VICENZA, Italy -- Severe thunderstorms in spring and fall can bring heavy rains to Vicenza, and intense rainfall over a short time can lead to flooding.

While people cannot control weather conditions, we can take precautions to protect personal property from severe flood damage.

During periods of heavy rainfall, basements and other low-lying areas may become flooded. Avoid damage in the future by storing property off basement floors (e.g., on shelves or wooden pallets) and out of low-lying areas. When driving, remember that two feet of water can carry away most vehicles, so be aware and never drive through a flooded roadway.

If a flood does cause property damage at on-- or off-post quarters, Department of Defense military and civilian personnel may be compensated for damaged personal property through the local Military Claims Office. Soldiers and civilians have two years from the incident date to file a claim. However, those who wait the full two years may have difficulty substantiating losses and significantly reduce the likelihood of compensation.

The following information will help ensure the claim is properly adjudicated.

Photos: Be sure to take photos of the damage. Take photos or video of the flooded area, if safe to do so. After water recedes, take photos of the high water mark. Take photos of every damaged item and any container used for its storage.

Mitigate loss: Claimants have a duty to take all necessary steps in order to minimize damage. Simply stated, be sure to clean, disinfect and dry everything that got wet. The Military Claims Office may not be able to provide compensation for items that could have been salvaged through mitigation. Use of large fans may speed the drying process and stop mold development.

Notify: Anyone with private insurance coverage, notify the insurance company immediately. Some private renters', homeowners' or personal property insurance will cover flood damage. Before the Military Claims Office can adjudicate a claim, regulations require that claimants first file with private insurers.

Substantiation: Document damaged property. Gather all information about your personal property including purchase receipts or credit card transactions, each individual item's replacement value, steps you took to salvage the property (e.g., cleaning bills), and an explanation for why you did not keep certain property (e.g., it was covered with mold and presented a health hazard). Include all available photographs of the property before damage, after damage, and after mitigation attempts.

The more specific and detailed the information, the better. Finally, contact the Vicenza Claims Office to schedule a claims loss and damage inspection.

Retention: Do not immediately throw away items that appear to be damaged. Remember, mitigation and substantiation. In particular, the more expensive the item, the better it is to keep it until the claim is settled. In some cases, claimants may be able to place the item on a balcony or in a garage/carport. However, if the item appears to be a health hazard, photograph and document the state of the item and contact the Vicenza Claims Office before throwing it away.

For more information on flood damage claims procedures, contact the Claims Office in Building 241 on Caserma Ederle at DSN 637-8831/32, comm. 0444-61-8831/32 and ask to speak with a member of the claims team.