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Recipe for Disaster? Recent storms serve as reminders to review your homeowners policy--or regret it later.

By Scott Bernard Nelson

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When natural disasters strike, the most important considerationis survival. It isn't until after the hurricane winds stopblowing, the tor-nado stops twisting, or the earth stops quakingthat the financial wounds become apparent. They can, though, bealmost as painful as physical ones. Just ask the hundreds ofthousands of Americans whose homes or businesses recently took ahit from Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan. Damage from thosethree storms could reach tens of billions of dollars by the timethe counting is done-much of which won't be covered byinsurance.

Americans who live along the hurricane zones of the Southeast,the Tornado Alley of the Plains, or the tectonic fault lines of thePacific Coast have obvious reasons to worry about naturaldisasters. But no matter where you live, events like the threehurricanes mentioned above provide reason enough to take a quickpeek at your homeowners policy. Better yet, make it an annualtradition to review the insurance that protects one of the biggestinvestments you'll ever make.

A standard homeowners policy covers a house, its contents,landscaping and outbuildings, along with any visitors to theproperty. Damage from a number of situations-fire, hailstorm,falling trees and so on-will typically be insured against. Otherpotentially costly problems, though, tend to be omitted.Earthquakes? Not usually covered. Floods? From broken pipes, yes,but not from rising water courtesy of Mother Nature. Moldinfestations? If at all, with a limit so low it won't help muchif mold is actually discovered.

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