Advice from Raleigh storm victim: Take photos of belongings
Posted August 1, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Taking photos on your camera or cellphone to catalog every item in your home may seem like a hassle, but it could save you a lot of trouble if disaster strikes.
In April 2011, when a tornado blasted through Raleigh, Joe Stiles lost his family's home and a lifetime of memories.
"The power went out, and I heard the whooshing on the side of the house and I thought, 'Oh no,'" Stiles said. "I turned and ran, and my wife jumped on top of the kids, and I jumped on top of her. We were all on the floor as the house was lifted up."
The family escaped the rubble safely, but most of their belongings were lost forever.
"We were in shock. I mean, what do you do?" Stiles said. "You would think that you just go through and pull things out, but no, you had to dig through, and more things were unrecognizable."
The Stiles now have a safety deposit box to keep important documents secure. They also regularly back up computer files now, after realizing how stored documents can be destroyed in an instant.
But the most important thing the Stiles say they learned is to have adequate insurance coverage and to keep it up to date.
"We listened to our insurance company," Stiles said. "We reviewed our coverage probably every other year and so, we were appropriately covered for when something happened."
The Stiles took a lump sum settlement. Considering the mess left behind in the kitchen alone, they were glad they didn't have to itemize every dish, shirt and towel they owned.
"It was just waist deep in pots, pans, dishes – everything out of the cabinets," Stiles said. "Some folks in the neighborhood had to walk room by room, or imagine walking into a room and looking around and seeing everything. That's incredibly difficult to do."
Stiles' advice is to take pictures of everything you own. Go room to room, opening cabinet and closet doors and drawers, documenting what's inside.
"You never think it's going to happen to you," Stiles said.
While the family prays this devastation never happens again, if it does, they'll be much better prepared.