Prepare, prevent claims ahead of time

By | 87th Air Base Wing Judge Advocate Office | Aug. 26, 2011

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. — With hurricane and typhoon season underway we want to remind everyone that you bear the ultimate responsibility for the safety and security of your personal property. To minimize the risk of property loss or damage, we recommend the following preventive measures. The claims center encourages you to take action as soon as possible whenever the likelihood of a hurricane or typhoon is imminent. Taking a few precautionary measures will prevent or minimize personal property loss or damage.

The following are examples of some of the most common items damaged during hurricanes, typhoons and power outages:

Sheds, trampolines, swing/play sets, etc: These items must be properly secured. Ensure the storage shed is properly anchored and if possible place sand bags on the roof. For additional support, try tying rope around the walls of the shed. This will help keep it in one piece. Trampolines can be secured by turning them over and placing sand bags on the canvas and support rails. Swing/play sets should be anchored down; if not permanently anchored, the set should be flipped over and sandbagged as well.

Free-standing shed contents: In the past, many claims have been presented for items such as TVs, stereos and various other items that are meant to be stored indoors. Items such as these are not protected from high humidity, heat or cold, and should not be kept in storage sheds at all. The only items that should be placed in storage sheds are common outdoor items such as bicycles, lawn mowers, weed eaters, gas cans, etc.

Make an assessment of the contents of the storage shed before the disaster and consider whether items stored would be better protected inside the home. Other items such as lawn chairs, lawn ornaments and small toys should be stored inside before storms approach. Sheds are extremely vulnerable, so be proactive and remove anything which can be easily destroyed or blown away during high winds.

Pools: Blow-up type pools should be drained and stored inside. Durable plastic type pools should be drained and sand bags should be placed on the inside base.

Grills: Due to their weight, propane gas tanks are likely to remain safe from high winds. Grills should be stored. Cold briquettes can be easily removed, placed in a plastic bag and stored inside. Charcoal grills should also be stored inside.

Motorcycles: There are several locations where motorcycles can be kept during severe weather. Some of the dormitories have storage facilities for motorcycles, and specific units may authorize storage of motorcycles during severe weather. Motorcycles don't need to be kept inside the home, but a suitable location should be found to secure it from high winds. If all else fails, tie it down to keep it from blowing over.

Power spikes, surges and outages: High-dollar value electronic items (large screen or plasma televisions, computers, etc.) at no time should be plugged directly into wall outlets. Invest in a surge protector (not a power strip) that is rated for the electronic items. A surge protector is designed to absorb the power spike/surge and prevent damage to your electronic items. Remember, spikes can come through electrical lines, cable lines and phone lines. Some surge protectors have cable outlets as well. Additionally, some of the better brand surge protectors carry warranties that will replace items if damaged or destroyed.

Food spoilage: Typically when there is a power outage, there is an increase in claims for food spoilage. Once power is lost, it needs to be reported to Housing Maintenance so the amount of time without power can be documented and power can eventually be restored. Refrigerators are large insulated coolers. After the power fails, keep the doors closed as much as possible. When preparing for a disaster, fill the empty spaces with bottles of water which will help with the refrigeration process. A full freezer will keep longer than a half-full one. It is advisable to keep a cooler close by and open the refrigerator once and retrieve everything needed for that day and place it into the cooler so you aren't opening and closing the refrigerator door repeatedly. Before tossing out any food it is advisable to first check the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service Web Site at www.fsis.usda.gov. It has useful information on how long food items can stay safe after power outages. Before throwing away food, take pictures of the items, or maintain the packaging or receipts to substantiate any future claims.

These are a few examples of steps that can be taken to minimize loss or damage. Each individual must properly assess their own situation and secure their belongings appropriately. We also recommend documenting (i.e., videotape or take pictures) as much of the contents of the home as possible, in the event a claim needs to be filed the insurance company or respective military branch.

Hurricanes are a regular weather occurrence, and everyone is expected to adequately prepare their property to ride out these storms. Taking the above actions may prevent the loss or damage to personal property, thereby eliminating the need to file a claim. Please visit www.fema.org for additional tips and information.

Contact the 87th Judge Advocate Office at 754-2010, the Air Force Claims Service Center at DSN 986-8044 or visit our web site at https://claims.jag.af.mil for additional questions or concerns. Because the Air Force can only process the claims of USAF employees, members of other services should contact their respective military branch.

Army: 562-6749

Navy: Toll Free: (888) 897-8217, Comm: (757) 440-6315, DSN: 564-3310

Coast Guard: Comm: (757) 628-4212

Marines: Comm: (703) 784-9533; DSN: 278-9533; Hqmc.claims@usmc.mil