Moving: Protect belongings, peace of mind

In light of the warehouse fire last fall, which destroyed the household goods of 120 military families stationed in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, families planning a permanent change of station this summer may be wondering how to ensure maximum protection of their belongings.

There are several steps military families can take, such as taking an inventory.

Jerry Reed, USAG Stuttgart chief of transportation, recommends making a list of high-value items, such as mahogany furniture or Polish pottery, which cannot be easily replaced.

Owners may want to photograph or videotape these items to show details, he said.

Cyndee Strickland, USAG Stuttgart Transportation Office outbound counselor, added that videotaping belongings is beneficial to the service member, should he or she need to make a claim later. “If it has damage or goes missing, they have proof,” she said.

Strickland suggested videotaping electronics while they are still plugged in, to prove that they worked at the time of shipment.

It can also be helpful to make a list of common items that would cost more normal to replace, such as signed CDs or  collector’s edition DVDs, Reed added.

“The carrier is only required to write down general contents,” he said. If CDs or DVDs are lost, the owner will only be reimbursed the “replacement cost,” or value of an average CD or DVD.

This rule goes for everything in the household goods shipment. If the entire shipment is lost or destroyed, the carrier is only liable for $4.25 per pound, up to $50,000, Reed said.

“If the stuff in your house is worth more than $50,000, you may want to consider purchasing private insurance,” Reed said.

Certain items should not be shipped at all, such as jewelry or collections of coins, stamps or baseball cards, Strickland added.

Personally-identifying paperwork, including birth certificates and Social Security cards, should also be hand-carried, she said.

“[Thieves] could wreak havoc with your identity,” Strickland said. “Never, ever ship that.”

On moving day, families should ensure that all of these items, including PCS orders, are packed away in a locked room or in the trunk of their car, Reed said.

Recently, a young specialist PCSing from USAG Stuttgart realized that the movers had packed his passport with his household goods, Reed said. When he called the transportation office for help, it was too late.

“Unfortunately, the truck was gone — on its way to Bremerhaven,” Reed said.

Someone should always be present to watch the movers during pack-out, he added. “Go behind them, and make sure they didn’t leave something you wanted packed with your household goods.”