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September 16, 2005   Email to Friend 

All Eyes On The Gulf
Jeff Helms

For storm safety tips, visit the Alfa Severe Storm Center at www.alfains.com.
With hurricane season in full swing, Alfa Insurance has geared up to handle claims and is advising policyholders of what they can do to minimize the threat to their lives and property. Alfa President Jerry A. Newby said the company has updated its disaster preparedness plan to better serve its customers.

"After Hurricane Ivan, Alfa handled more than 57,000 claims totaling more than $325 million," Newby said. "That experience highlighted the value of our experienced, localized customer service team, but it also gave us an opportunity to identify areas where we can improve. Our highest priority is to help our policyholders get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible."

When a hurricane enters the Gulf of Mexico, Alfa puts its claims adjusters on standby across the Southeast and is prepared to relocate additional personnel to affected areas if needed. In addition, Alfa is the only insurance company with service centers in all 67 Alabama counties. Those offices have implemented new procedures to simplify the claims process. Alfa also has supplies and generators on hand to get storm centers up and running, should they be damaged or lose power.

Additionally, Alfa has added a severe storm center page on its website (www.alfains.com). This comprehensive site provides useful information about preparing for hurricanes and other weather-related disasters. There are also links to emergency resources and a section where Alfa will release storm-related news should it be necessary. This new section of the website will help policyholders protect their lives and property and expedite claims following a storm.

Newby said policyholders should first make sure their families are safe because "property can be replaced; lives can't." Once it's safe to return to a storm-damaged area, policyholders should take any steps necessary to prevent further damage and then contact their local Alfa service center to file a claim.

A poll sponsored this year in part by The National Hurricane Survival Initiative found that many residents along the East and Gulf coasts don't plan to take simple steps to protect themselves and their homes from hurricanes, despite the devastation caused by the five hurricanes last year.

The survey reported that 47 percent of those surveyed had no disaster plan for the hurricane season, 56 percent of those surveyed said they felt "not too" or "not at all" vulnerable and 25 percent would do nothing to prepare for a storm, even after a watch or warning was issued. The poll also found that one in four residents mistakenly believed they could evacuate flood-prone areas 30 minutes to an hour before a hurricane made landfall.

Some other findings of the survey included:

• More than half thought masking tape helps prevent windows from shattering. This is a widely held myth. An even larger number of people responded that they believed candles, a serious fire hazard, are a "good source of light" during a storm-induced power failure. • Ninety-six percent of respondents were unaware that a garage door is the structural element most likely to fail first in a hurricane. And few know what to do in advance to bolster the door's structural integrity. • Four in 10 did not know their standard homeowners policies do not insure them against flooding from a hurricane.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) also reported that only 25 percent of residents living in a flood plain actually purchase flood insurance. This despite the fact that tropical systems are notorious for causing widespread flooding as they come ashore and homeowner policies will not cover flooding.

"Protecting your home with the proper insurance is part of responsible home ownership," said Loretta Worters, vice president of the I.I.I., in a recent press release. "That means reading and understanding your policy, and getting additional coverage if you've made changes or additions to your home."


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