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Top Six Things to Know About Flooding After Hurricane Sandy

@eewolff609(NEW YORK) -- The extent of the devastation to homes and businesses caused by Sandy is still emerging, but it is already being estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.

The overwhelming cause of the damage was flooding which inundated whole towns, broke gas mains, swamped power stations and crippled the region.  The salt water ruined cars, businesses and homes.

Now, the clean-up begins along with the claims to insurance companies.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has an online tool that helps shows a rough estimate of how much flooding, by height of water, could cost a household.  A home that spans 1,000 square feet with six inches of flooding could have total losses of $20,150.  Those costs, which vary by state and by type of home, include $1,000 in cleaning; $150 for electrical and plumbing; $7,900 in wood and carpet repair; thousands of dollars more in appliance and furniture replacement; and $1,100 in repairing doors, base trim and windows.

ABC News asked Judith Spry, partner in the insurance claims services practice at BDO Consulting, about what those who have experienced flooding should do to recover.

Double-Check Insurance Policies
Spry cautions that homeowners and business owners should never fully rely on an insurance policy.  It is especially important to review your homeowner's policy with your agent or broker so you understand the amount you will receive in the event of a covered loss, and whether it will be adequate to rebuild your home.  Homeowners should also know the amount of a deductible and any special provisions in the policy such as wind exclusions.

Start the Insurance Claims Process as Soon as Possible
The NFIP recommends you first call your agent or insurance company to file a claim and an adjustor should contact you within a few days.  You should know the name of your insurance company, your policy number and contact information where you can be reached.  Business loss insurance coverage usually begins after a waiting period of about 72 hours and claims can take weeks for companies to estimate.

Assess Your Property
The NFIP recommends you separate undamaged from damaged property and make a list of damaged or lost items, including date of purchase, value and receipts if possible.

Take Video or Photos for a Home Inventory
For insurance purposes and for your own personal keepsake in case of a disaster, you should have a home inventory or a photographic record.  Take photographs of damaged property, including discarded objects, structural damage and standing floodwater levels.  If you don't have a record of a purchase, some insurers may accept a photograph or video of a damaged object.  If you don't have a receipt of something, such as a new television, you may be able to go to the store where you bought it and ask if they have a record of the purchase.

If You Have Flood Insurance, You'll Get a "Proof of Loss" Form
Your adjuster will provide you a Proof of Loss form for your official claim for damages, which you must file with your insurance company within 60 days of the flood.  You should receive your claim payment after you and the insurer agree on the amount of damages and the insurer has your complete, accurate, and signed Proof of Loss form.  If major catastrophic flooding occurs, it may take longer to process claims, according to the NFIP.

You Don't Need a Public Adjuster on a Big Claim
Spry says you do not need a public adjuster.  Public adjusters, who work for you and not the insurance company, will take a percentage of a claim even if the insured is investing a significant amount of time, such as preparing forms, for the process.  She recommends having an accounting firm to provide claims preparation coverage.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio