Saber’s renter’s insurance troubles may help others

SPANGDAHELM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- -- It is a cautionary tale with which many people are familiar. Purchasing insurance. Whether it be auto or motorcycle, life, housing or renter's insurance, all types are good to have, "just in case." 

Unfortunately, one Saber knows from first-hand experience the headaches regarding renter's insurance. The good news is, he had it. The bad news was, it wasn't enough because he did not update it. 

It was Jan. 25 when Staff Sgt. Al Jervier, 52nd Comptroller Squadron customer service technician, and a friend were upstairs in his nearby Preist apartment when his friend smelled something burning. 

"I went downstairs to see what was going on and discovered there was fire in my bedroom," Sergeant Jervier said. "I approached the room and noticed a light fixture, which normally hung above my bed, was now in the middle of the burning bed. My first thought was to attempt to extinguish the fire, so I ran into the kitchen for water. By the time I got back to the bedroom, the fire was at the door." 

After ensuring his friend and her children were safely out of the apartment, Sergeant Jervier also exited. From outside, they watched -- in disbelief -- the smoke coming from his burning apartment. 

Even though they were across the street, Sergeant Jervier said he and his friend could hear the crackling of glass and plastic as the heat incinerated everything it touched. 

"Explosions followed as the television and other electronics exploded," he said. The local fire department, located right down the street, responded within minutes and got to work on extinguishing the fire. "Once the fire was put out, members from the 52nd Security Forces Squadron and a 52nd Communications Squadron alert photographer entered the residence and I was called in to see the damage. My entire bedroom was burned to include furniture, electronics, clothes, shoes and wallet with debit and credit cards, ID card, driver's licenses, etc. The rest of the house suffered from extensive smoke damage; clothes, computer hardware, stereo equipment and other personal effects (such as) furniture, books, pictures and a guitar. My DVDs were among some of the other items damaged by the smoke and soot." 

Sergeant Jervier said he was informed about the necessity of renter's insurance when he arrived here in November 2005 so he added the coverage to his vehicle insurance policy. Unfortunately, the coverage was not as high as it should have been. 

"I was insured for $7,500, but the insurance adjustor accessed my personal property loss at $17,360, leaving me with almost $10,000 in uninsured personal property. I thought that I had done the right thing by having renter's insurance, but the lesson learned here (was) that people need to revalue their belongings on an annual basis to ensure their insurance covers their needs. 

Personnel from the 52nd Fighter Wing legal office encourage Airmen to purchase renter's insurance. 

Capt. Eric Johnson, 52nd FW legal office, chief of operations law and legal readiness, said renter's insurance is generally fairly inexpensive and is a small expense now that can save people big in the end. 

"If damage is done to your property, either from a break-in or fire, the government most likely won't pay," Captain Johnson said. "Without insurance, replacing all of your property, from clothes to TVs, is your responsibility. Additionally, if something starts in your apartment (fire or water leak) and spreads to other apartments, you may be held personally liable for damage to the other apartments. Renter's insurance will cover the damage for you." 

Captain Johnson also said to make sure the renter's insurance covers property in foreign countries and that people should review their policies annually, ensuring the amount of coverage adequately covers their property. He also recommends flood insurance if the property is in a flood plain. 

The base legal office provides assistance to members four days a week. While they are not insurance agents, they can discuss the legal impact of a member's policy.