Get the entire family involved in completing this O4U to prepare for an emergency. If an emergency occurs, they will be very glad that they did help.
Phase 1 – Assemble Emergency Info and Round Up Emergency Supplies
Phase 2 – Set Up GO BAGS for You, Your Family, and Your Pets
Phase 3 – Safety Tips for if You Shelter in Place
Phase 4 – Home Photo Insurance Inventory
Finale – Set Task Reminders and Celebrate
Phase 4 – Home Photo Insurance Inventory
If you have never established a home inventory for homeowner’s insurance, you will need to break this task into several days.
At the very least, take a video of each room, inside drawers, etc. Be sure to turn the date and time on so that your video (or photos) have that information imprinted on the video or photos. If you do not have an existing home inventory completed, one way to be able to complete your Emergency Preparedness Challenge is to focus on only the largest, most expensive, and most current items throughout your home.
Homeowner’s and renters’ insurances will always pay more, if you ever need to file a claim, when you can provide a photo portfolio, complete with the serial number, model number, date purchased, the room where the items are stored, etc. It is a pretty good guess that you have heard the adage: a picture is worth a thousand words.
If you don’t have supporting photos and/or videos of the rooms in your home, the items inside and outside your home, your insurance agent will be forced to use a one-size-fits-all template, which may not reimburse you for many items in your home.
If you can, take a video of each room in your home that shows all of the furniture in each room, paintings, and other valuables, in addition to individual photos of each item, you will be able provide appropriate ownership as well as detailed photos so that your insurance company will be able to reimburse you closer to the actual amount to reimburse your home and furnishings. This is also an excellent task to complete to ensure that you have appropriate insurance coverage.
With that said, let me provide some guidelines for taking the best photographs of your furnishings:
- Find a location in your home that has a plain background that is free of clutter for when you have smaller items. The goal is to focus attention on the item being photographed rather than the stuff in the background.
- Turn on all of the lights in each room in which you are inventorying.
- If possible, use a digital camera and also a video camera. The reason for a digital camera is so that you can see instantly if the photo is close up, sharp, and shows all sides clearly.
- Turn on the date and time feature on the camera so that info is recorded in each photo.
- Label each photo as it is taken. Consider adding a letter to the photo number so you will know what room the items are in (L-25 = Living room, photo #25; D-75 = Dining Room, photo #75, etc.).
- Position a family member in each room when you video-record the room to provide further evidence that the room/home that you are video-taping is your own home.
- Take photos from different angles for more expensive items to show insurance agents that all sides of an item are in good condition.
- When you photograph a mirror, be sure to take the photo at an angle to avoid a harsh, sharp flashes. When you photograph at an angle, the flash will be avoided. Be sure to include yourself in a reflection when taking a photo of a mirror; again – to prove ownership.
- If the photo will include sliding glass doors, open the door most of the way to avoid the harsh flash and yet prove that the door is really there.
- When photographing silverware, crystal, cut glass, or jewelry, put the items on a dark cloth background to provide a distinct contrast between the glass/crystal so that all facets will clearly show.
- If the china is expensive, turn one plate and cup upside down to show the manufacturer’s signature, one plate and cup right side up to show the pattern, and also show a stack of plates (snack plates, lunch plates, and dinner plates to show all the sizes), a stack of cups with sauces, etc., so the insurance agent can see how many place settings you have.
- Be sure to photograph the certificate that came with the crystal or china.
- Photograph items inside each drawer and then each item individually so the insurance agent will be able to understand the approximate size of each item (if it’s in a drawer, it clearly is smaller than a large item that won’t fit in a drawer). Make sure that you can see the different items in the drawer.
- Open your closet doors and photograph the entire closet/room so the insurance agent can see the amount of clothing and shoes that you have.
- Remember to photograph items that you have grown accustomed to seeing so that you no longer see those items: paintings on the walls (be sure to photograph certificates that came with paintings along with the paintings), garage items, bicycles that hang from the rafters in your garage, garden hose, statues that are in and around your yard outside, etc.
- In fact, if the paintings are painted by the artist (as opposed to copies), you may already have had the paintings evaluated and separate insurance policies on those items.
- Coin collections should be photographed with books open to show all coins. Again, you should have a professional numismatic or philatelist evaluate your coin or stamp collection so a separate insurance policy can be taken on those items.
- Remember to photograph your vehicle(s), riding mowers or push mowers, electric tools, etc.
- When you are completely finished photographing/inventorying all items in all of your home (both inside and outside, including garage and that shed out back), garden, landscaping, etc. Transfer photos and videos to CDs. Make multiple copies: at least two copies in case one copy becomes corrupt and a set of copies that are stored in a totally different location other than your home.
- Rent a safe deposit box at your bank and put a set of printed photos or colored printed copies along with the CD in it. Check the benefits offered by your bank because some banks provide a discount on safe deposit boxes when you meet certain minimum balances or some offer a discount for seniors.
- Put one set in a fireproof safe.
- Consider giving a copy of the CD and photos or colored printed copies to a trusted family member or close friend who lives in a completely different location.
The reason for this is if you have a natural disaster such as a tornado, hurricane, flood, fire, etc., and everything in your home, including your fireproof safe, is completely demolished – or missing – you will still have another copy to use for insurance purposes.
As an example, I set up a Word document, broken down by room, showing all items in that room. My example is below:
CD# / Photo #
Ink Jet Printer
Epson Stylus Color P924PA
Combo printer, scanner, fax machine
Mentally divide each room into small sections
- Make a list of all the rooms that you will be inventorying. If your family will be helping, ask each of them which room they want to inventory. If you will be completing this task by yourself, decide which room is seen by most people who are in your home so the completed task will have a bigger visual impact.
- Keep reminding yourself that you’re taking photos for insurance purposes. Close up photos are best for this purpose because you want to show as much detail in each item as possible. Your insurance agent will only have photos and the document that details the brand, model number, and year purchased, to determine the amount of an insurance check that will be provided in the event of a disaster.
- Keep the background clear of clutter. Again, the focus should be on the individual item being photographed. When possible, make your background a contrasting color from the item being photographed to ensure that the insurance agent can clearly see the item.
- If you put the item on a matching color background, the insurance agent might not be able to determine where the item begins and ends.
- Decide which section will be the most visible to anyone who enters the room. The reason for this is that you want to get as much satisfaction as possible for each section.
- Each time you enter the room for a period of time after it has been reorganized, you will experience a feeling of satisfaction and that will motivate you to keep working at other areas.
- Turn on the Music! When you play music that you like, it keeps your mind off the work and you’ll be surprised at how quickly the task gets completed. The snappier the music, the faster you’ll work.
- Start at one side of each room. Take a BEFORE photo of each item (cabinet, shelf, buffet, sofa, table, etc.). The reason for this is to build momentum for when you complete each item; take a look at the BEFORE photo so that you see the difference. When you remind yourself of the difference, it will help to motivate you to complete the task.
- Remove each item, clean it, place the item on a table that has been cleared of all items so there is nothing to distract from the photo.
- Keep getting organized enjoyable so that you keep at it until the job is totally finished.
- Make a game of it and set a timer for 30 or 60 minutes and see how much you can get done in that amount of time.
- Completely finish one section or one room before going onto the next section or room.
- Remember to take an AFTER photo as you complete each section of a room and then each room.
Check back next week for the Finale – Set Task Reminders and Celebrate