the home can be helpful as well.

A home inventory is just one of a number of important documents that people should compile in case they have to evacuate if there's an emergency, such as a fire, storm or an earthquake like the one that rattled this area in 2011.

Clevenger began putting together a list for clients after hearing of people's experiences in Sandy's wake. It includes such things as contact information for family members, financial advisors and insurance agents, as well as forms of personal identification such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, driver's licenses and passports. These can be either originals or photocopies.

These documents should be kept together along with such things as account numbers for banks, credit unions, credit cards and investments; a marriage certificate, divorce degree or custody agreement; a will and/or trust documents; a recent tax return; military discharge papers; computer user names and passwords; and list of prescriptions.

Clevenger also recommends photocopying both sides of credit cards and driver's licenses.

"That can come in handy if your wallet is stolen," she said.

All the information should be kept together in a file or on a CD or a flash drive so it can be quickly grabbed and taken out of the house in an emergency. Copies should be stored in such places as a safe-deposit box or given to a trusted relative.

"The important thing is to have a copy stored some place besides your home," Clevenger said. "It doesn't do any good if it's lost in a flood or fire or whatever."

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407
Email: cjett@freelancestar.com





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