Free Advice and Insurance Information After a disaster, even if it's a relatively minor one, it's nice to know that expert advice is just a phone call away. Here are some sources to contact:
  • The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning & Restoration Certification in Vancouver, Washington, maintains a nationwide list of professionals who specialize in carpet and upholstery cleaning, water-damage restoration, fire and smoke restoration, and odor control. You can call the organization to get the names of certified professionals in your area. The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning & Restoration Certification
    2715 E. Mill Plain Blvd.
    Vancouver, WA 98661
    800-835-4624. The Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group, offers the free booklet, "Settling Insurance Claims After a Disaster." For a copy, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: The Insurance Information Institute
    Publications Service Center
    110 William St.
    New York, NY 10038
  • The National Crime Prevention Council, a clearinghouse for information on home security, offers the free brochures, "Lock Your Windows and Doors" and "Home Security: Invest In It Now." You can contact the council at: 1700 K St. NW
    Washington, D.C. 20006-3817
    The Insurance Connection If your home emergency looks like it will get expensive, call your insurance agent right away and file a timely claim. For lesser emergencies — especially those that won't exceed the deductible on your homeowner's insurance — you might still want to contact your agent for some advice. But hold off on filing a claim. "It isn't smart to file a home insurance claim for every little thing that happens," advises Loretta Worters, director of public relations for The Insurance Information Institute in New York City. "Home insurance is really there for a catastrophe. When you file a lot of little claims, year after year, it will drive your rate up and might even lead to the policy not being renewed." Some other tips to remember: Although your first impulse after a fire or flood might be to throw away charred or water-damaged items, keep them in case the insurance adjuster wants material evidence of the items you are claiming as a loss. Take a complete inventory of your losses and photograph or videotape the site before you make any temporary or permanent repairs. Keep all receipts. If you must find temporary housing, keep track of your expenses; they might be covered by your policy. And be sure to check with your tax adviser or accountant to see if you can claim a personal casualty loss on your federal income tax.
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