Very often emotions are extremely high in a case of emergency, like the anticipation of bad weather, and emotions can remain high even after the storm. The most important piece of advice that we take for granted is being prepared before the hurricane happens.
“By evaluating your own personal needs and making an emergency plan, you will be better prepared for any situation.” says Anthony McLean, Coordinator for Office of Emergency Management for the City of Richmond. “If we are prepared for the first 72 hours (three days) after a disaster, we will be ready for an emergency, no matter what form it takes. Three days might seem like a lot but it’s really only nine meals.”
In preparation for Hurricane Season, an emergency plan should include at a minimum the following:
- Out of town contacts, primary and alternate (identify contacts for your family to connect with during and after a disaster)
- Meeting place (in case you cannot return to your home, so that you know where you will go if you have to evacuate)
- List of medications and allergies (note the medications, dosages, and allergies)
- Medical equipment (keep a list of style and serial number and other life-sustaining devices include operating information and instructions)
- Medical contacts (medical providers, include veterinarian for the furry family members)
- Insurance contacts
Having property insurance is key – Especially for Renters
Can you imagine a natural disaster destroying all of your possessions? Whether you are hunkering down or clearing out in advance of a major storm, there is no better time than to review your homeowners or renters insurance policies. With peak hurricane season upon us, now is a good time to make sure you’re properly protected before a storm hits your area and leaves you with a damaged or destroyed home. Unfortunately, renters insurance often falls under the radar.
Approximately 80% of renters do not carry renters insurance. It is extremely important to contact an insurance company to discuss what’s best for you and your family. And for homeowners, if your homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood insurance, contact your insurance company for additional information.
Here are some key things you should know about your policy, and some suggestions to help ease the claims process.
- Know your coverage. Unfortunately, it’s obviously too late after a storm to purchase insurance coverage if you don’t have any. If you do have a standard homeowner’s policy, it most likely will not cover flood damage. Instead, you’ll need to buy flood insurance from your agent or from the National Flood Insurance Program.
- Know your deductibles. Know which situations will trigger your policy’s high deductible for hurricanes.
- Take inventory. Before the storm arises, make a video or take photos in which you note the valuables in your home. If you have receipts from when you purchased these items, document them, too.
- Filing a claim. Document all of your communications with an insurer, and don’t be afraid to push back if you disagree with how they handle your claim,
If you are renting, don’t count on your landlord’s insurance to cover your personal property. Landlord’s insurance will cover the physical building, but you will need renters insurance to cover damages to your belongings.
“You can’t assume your landlord will pay for your damaged or lost possessions. In fact, one can probably assume they won’t. A renters insurance policy can help recoup your losses.” comments Anthony McLean.
Only 37 percent of renters have renters insurance. Renters insurance pays for damages and theft to your belongings, personal liability coverage and can cover additional living expenses, such as if you can’t live in your home because of damage.
The average cost of renters insurance is $15 per month in the U.S., but the cost varies greatly by state depending on risk. Fewer natural disasters, like hurricanes, means lower rental insurance premiums. Unlike homeowners insurance, there is no hurricane deductible for renters. If you need to file a claim, you would need to pay your set deductible, usually $250 or $500, before your insurance company kicks in money.
FEMA estimates that about 25 percent of flood insurance claims come from areas that have a low-to-moderate flood risk. So, flood insurance can be an important piece of protection for those not living in flood zones.
You should handle filing an insurance claim related to a hurricane in the same way, whether you have a hurricane deductible or not. If you notice damage, don’t wait to notify your insurance company. Take these actions:
- Document the damage through photos and/or video.
- Prevent further damage to your home by covering broken windows, for example. Not doing so could cause your insurance company to not pay for further damage caused by not taking the necessary precautions to protect your damaged home.
- Notify your insurance company immediately so they can begin the claims process.
- Keep track of your communication with your insurance company, including dates, names, conversations and contact information, but don’t have the permanent repairs done until after your insurer has reviewed the damage.
- Get repair estimates from qualified contractors in writing.
Having the right level of insurance if a hurricane hits can be key to your financial well-being. Make sure you understand how a hurricane can impact your homeowners insurance and that you are properly protected with flood insurance and windstorm insurance if your property is at risk.
Even with insurance and taking the steps to ensure coverage after damage, preparing your home for a hurricane remains priority.
- Hurricane winds can cause trees and branches to fall, so before hurricane season trim or remove damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your property safe.
- Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property.
- Reduce property damage by retrofitting to secure and reinforce the roof, windows and doors, including the garage doors.
- Purchase a portable generator or install a generator for use during power outages. Remember to keep generators and other alternate power/heat sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture; and NEVER try to power the house wiring by plugging a generator into a wall outlet.
Even with us being prepared, there are situations where weather can become dangerous and severe. This weather can result in loss of electricity for a significant amount of time or even having to be displaced from your home due to damage. Individuals involved in disasters such as home fires, tree damage, etc. may be forced from their homes.
The local Red Cross is a great local partner to assist those in need, opening evacuation shelters to keep people safe during the storm, providing shelter and food until families can return home, and meeting housing needs for those whose homes were most seriously damaged.
“We work with our local partners to respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to help our communities prevent, prepare for and respond to disasters.” comments the American Red Cross, Virginia Region. “Should one happen, we work with many other wonderful organizations to help provide resources in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.”
If the event is larger than a house fire or single incident (such as a storm bringing a tree down on a home), the Red Cross then works within the partnerships of the local governments, other emergency response organizations and our team to help determine the best community response for meeting those needs.
“We also work daily in all of our communities to share how to be prepared before a disaster. Whether we are at the Blandford Community Day sharing how to be prepared for hurricane season, installing smoke alarms in Norfolk or helping with the Citizen Preparathon in the City of Richmond – our teams are on the ground for all stages of the disaster: Preparedness, Response and Recovery.” comments the American Red Cross, Virginia Region.
“Preparing just makes sense!” comments Anthony McLean. “Everybody’s needs and abilities are unique, but every individual can take important steps to prepare for all kinds of emergencies and put plans in place.”