While some folks in the northern part of the country are still shoveling snow from their sidewalks, their counterparts in the southern states need to start thinking about the upcoming hurricane season. According to the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center, the Atlantic season starts on June 1. For those of you in the potential path of a hurricane this season, it’s not too early to start thinking about what you can do to prepare for the potential onslaught of wind, rain, and potential flooding.
Because insurance companies pay attention to such things, the Insurance Journal has already featured a forecast of the upcoming hurricane season. The forecaster they cite predicts a very active season this year. What this means to you, as a homeowner, is that you need to be properly prepared in advance of a storm. Instead of leaving things to chance, there are a number of steps you can take to be ready.
First and foremost, you should have your insurance in order. As you might know, home insurance for residents in areas that are prone to hurricanes can be expensive and challenging to find. Residents in Florida are particularly impacted by the insurance scarcity. If you live in such an area, there’s no reason to waste time debating whether or not you have sufficient coverage. It’s time to pull out your policy and give it a good once-over. Remember, even though wind is a standard peril that’s covered on home insurance policies, the rules are somewhat different when you live in a “hurricane” state. Sometimes you will find less coverage than homeowners in other states or you might have a higher deductible. All of this is important information and knowledge to have before the storm season hits.
The other part of your insurance package that you need to have ready is what to do with all that water generated by a hurricane. Your standard home insurance policy will not cover any losses resulting from flooding. If your house has survived the onslaught of winds, you still have the secondary issue of flooding from storm surge or heavy rains, or both! You will need to have a separate flood insurance policy, generally available from the National Flood Insurance Program. Of course, the flood insurance folks don’t want you to only buy coverage when the winds kick up and the waves are on the rise. There’s a waiting period of 30 days from the time you purchase a policy to when it goes into effect. Therefore, if you purchase it now, you’ll be ready when June 1 rolls around.
Once all of your insurance is in order, you should think about what you need to do to protect your home. Emergency contingency plans are something that should be assembled while you have the time to think clearly and plan. Two important parts of your plan are a home inventory and an evacuation plan. Your home inventory should always be completed and be accessible from an offsite location. Once a hurricane (or other disaster) has struck your home, you cannot count on having access to it for insurance documents. Along those lines, you need to be ready to evacuate when the storm is heading your way. Having a plan of what you’ll need to take with you when given short notice to evacuate will help you gather the right items and not waste precious time searching for non-essential items.
With all this preparation in place, you can start to think about what you’ll need in terms of basic survival during the time that you may not have access to the local grocery store. Supplies such as non-perishable food, water, medications, and flashlights should be basic equipment that you always keep in your home. Instead of fighting the crowds during an impending storm, make sure you have these always on hand. Plan on being shut down for at least three days and have sufficient supplies to last that time period for each member of your household. Also, keep in mind that once the storm has passed and you start digging out from all that damage caused wind and water, you should re-read your insurance policy to make sure you haven’t missed anything in putting together your claim. Remember all that non-perishable food you ate? Well, one of the benefits of your policy is that it covers spoliation of refrigerated items. That’s something you should also include in your claim submittal.
While I apologize for shaking you out of your reverie and thoughts of a mild spring season, it’s never too early to start planning for hurricane season.