How do I prepare for a hurricane?
I’ve heard a lot of things from my clients over the years after they experience a hurricane, but “I shouldn’t have prepared so much” has never left their lips! They almost always wish they would have taken a few extra precautions or learned how to better manage the storm before weathering it.
Let’s go over a few steps we can take to prepare ourselves for a hurricane:
- Make a family emergency plan - All good plans include somewhere to go for you, your family, your pets, and any extended family in the area. If you live in a coastal area, it might be good to find a location more inland where you can stay if there is enough time to travel before the storm hits. Communication is key to your plan, so purchase some backup batteries for your cell phones and make sure you have essential items on standby for whenever a disaster might strike next. FEMA has put together an awesome resource that can help prepare you in this way.
- Take proper precautions to prepare your home -
- Move your cars and any patio furniture/outdoor items into garages or higher ground
- Fuel up generators
- Board up windows
- Purchase proper homeowners insurance coverage for hurricane prone areas - A hurricane encompasses quite a few different perils. A strong hurricane may include heavy wind, tornadoes, rain, and flooding all at once. Let’s look at each of these and understand the coverage you’ll need to be fully prepared:
- Strong Winds/Tornadoes - Most homeowners insurance policies include coverage for wind damage. If your home is in a coastal area, this coverage may look a little different on your policy than on a typical homeowners insurance policy. If you live on the coast, you’ll usually be provided wind coverage from hurricanes in one of three ways. The most standard way that wind coverage is listed on your policy is through your wind and hail deductible. If your home policy lists out only two deductibles, one for wind and hail, and one for all other perils, then you can assume that your wind and hail deductible is also what you will pay out for hurricane winds. The closer you live to the coast, the more likely it is that you will see a third deductible listed, labeled “Named Storm Deductible” or “Hurricane Deductible”. If your homeowners insurance policy displays a hurricane deductible, then damages that occur due to a hurricane or named storm will be subject to that deductible. Usually, that deductible is a higher amount than the wind and hail deductible on your policy. Finally, if you live in a beachfront property, chances are your home insurance policy doesn’t include any wind coverage. Due to the likelihood of hurricane damage, most carriers choose to simply stay away from the risk. Most homeowners on islands or beaches will need to purchase a separate wind policy. Many states have their own wind insurance program, such as Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, or TWIA. If you live in a coastal area, make sure you know exactly how much your deductible will be for wind damage, and talk to your agent to make sure you’re covered.
- Rain - When rain enters the home, it can create costly damage to your floors, walls, and your personal belongings. Thankfully, most homeowners insurance policies will cover rain damage as long as the damage wasn’t the result of negligence - like leaving a window open during a storm. If rain water accumulates on the ground and then seeps into the home, that would be classified by most insurers as flooding and would not be covered by your home insurance policy.
- Flood - Almost all homeowners insurance policies exclude coverage from flood damage. You need a separate policy to cover flooding. Flood damage occurs when water on the ground flows into and damages your home. The FEMA definition of a flood is basically an excess of water on land that is normally dry. Flooding is very common with a hurricane and a separate flood policy is needed to properly prepare for a big storm. Flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program also has a wait period of 30 days between purchase and when the policy becomes effective, so be sure to purchase it ASAP so that you aren’t caught without coverage when a storm comes!
Filing an insurance claim after a hurricane
Dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane can be challenging, but there are some clear steps you can follow to get through the process with ease.
Step One: File a claim
Whenever there is a hurricane, there will be hundreds, sometimes thousands of people needing help all at the same time. It’s important that you make your insurance provider aware of your loss as soon as possible so that the process can begin. Thankfully, most insurance providers will pull claims adjusters and other resources from other parts of the country to help support a faster process after a hurricane, but it’s still going to take awhile, so get on the top of the list! Any damage caused to your vehicles can also be claimed under your auto insurance policy at this time.
Step Two: Document
Take lots of pictures of everything that was damaged. Make a list of all of the things you have lost. Keep a record of expenses that you are incurring as a result of the hurricane. Most home insurance policies will cover the cost of a rental home or a hotel room if the home is not habitable. Make your adjuster aware that you can’t stay at your home so they can connect you with lodging. Keep a record of all receipts during this time so that you can maximize your benefits through the insurance provider.
Step Three: Communicate
Stay in close contact with both your agent and your claims adjuster while they assess the damages, review coverages, and work to make you whole. The main reason for a slower claims process and/or bad experience is typically due to lack of communication. Send your documentation quickly and communicate via phone/email often and the process will go much more smoothly for everyone involved.
How do I file a flood insurance claim?
Having damage to your home can be a stressful experience. Flood damage to your home is especially worrisome as you likely have damage to your floors, baseboards, drywall, and any personal belongings that are on the first floor of your home!
Taking quick action when you have damage can save thousands of dollars and many days of headache for you. An extra 30 minutes of time for the water to sit on the floors can results in another few days of time to get everything repaired. Here are a few steps to take after having flood damage:
- Try to mitigate any more water coming into the home.
- Call your agent so that they can help you start the claim process. They will be able to help you understand what to do next for your specific situation and connect you also to your flood provider to get the ball rolling.
- Contact a local water restoration service to start to eliminate the water and anything that it has touched from the home. They will also dry out the home in preparation for the repairs to be done. Don’t forget to keep any receipts from any immediate work that has to be done that first day! Your insurance provider wants you to minimize the damage from the water, but they also want to see documentation of what happened and what (if any) was paid to minimize the damage.
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