As spring approaches, emergency medical experts want to remind area residents to be aware of severe weather changes.
Powerful spring storms can unleash some of nature's most destructive forces - tornadoes and floods.
In the event of severe weather, American Medical Response, a Greenwood Village, Colo.-based private ambulance service, suggests the following safety tips:
If a tornado warning is issued for your area go to the basement or lowest level of your home and take shelter in an inner hallway or small inner room without windows, such as a closet or bathroom.
In mobile homes and other portable structures, evacuate the structure even if it is equipped with tie-downs. Take shelter in a building with a strong foundation. If such a building isn't available, take cover in a ditch or low-lying area a safe distance from the mobile home. Lie face down and cover your head and neck with your hands.
If you are in a vehicle seek shelter immediately. Do not continue to drive and do not try to outrun a tornado. Tornadoes can change direction quickly and can easily lift a vehicle into the air. Get out of the vehicle and take shelter in a nearby building or lie in a ditch or low-lying area away from the vehicle.
No matter where you live always be aware of floods. Small creeks or streams and even low lying ground can flood.
Be aware, not all floods are the same. Some develop slowly over an extended period of time while others can happen in a matter of minutes without any visible signs of rain.
Watch for signs of heavy clouds or rain. Avoid flood prone areas such as drainage channels or canyons if these conditions exist.
At any sign of flash flooding move to higher ground immediately. Do not wait for instruction to move.
Do not enter moving water. Six inches of moving water can cause a person to fall.
Do not drive into flooded areas. Six inches of water can cause a loss of control of most passenger cars. A foot of water can cause most vehicles to float. Two feet of moving water can carry away most cars, including sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.
Have a way to receive weather warnings that will alert you whenever there is a severe weather threat. Specialized weather radios can receive severe weather bulletins and sound an alarm whenever severe weather is approaching. The radios broadcast severe weather watches and warnings directly from the National Weather Service. These radios can often be programmed for specific counties.
Additionally, the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation offers tips to Michigan consumers that may be affected by severe weather.
"Consumers are encouraged to first assess the damage, and then keep detailed records as they begin the claims process," Commissioner Kevin Clinton said. "Our consumer assistance staff is prepared to answer any insurance questions and concerns from consumers in areas affected by Mother Nature."
Consumers can contact the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation on their toll-free hotline at 877-999-6442.
Know Your Policy:
Understand what your policy says. The policy is a contract between you and your insurance company. Know what's covered, what's excluded and what the deductibles are.
Assessing the Damage:
When assessing your property following a disaster, remember to photograph and/or video tape any damage.
File Claims As Soon As Possible:
Don't let the bills or receipts pile up. Call your agent or your company's claims hotline as soon as possible. Your policy may require that you make the notification within a certain time frame.
Provide Complete, Correct Information:
Be certain to give your insurance company all the information they need. Incorrect or incomplete information will only cause a delay in processing your claim.
Keep Copies of all Correspondence:
Whenever you communicate with your insurance company, be sure to keep copies and records of all correspondence. Write down information about your telephone and in-person contacts, including the date, name and title of the person you spoke with and what was said. Also keep a record of your time and expenses.
Homeowners policies may require you to make temporary repairs to protect your property from further damage. Your policy should cover the cost of these repairs, so keep all receipts. If possible, take photos or videos of the damage before making repairs. Don't make permanent repairs. An insurance company may deny a claim if you make permanent repairs before the damage is inspected. If possible, determine what it will cost to repair your property before you meet with the claims adjuster. When meeting with an adjuster provide them with records of any improvements you made to your property and ask for an itemized explanation of the claim settlement offer.
If there is a disagreement about the claim settlement, ask the company for the specific language in the policy that is in question. Find out if the disagreement is because you and the insurance company interpret your policy differently. If this disagreement results in a claim denial, make sure you obtain a written letter from the company explaining the reason for the denial and the specific policy language in your policy under which the claim is being denied.