As we approach the one-year anniversary of some of the worst tornadoes to hit the state of Oklahoma, we want to remember the victims and honor how the survivors in the affected communities are working together to rebuild.
According to the National Weather Service, May 2013 produced at least 61 tornadoes, the third highest total of May tornadoes in Oklahoma since records began in 1950. On May 19, seven twisters ripped through central Oklahoma. Not even 24 hours later, an EF-5 struck Moore — killing 25 people and destroying virtually everything in its path. Within 10 days, an EF-2 tornado destroyed homes and businesses near Broken Arrow and an EF-3 tornado struck El Reno. The system then moved southeast into western and central Oklahoma City, producing another round of twisters.
Immediately following these tornado outbreaks, first responders and armies of volunteers rushed in to start the recovery process and help people get their lives back on track. Organizations such as the American Red Cross raised $51 million to support the survivors. Federal funding for recovery in Oklahoma topped more than $85 million.
The insurance industry also has been there since Day One and continues working to help families recover. The Oklahoma Insurance Department and insurance companies set up assistance booths and organized consumer service events in Moore, Little Axe, Shawnee, El Reno, Carney, Newkirk and Bethel Acres. Insurers also brought in more than 1,500 claims adjusters from across the country to help process the 95,000 claims that were filed. So far, the insurance industry has paid out more $1.1 billion for the rebuilding effort.
The people of Oklahoma are resilient and in many places where there was destruction, new homes are now standing. The City of Moore is to be commended for its commitment to building stronger, safer homes. In March it unanimously adopted new building codes that require homes to be built to withstand winds up to 135 miles per hour.
As we move through the peak of another tornado season, many residents remain focused on rebuilding. However, it is important to heed the lessons of last year. Building stronger can save lives, reduce damage and shorten the recovery time. Additionally, make sure you’ve had a conversation with your insurance agent on determining the right amount of coverage you need. Review your insurance so that you understand what your policies cover and the steps you can take to ensure you’re adequately protected. Inventory your household items so you can quickly and easily account for all of your belongings. This will help speed up the claims process and ensure you are fully compensated for your loss.
Insurance is the foundation for keeping a family’s economic safety net strong. So while you can’t predict what will happen in the future, you can take comfort in knowing your insurer will be there to help you rebuild and recover.
JOHN DOAK is Oklahoma Insurance Comissioner.