Oklahoma wildfires have left scores of families homeless. Destroyed personal property means weeks and months of dealing with unforeseen financial and personal issues, but state insurance and financial agencies said Friday they are ready to help make the process easier. Homeowners should immediately contact their insurance company, which has guidelines in place to deal with disasters, said Marc Young, assistant insurance commissioner with the state Insurance Department. The department has declared a state of emergency, which enables emergency adjusters to be temporarily licensed to expedite the insurance claims process. Residents who have lost insurance documentation should be able to receive new copies from their agents, state Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland said Friday. "I have been in contact with many companies last night and this morning who have already moved claims adjusters into impacted areas to facilitate a quick and timely response for their policyholders.” The claims process will move even faster if homeowners can provide home inventories or documentation detailing destroyed property, Holland said. The agency is monitoring to determine if an emergency insurance response center will be necessary as the damage is assessed, Young said. An anti-fraud division also is on alert to check into and investigate any scams and individuals posing as adjusters or agents. Some policies may cover additional living expenses, so keep receipts for expenses that may be reimbursed, officials said.
Dealing with financesA destroyed residence and loss of property also means creating a disaster recovery plan, but financial experts say after a disaster is not the time for life-changing decisions. "The most important thing, until you can come to terms with what has happened, (is) don’t make any major financial decisions,” said David Gandall, a certified public accountant and owner of DWG in Oklahoma City. But Gandall said there are some safeguards homeowners can take to help their financial situation. If possible, scour through a burned home, he said, to be sure there are no documents that would reveal Social Security numbers or other private information. And call utility companies to shut off and stop billing on any service and that won’t be used for months. Gandall said homeowners may be eligible for catastrophic loss tax deductions, so checking with a tax expert is advisable.