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Oklahoma tornadoes: Insurance companies set up in Moore, in it for the long haul

A command center has been set up at the First Baptist Church of Moore, 301 NE 27, giving victims access to insurance companies, disaster relief agencies, and more.
by Jennifer Palmer Published: May 22, 2013

The insurance industry quickly set up here in a centralized location, giving tornado victims access to resources and immediate assistance with housing and other needs.

First Baptist Church of Moore, 301 NE 27, is the command center designated by the Oklahoma Insurance Department. All major insurers are set up inside, as well as relief agencies and other resources.

Oklahoma-licensed insurance agents and adjusters need to get an ID card at the church to be able to access the disaster area, Insurance Commissioner John Doak said.

The practice was used after Hurricane Katrina and the 2011 Joplin, Mo., tornado to prevent fraud and enhance security in the disaster area.

Other resources being added to the command center include health insurers, rental car companies and ATMs.

The insurers will be in Moore for many months, Doak said.

He wasn't able to provide an estimate of the damage yet because search and rescue is ongoing and many adjusters haven't received access to the area to begin assessments.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the May 3, 1999, tornado resulted in nearly $1 billion in insured claims payouts and generated 146,000 claims.

Monday's tornado damage could exceed that.

State Farm, one of the state's major insurers, is expediting claims. Spokesman Jim Camoriano said one agent was able to give a policy holder a $5,000 check Tuesday morning to provide initial money for lodging, food and basic necessities.

“It gives them a jump-start without interruption to continue their daily life after a disaster,” he said.

State Farm is planning to bring in several hundred claims adjusters from the company's national catastrophe team, Camoriano said.

Standard homeowners and business insurance policies cover wind damage to structures of insured buildings and their contents if caused by tornadoes or thunderstorms.

Help for small businesses

For business owners with no insurance or who have uncompensated losses, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers long-term, low-interest loans. Businesses can borrow up to $2 million to repair damaged or destroyed property, equipment and other items.

Homeowners can qualify for up to $200,000 to repair or replace their homes. Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property.

Interest rates are as low as 1.875 percent for homeowners and renters and 4 percent for businesses, with terms up to 30 years.

The loans can often be disbursed quicker than insurance claims, said Rick Jenkins, a spokesman for the SBA disaster office, and cover improvements or upgrades while rebuilding that insurance didn't cover. The loans can also be used as working capital until business returns to normal and for hazard mitigation, which could be to add protection to the structure such as a tornado shelter.

Victims must first call the Federal Emergency Management Agency at (800) 621-3362. To apply for SBA loans, call (800) 659-2955 or go to

Aid for agricultural producers

Landowners, farmers, ranchers and producers affected by tornadoes can receive assistance from the U.S. Agriculture Department. Federal crop insurance covers tornado damage. Producers need to report losses to their insurance agent within 72 hours.

To apply for assistance, go online to

by Jennifer Palmer
Investigative Reporter
Jennifer Palmer joined The Oklahoman staff in 2008 and, after five years on the business desk, is now digging deeper through investigative work. She's been recognized with awards in public service reporting and personal column writing. Prior to...
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Where to get help

First Baptist Church of Moore, 301 NE 27.

The church has been turned into a command center, giving victims 24/7 access to representatives from all major insurance agencies plus relief agencies. State Farm, Farmers, AAA insurance and other agencies are on site. Insurance agents and adjusters can also receive an ID card, which is needed to access the disaster area.


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