It is the middle of hurricane season here in Florida, which began on June 1 and will end on November 30. It is sunny as I am writing this post, but we all know that can change quickly. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), just released its updated forecast for the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season and NOAA is now predicting 12-17 named storms, and 5-8 hurricanes with 2-4 of those Category 3 or higher. According to the Weather Channel, June and July account for only fourteen percent of the Atlantic Hurricane Season’s named storms with the majority coming in the “core” months of August through October. That means that its not too late to take steps to protect your family and home, so what should you do?
Review your Insurance Policies
Read your policies and make sure that you understand what is and isn’t covered. If you have any questions, the time to ask is before, not after a storm hits. You may not be able to purchase new or additional coverage when a tropical storm or hurricane watch or warning is in effect. If you are unsure or have questions about your coverage, ask your insurance agent or seek competent legal advice from an attorney who handles insurance coverage disputes. Keep in mind that flood damage is not covered by standard homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies. If you want coverage for flood damage, you will need to purchase a separate flood policy.
Inspect your Property
Look around your property and get ready to prepare it for a storm. Consider whether you should install storm shutters. If you already have them, make sure that they are in working order and you can quickly put them in place. Trim dead or overhanging branches from trees.
Create a Home Inventory
In the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster, would you be able to remember and make a list of all of your personal property? Try this experiment. Go into any room in your home for 2 minutes. Look around and try to make a mental note of all of the things that you see, but do not make any notes. Now go into another room of the house and without going back into the first room, make a list of as many of the items in the first room as you can remember. When you have completed your list to the best of your ability, go back into the first room and compare the list to the actual contents of the room. If you are like most people, chances are that you left out a lot. Now imagine trying to do this without the opportunity to study the items in the room beforehand after your home has been damaged and you and your family have maybe even been displaced. That’s why you need a home inventory. Ideally, it should include information such as brand name, price, date of purchase, model, serial number and receipts and photographs. It can take time to put together a thorough inventory, but it can make it so much easier to evaluate the extent of your loss if you have to file a homeowner’s insurance claim and much easier to prove the amount of the loss if there is an insurance coverage dispute.
If you don’t have time to create a complete inventory, at least photograph and/or videotape every room.
Make a List of Important Contact Information
Make a list of the important contact information you will need in case of emergency, such as the name of your insurance agent and the address, phone number, email address and website for both your agent and your insurance company. Be sure that you check to see if your insurance company has a dedicated claims number or emergency hotline in case of a natural disaster or other catastrophe.
Collect Copies of Important Records and Store Them in a Safe Place
Store copies of your insurance contact information, policy declarations pages, home inventory, any accompanying photographs or videos and any other important documents in a safe place away from your home. Possible safe options would be providing copies to a close friend or relative who lives away from the area, storing them in a waterproof, fireproof safe that you can take with you if you have to evacuate, or storing them on one of the free “cloud” computing services, such as Google Drive or Microsoft One Drive.
Put Together an Emergency Supply Kit
Assemble the supplies that you will need in an emergency. This includes a first aid kit, flashlights, a battery-operated radio, blankets, clothing prescription drugs, eyeglasses, personal hygiene products, and enough cash, bottled water and non-perishable food items to last for three days. If you have pets, remember that they are depending on you and you will need to plan for their needs, and be sure to have enough food and water for them, too.
Create an Evacuation Plan
• Locate the nearest shelter and evacuation route.
• Make plans for your pets. Not all public shelters and hotels allow pets.
• Discuss this with your family and make sure that everyone knows where to meet up in an emergency.
When a Storm Warning is Issued
• Check your Emergency Supply Kit to make sure that needed supplies are available and fresh. Purchase new supplies to replace any worn out or expired supplies.
• Clear your yard of debris.
• Check with elderly or disabled neighbors to see if they need assistance.
• Fill up your gas tank, in case you are forced to evacuate.
• If you are forced to evacuate, turn off all utilities and disconnect appliances to reduce the chance of damage or electrical shock when utilities are restored.
After the Storm is Over
Inspect your property and survey the damage. Contact your insurance company and file a claim, if appropriate. You’ve paid your premiums, now the insurance company needs to pay your claim. If you have a homeowner’s claim or other insurance coverage dispute, contact David Graham Insurance Law, P.A. We’re here to help.
American Red Cross, Hurricane Safety Checklist
Department of Homeland Security, Hurricanes
Florida Department of Financial Services, Homeowner’s Insurance: A Toolkit for Consumers
National Association of Insurance Commissioners, HURRICANE PREPARATION: Act Now to Make Filing A Claim Easier After the Storm
National Hurricane Survival Initiative
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Hurricane Center