went bankrupt, causing the state guarantor to take over claims, gumming up an already slow process. It took nine months to collect her first insurance check.

Not all households have the wherewithal to prepare themselves for the worst. But there is some safeguarding that everyone can attempt. Here’s where to start:

tools can provide a starting point for assessing your home’s risk to earthly hazards.

Risk Factor has created a user-friendly tool that outlines flood, fire and extreme-heat risks (and soon other perils, including wind) for most homes across the country. Plug in an address, and it drills down to the property level, illustrating potential hazards. For example, it can show the probability that a property might flood, where the water is likely to pool, the damage it might cause and how much repairs might cost.

hazard maps for earthquakes, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Flood Insurance Program maintain flood maps (which also determine whether a home with a federally backed mortgage is required to have flood insurance). The flood program has recently overhauled its rating methodology, called Risk Rating 2.0, but you’ll have to contact a flood insurance agent who can share more about your property’s unique risk, said Jeremy Edwards, a FEMA spokesman.

You may be able to find more local hazard information, too. Californians, for example, can enter their address into the MyHazards website. And if you’re new to a community, talk to neighbors.

you can do to minimize damage if a flood or fire strike. The costs of mitigation will vary, but it may reduce your insurance premiums. Some insurers, for example, provide meaningful discounts in hurricane-prone regions after homeowners install roof braces or straps, said Alyssa Bourgeois, an insurance producer with MarshMcLennan in Metairie, La.

The Risk Factor website provides suggestions for hazards facing specific properties, and many regions have programs offering residents financial help to harden their homes against specific hazards, though funding is often limited.

Evaluate insurance needs. The insurance market varies greatly by locality and the hazards inherent to the area. Standard homeowners’ and renters’ insurance policies do not cover all hazards. Floods and earthquakes always require separate coverage. Wind and hail (hurricane) coverage may carry its own deductible as part of your homeowners’ insurance, or it may be a separate policy, at least in certain areas. Wildfires, meanwhile, are often incorporated into many policies, experts said.

Flood insurance (see Ann Carrns’s guide here) is generally available through the National Flood Insurance Program, which FEMA manages. Most Californians buy earthquake coverage through the California Earthquake Authority, a nonprofit entity created through state law to provide policies through its member insurers.

enough coverage to replace your property — that is, to rebuild it, not what you’d pay to buy it again, said Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a consumer advocacy group.

But many households in the highest-risk areas, including hurricane-prone states like Louisiana and Florida, are having trouble finding affordable coverage as insurers exit the market in droves.

Jude Boudreaux, a financial planner in New Orleans, said he receives calls weekly from clients questioning whether they should continue living there given the increased insurance costs. “A lot of carriers are leaving Louisiana, so people with policies are getting nonrenewal notices, and there are fewer choices out there,” he said.

Until rates stabilize, many people are resorting to the usual strategies to keep costs manageable, like increasing deductibles and reducing some coverage, including on “other structures” such as garages and personal property.

cars and other vehicles. Comprehensive auto coverage, required by auto lenders, generally provides protection against natural disasters. But older, low-value cars may not have comprehensive (and it may not be worth the cost anyway). “In those cases, we’d recommend setting aside the amount of the premium you’d pay each year into a savings account instead of giving it to the insurer,” Mr. Heller said.

home inventory spreadsheet, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has a related app, and there are other inventory apps as well.

The least time-consuming method might be to walk through each room of your home with your mobile phone’s video camera, narrating the contents along the way. Don’t forget to open up closets, cabinets and drawers, as well as storage spaces and the garage. Then email the file to yourself, or store it securely online (and perhaps on an external hard drive).

There’s real money at stake: Ms. Gouaux was able to recover only roughly $14,000 of the $53,000 in contents coverage on her wind and hail policy.

“The night we left, someone posted: Make sure you take photos of all the rooms,” she said. “We didn’t do a good job. By the time we got back, everything was all over the place, and it was very hot.”

fireproof and waterproof box. Consider storing electronic copies on an external hard drive (using password protection) or in the cloud.

FEMA’s financial emergency kit has an exhaustive check list of what to gather and protect, along with a 41-page emergency financial first-aid kit that can be filled out online and stored in a secure place. The American Red Cross has a version of its own.

If you have to leave your home, experts suggest taking key documents with you in case you need to file a claim with your insurer or apply for FEMA assistance.

Keep emergency funds. Having access to money for any basic needs is also something to consider. If there’s no electricity and A.T.M.s aren’t working, you’ll probably need cash. Stash some in a safe place.

And if you receive any federal benefits through paper checks, now is the time to switch to automatic electronic deposits. Ditto for any other payments you may receive by mail.

take. Mr. Boudreaux, who has lived with the threat of hurricanes for most of his life, said to walk through your home and think about what’s irreplaceable — it probably fits into a plastic box.

“Define what those things are, or create a list so if someone knocked on your door and said, ‘The fire is coming in 30 minutes’ — what would you take?” he said. “It’s also good life perspective exercise.”


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Record Flash Flooding Kills At Least 25 In Eastern Kentucky

In Fisty, Kentucky, residents returned to their flood-ravaged homes on Saturday to clean up and salvage what they could.

The area is in clean-up mode, but some smaller communities still need help finding the lost and recovering those presumed dead.

In Fisty, Kentucky, the town is just beginning to clean-up.

“I’ve lost so many neighbors, my next-door neighbors just across the creek, their whole trailer washed away,” says Angela Ritchie.

Up and down the river forks you see washed out Appalachian towns; the storms swelling creeks into torrents; rural Knott County took the brunt of damage and death. Hubert Slone picked up what’s left of his daughter’s trailer home, and said her neighbors lost all four of their children in the floods.

“She tried to holler at them, and they couldn’t hear because of the roar of the water. She saw them get on the top of the house; it came down here, hit her trailer and all went down into the creek,” said Slone.

Kentucky’s governor says the death toll from floods has surpassed two dozen and is likely to grow.

Northward in Hindman, Kentucky, the deluge caked the town of 700 in river mud.

“We’re a small close-knit town; everybody knows everybody. Everybody knows everybody’s kids; everybody knows everybody’s grandparents,” said Mayor Tracy Neice.

The mayor pointed out properties of his own, totally destroyed, remembering those killed.

“All three of those confirmed deceased, all three were friends of mine,” said Neice.

On the main street people get a hot meal, water, and cleaning products.

“The most difficult thing for us to deal with is the loss of life,” said Pastor Mike Caudill of Hindman First Baptist Church, as he provided spiritual assistance.

The sense of loss palpable in this town, as well as actual pieces of mountaineer culture.

“If it has strings on it, I’ve made one or two at least. Dobros, mandolins, ukuleles,” said

Paul Williams of Appalachian Artisan Center.

The Appalachian Artisan Center teaches luthiery –the art of making stringed instruments– flood waters tore through the inventory and ruining the wood they’re made from

“The amount of hours is the devastating thing. I came the first day after and I just had to go home. I just couldn’t take it in,” said Williams.

This is the latest string of catastrophic rains that pounded parts of the U.S. this summer, and scientists warn climate change is making weather disasters like these more common.

: newsy.com


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