What to do when the worst case scenario happens to your building

By Virginia K. Smith  | March 27, 2015 - 9:41AM

With the city still reeling from yesterday's terrifying building explosion in the East Village, New Yorkers are left with a lot of questions, including "How do I keep this from happening to me?" and "What do I do if it does?" 

News reports thus far say a gas-related explosion is the probable cause of the tragedy. (Last year, two buildings in East Harlem  were leveled due to a gas leak.) As we wait for officials to provide more information, it's important to heed the caution of Mayor de Blasio who, in a press conference, reminded citizens to "immediately call 911 or Con Ed" if they smell gas and to not "debate or delay." (For other measures to up your building's fire safety, make sure you're not overloading your outlets, and if your building's fire escape looks suspiciously rickety, put in a call to 311, and the city will send an inspector to assess the situation.)

For additional help for displaced East Village residents, the Red Cross has set up emergency reception at P.S. 63, and the Standard East Village is offering a free three-night stay to anyone who lives between 119 and 125 2nd Avenue (all you'll need is proof of your address).

If you're faced with the worst case scenario and your building is destroyed or severely damaged, typical apartment insurance includes something called "loss of use" coverage, which will pay to put you up in temporary housing or a hotel. For renters, you'll receive around 20 percent of the amount of insurance you've taken out on your belongings—so for a common $15,000 policy, $3,000 per incident—and in a co-op or condo, the rate is more like 50 percent.

Both damage to contents and additional living expenses would be covered in a situation like yesterday's, says apartment insurance broker Jeff Schneider of Gotham Brokerage. "This is also why we recommend people take digital photos of their stuff and store online.  In the confusion and personal disruption, you might not even remember what you have lost."

Here's hoping for a safe weekend ahead.


When disaster strikes, your apartment insurance can help with temporary housing

After a fire in a cluttered Harlem apartment, how to protect yourself

Fire alert: is your electrical outlet a hazard? Find out

Is your building's fire escape safe? Here's how to find out before there's a fire

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