Remembering Tennessee’s Resiliency, A Year Later
The March tornadoes from last year tragically resulted in the deaths of 25 people, injuries to many more and significant damage to many homes, vehicles and buildings across Middle Tennessee. In the aftermath of the devastation, we saw selfless volunteerism that captures the best of what it means to be a Tennessean and we saw communities come together to mourn the lost, celebrate their memories and collectively rebuild.
I believe that we can continue to strengthen our communities by ensuring that we are prepared for future disasters. We know from experience that severe weather can strike suddenly, potentially leaving you without power, water or even a home. To minimize danger and discomfort, I urge all Tennesseans to create a plan for weather emergencies and to prepare a “go-bag” with medicine, clothes, documents including your home insurance policy and other personal necessities.
In addition to the loss of life, many Tennesseans were impacted by loss of property. Working in coordination with Governor Lee, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance was immediately on frontlines to help consumers file claims with their insurance carrier. Overall, 19,511 insurance claims totaling over $1.55 billion were filed with insurance companies following the devastating storms. These sobering statistics lead to another disaster preparation recommendation: review your homeowners’ policy and ensure adequate coverage.
Homeowners insurance is critically important because it financially protects consumers’ most valuable property – their homes. Despite the importance, more than half of all homeowners in the United States do not carry adequate homeowners insurance to replace their home and its contents should a catastrophic loss occur. Because not all policies are the same and everyone’s needs can vary, it is important that you consult with your Tennessee-licensed insurance professional to be sure your policy is right for your needs. It is also important to review your policy annually to remind yourself of your coverage and to make any updates based on new purchases, renovations, increases in property value or increases in costs to rebuild or replace personal property.
Another hard-learned lesson for many is the importance of documenting one’s personal property. Regardless of the type of coverage you buy, maintaining a detailed inventory of your property’s contents will assist you if a disaster strikes. It is helpful to take photos and videos of your possessions to help you have a record of your belongings. In addition, be sure to also write down descriptions, including year, make and model numbers, where appropriate. You should be sure to store your inventory somewhere it can be easily accessed after a disaster such as fireproof box, safe or bank deposit box. Additionally, electronic documents should be secured with strong passwords and saved securely to the cloud or physically on external hard drives that are similarly stored in secure locations protected from fire and water.
Despite all the obstacles that we have faced, Tennesseans continue to show their character and grit with unwavering resiliency. One year ago, as the storm cleared and the loss and devastation became apparent, we also saw neighbors helping each other, communities offering assistance and the Volunteer spirit thriving. While we cannot prevent another tornado or deadly storm from occurring, each Tennessean can take steps to be prepared for potential damage by taking the steps outlined above.
For additional questions about your insurance policy or to file a complaint with our Insurance Division, please call us at call 615-741-2218 or 1-800-342-4029 or visit us online at tn.gov/insurance. Stay safe, Tennessee.
Carter Lawrence serves as the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and State Fire Marshal.