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WHAT TO DO AFTER A HURRICANE

CONTACT FRIENDS OR FAMILY.

Contact your friends and family to let them know that you are safe and to check on them if they are in the affected area. Your friends and family will be anxious to know that you are okay. Storms can knock out cable, cell phone towers, electricity, internet and radio transmitters and those outside the area may have some news about the aftermath of the storm or be able to offer you assistance if your power is out or your home has been badly damaged.

INSPECT YOUR HOME FOR DAMAGE. TAKE PICTURES OF DAMAGE TO THE BUILDING OR ITS CONTENTS TO SUPPORT YOUR HOMEOWNER’S INSURANCE CLAIM.

If you have suffered damage and plan to make a claim with your homeowner’s insurance company, you will need to be able to provide the necessary documentation to support your claim. Your home inventory and the photographs or video that you took of the damage will help you to do this, should the insurance company dispute or try to deny your claim.

MAKE ANY NECESSARY EMERGENCY REPAIRS

Most homeowner’s insurance policies require that you make any emergency repairs necessary to prevent further damage, such as covering broken windows with plastic or roofs with tarps to keep rain out. Most also provide coverage for these emergency repairs. You should, however, do only what is necessary to prevent further damage. While it may be tempting to start cleaning up and throwing out damaged items immediately after the storm, the insurance adjuster needs to see what happened first hand in order to make an accurate assessment of the damage. If repairs have already been made or damaged items discarded, it will be more difficult to get full value for your claim.

CONTACT YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY.

Contact your insurance company to report your claim. Your insurance company should explain your coverage, including deductibles. Insurance companies usually include a hurricane deductible in insurance policies for coastal homes. Hurricane deductibles are typically a percentage of the home’s insured value. If a house is valued at $250,000 and has a 5% hurricane deductible, this means that the homeowner must pay the first $12,500 of any repairs before the policy starts paying. The hurricane deductible applies only when the damage is caused by a hurricane. If the storm is not a hurricane at the time that it makes landfall, the hurricane deductible doesn’t apply.

In addition to explaining your coverage, the insurance company should also explain the claims process, and tell you what you they need from you in order to process your claim. Be sure to follow their instructions exactly. Failure to do so could result in your claim being denied. Be sure to ask about any limitations or restrictions on who makes any required repairs.

IF YOU ARE STILL WITHOUT POWER, USE FLASHLIGHTS IN THE DARK, DO NOT USE CANDLES.

It goes without saying that you don’t want to run the risk of fire or explosion.

CHECK REFRIGERATED FOOD FOR SPOILAGE. IF IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT.

If you have lost power for more than four hours, you will need to go through your refrigerator and freezer and determine what, if anything can be salvaged and what must be discarded. According to FoodSafety.gov, most foods should be safe as long as power is out no more than 4 hours. In general, you should discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been above 40 °F for over 2 hours. For information about specific foods, see that chart on their website. Never taste food to determine whether it is safe, and always discard any foods that have come into contact with raw meat juices. If in doubt, err on the side of throwing it out. Replacing food is far better than being hospitalized with a potentially deadly food borne illness. Keep records of what you have to replace. Your policy may cover the cost of replacing the spoiled food.

DO NOT GRILL OR OPERATE GASOLINE-POWERED MACHINERY INDOORS.

These tools weren’t intended to be used in confined spaces with limited ventilation. Leave the use of the grill and gas-powered tools and machinery for outside.

IF YOUR HOME IS TOO BADLY DAMAGED TO STAY, LEAVE OR SEEK HELP ELSEWHERE.

Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover ALE or additional living expenses that are incurred if you are displaced from your home due to a covered loss. If your home is uninhabitable, let your homeowner’s insurance company know.

IF THERE IS A FEDERAL PRESIDENTIAL DISASTER DECLARATION, CONTACT FEMA AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

It is not uncommon for a disaster declaration to precede a major storm or disaster. The purpose of this is to speed up the process of getting help to those who need it. If you suffered damage to your home or business during a storm that receives a federal disaster declaration and you need assistance, contact FEMA as soon as possible. You may be eligible for low interest loans or other assistance to help you rebuild.

BE SAFE WHEN CLEANING UP AFTER THE STORM AND MAKING SMALL REPAIRS.

Often, more people are injured in the aftermath of a storm than during the storm itself. Use common sense, stay away from any loose or dangling power lines, wear appropriate protective gear, such as goggles and gloves, and get help from a friend or neighbor, if necessary.

BEWARE OF SCAMS. USE ONLY LICENSED PROFESSIONALS FOR LARGER REPAIRS.

Unfortunately, a hurricane or other natural disaster often invites scams. If you have been unfortunate enough to have your home damaged in a hurricane, you will likely have no shortage of contractors knocking on your door and offering to fix the damage. In order to make sure that you are dealing with a reputable company, check with the appropriate licensing authorities to make sure that the company has valid business and professional licenses. You should also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the business. Don’t be afraid to ask for references, and be sure to get a written contract that spells out exactly what work will be done and what the charges will be.

PROPERLY DISPOSE OF DAMAGED OR DESTROYED PROPERTY OR DEBRIS.

If a contractor is doing the work, they should take care of making arrangements for dumpsters and debris removal. If not, you will need to know the local ordinances in your area. Individual cities differ in what they will haul away, how much, how often and the cost. If you have questions, contact your city government. Be sure to save any receipts for additional debris removal expenses, as you be entitled to reimbursement under you r homeowner’s insurance policy.

PREVENT MOLD AND MILDEW GROWTH.

Whenever you have water damage, there is a high risk that mold will follow. Damp walls, insulation and carpet are
ideal breeding grounds for mold spores. The key to preventing mold is a proper dryout. To be safe, any compromised materials should be replaced. You should not settle for spot replacement when you are entitled to complete replacement. In such cases, we can help you recover the entire amount of insurance coverage, as promised by your homeowner’s insurance policy contract. If your home has been damaged and you have a homeowner’s claim dispute with your insurance company, we can help. To schedule a free consultation, please contact David Graham Insurance Law at (386) 454-LOSS today or complete our online case evaluation form.

Hurricane Season is Here – Are you Ready?

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.

Additional Resources:

American Red Cross, Hurricane Safety Checklist
https://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4340160_Hurricane.pdf
Department of Homeland Security, Hurricanes
https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes
Florida Department of Financial Services, Homeowner’s Insurance: A Toolkit for Consumers
www.MYFloridaCFO.com/Division/Consumers
National Association of Insurance Commissioners, HURRICANE PREPARATION: Act Now to Make Filing A Claim Easier After the Storm
http://www.naic.org/documents/consumer_alert_hurricane_2012.htm
National Hurricane Survival Initiative

Hurricane Safety Checklists


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Hurricane Center
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare/ready.php