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Amica Insurance offers tips for before and after tornadoes strike

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A series of deadly tornadoes that has devastated parts of the Midwest in the past few weeks reminds us all that tornado season is underway.

Amica Insurance offers these tips and reminders to help people protect their homes and families, before and after a tornado strikes. "Amica encourages everyone to prepare for tornadoes, and other disasters, in advance," said Mark Zerba, senior claims examiner. "Ensure that your property has the right insurance coverage and familiarize yourself with warning signals and emergency procedures."

Tornadoes generally appear on the trailing edge of a thunderstorm as distinctive funnel-shaped clouds with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles an hour. Each tornado can cause a path of damage more than a mile wide and 50 miles long.

Tornadoes can strike rapidly, with very little warning. If a tornado watch is issued, it means a tornado is possible.

Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to radio or television reports for information. A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by radar, so seek safe shelter immediately.

State and federal emergency officials recommend the following:

What to do before a tornado:

· Be alert to changing weather conditions.

· Listen to radio or television newscasts for the latest information.

· Look for approaching storms

· Look for the following danger signs: dark, often greenish sky; large hail; a large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating); a loud roar, similar to a freight train.

· If you see approaching storms or any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.

What to do during a tornado:

· If a tornado warning has been issued, seek shelter immediately.

· If you are in a solid structure (your home, school, business), go to a pre-designated shelter area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of an interior room on the lowest level away from corners, windows, doors and outside walls. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck. Do not open windows.

· If you are in a vehicle, trailer or mobile home, get out immediately and go to the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby building or a storm shelter. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.

· If you are outside with no shelter, lie flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location. Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter. Watch out for flying debris, which causes causes most fatalities and injuries during tornados.

Damage to your home due to a tornado is generally covered by a standard homeowners policy.

Amica and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America recommend planning ahead.

* Take an inventory of your belongings, including receipts, documents and photos of your home’s contents.

* Have your insurance policy and agent information with you or in a secure place.

* Keep a cell phone charged and with you for emergencies.

* Keep a laptop computer close by if you have one. Most insurance companies allow claims reports to be submitted via the Internet.

If you experience a loss from the storms:

* Immediately contact your insurance agent or company representative.

* Look for property and car damage.

* Document your losses, photograph damages and save related receipts to help with claims handling.

* Make sure property is secure from further damage or theft.

* Conduct a background check on repair contractors. Your insurance company can assist you in locating a legitimate contractor.

* Keep detailed records of business activity and extra expenses during the interruption period and prepare records to show the income from the business both before and after the loss.


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