Tornadoes and hurricanes have been devastating this year and last, especially for those living in the Midwest and South.
Twisters killed more than 550 people in 2011, with Joplin, Mo. alone suffering 161 deaths. So far this year, tornadoes have been blamed for more than 60 deaths. Hurricane Irene also tore through the East Coast in August, also causing damage. (See" 5 free ways to prep your home for disaster.")
Insurers also reported taking a toll from the destruction. Munich Re notes that tornadoes and thunderstorms resulted in $25 billion in insured losses last year, twice the previous record.
With the threat of twisters and hurricanes continuing through the summer, it's always wise to think about preparing for the next wave of violent storms. Here are four ways to save money while doing just that:
Beginning the weekend of May 25, Virginia and Louisiana residents can buy various preparedness items without paying the usual sales tax.
Virginia's disaster prep tax holiday runs May 25- 31 and includes dozens of items for $60 or less. Among them are batteries, flashlights, radios, first-aid kits, fire extinguishers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and water containers, to name a few.
Residents can also avoid the state's 5 percent sales tax on portable generators and generator power cords, and inverters and inverter power cables if they cost $1,000 or less per item. For more details, go here.
In Louisiana, the 4 percent sales tax is waived May 26- 27 for up to $1,500 in purchases of many of the same items during the state's hurricane preparedness sales tax holiday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers grants to states to help pay for construction of individual safe rooms. (See "Top 10 twister states"). Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas have applied and received the grants.
The states then administer the rebates to residents. (For more details, visit FEMA's rebate program for safe rooms FAQ.) Keep in mind, however, that you must apply for the assistance before the shelter is built.
Oklahoma, for instance, will provide a maximum rebate of $2,000 per home, not to exceed 75 percent of the actual construction cost, says David Barnes, the emergency managerfor Oklahoma County.
Not everyone who applies, however, is guaranteed a rebate. Applicants are placed in a lottery drawing to determine assistance winners. About 500 rebates were available this year. For more information, visit the Oklahoma safe room rebate website.
Arkansas offers a rebate of up to $1,000, not to exceed 50 percent of actual construction costs. For more details on that state's program, read the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management's document on the topic.
To find out more about safe room project eligibility and financial assistance, contact your state hazard mitigation officer. Your officer can advise you on what information must be provided for your project to be considered for funding, as well as any applicable federal, state and local design requirements.
In some cases, insurers provide discounts to homeowners with roofs made of storm-resistant materials such as steel, concrete, clay and asphalt. State Farm, for example, offers the discounts in the following states:
However, there can be restrictions. State Farm's website notes that "premium reductions are not available for roofs, other than qualifying metal roofs, that have been overlaid onto existing roofs." Additionally, to receive a State Farm premium reduction for qualifying metal roofing products, you must also sign an endorsement called an "Exclusion of Cosmetic Loss to Metal Roof Covering Caused by Hail."
State Farm advises discussing your construction plans with an agent before moving ahead.
Allstate Roofing & Consultants, a company operating throughout the Dallas area, says on its website that insurance discounts of up to 27 percent may be available if you install certain roofs, like a high-impact shingle roof.
Following Hurricane Andrew, Florida passed a law requiring insurance companies to offer their customers discounts and credits for existing building features and home improvements that reduce damage and loss from wind. In order to qualify for this discount, homes must undergo a certified home wind inspection.
The wind-mitigation discounts usually average about 25 percent, according to Allstate Pro Inspections, a firm that completes the inspection certification an insurer needs to see before offering a discount. It's important to note that insurance premium discounts are only applied to wind-damage insurance policies.
How do you qualify for these premium breaks? Your insurer evaluates an inspection certificate to see how many safety features you have and then determines which discounts to apply.
Typically, insurers look for concrete block construction, gable end bracing, a hip roof, the presence of a single or double roof straps, roof materials, impact-resistant glass, reinforced garage doors and window shutters.
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