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Having a proactive plan in place is the best strategy to get your property insurance claim paid fast in the event of a natural disaster. Whether it’s severe weather like tornadoes and hurricanes, floods, earthquakes or wildfires, or water damage from a burst pipe, it is important to be aware of the potential hazards that could affect your family and your property.

Following certain steps will help ensure you’re insurance claim progresses at a acceptable pace and is paid as fast possible by your insurance company.

1. Take Pictures and Inventory

Even before a disaster strikes, photograph and take inventory of your home and possessions that you can show to the insurance company as a reference.  This will enable you to show immediate proof of your possessions even if personal property items are completely destroyed.

2. Move Quickly

Insurance companies deal with claims on a first come, first serve basis. In a large storm that may impact hundreds or thousands of people, you’ll need to act fast to get the quickest response possible. Contact your insurance company to begin your claim as soon as possible. Keep copies of all of your important documents in one convenient folder – such as mortgage information, land titles, tax returns, insurance policy – that can be quickly retrieved as part of your essentials following a natural disaster.

3. Make Emergency Repairs

If there is a hole in your roof, don’t wait for the insurance adjuster to examine the roof before you mitigate the damage. Take a picture of the damage and do what you need to do to keep the problem from getting worse. This level of diligence is required by most insurance policies. Be sure to keep receipts of any supplies purchased or expenses incurred.

4. Keep Records

Keep track of all communication with the company. This can be as simple as a notebook or as detailed as an Excel workbook. It is important to keep track of the date and time of correspondence and a brief description of the conversation. An easy way to do this is to interact with your agent through email, which ensures you have a digital record of the entire process. Print the conversations and store them in a safe place as a back up.

5. Meet Your Adjuster

Even if you have to evacuate for the disaster, make sure to be there when your adjuster inspects the damage. By being there in person, you can help explain what happened and answer any questions that may arise on site. Offering detailed instructions and having first-hand proof can help you get the highest possible amount from your claim.

6. Get a Second Opinion

Did you know you could get an independent adjuster to review your claim if you don’t feel the insurance adjuster is considering the totality of your loss? If you feel like the adjuster is underpaying your insurance claim then you should consider contacting a trusted public adjuster for a free claim review.

7. Be Diligent

Don’t just file the claim and sit back and wait – the work is far from done. It’s vital to maintain contact with the insurance company to see to the progress of the claim and offer feedback in the event of a dispute. If the company denies the claim, ask for a written response of why the claim was denied.

Preparedness is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family against natural disasters and the ensuing claim process. This means having a plan for disaster – and for the aftermath. While filing an insurance claim can be stressful, if you prepare before an accident happens and stay organized during the process, you can handle the claim quickly and efficiently.