This week, Hurricane Florence strengthened to a Category 4 storm and most weather models predict a direct hit to North and South Carolina, with widespread effects throughout the east coast. If you have not done so already, now is the time to review your hurricane insurance policy, prepare yourself, your home and your business for the storm and create an emergency plan for you and your loved ones.
Review Your Policy
Hurricane deductibles under standard homeowner’s policies are set at a percentage of the home’s insured value, usually ranging from 1 to 5 percent. The insurer will set a trigger for the deductible based on if the National Weather Service declares or names a storm. Review information regarding your hurricane deductible on the Declarations page of your homeowner’s policy before a storm hits so that you are well prepared after the storm.
Standard homeowner’s policies cover wind damage from hurricanes and tropical storms. However, flood damage is not covered. You will have to purchase a special policy through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program or from a private insurer.
It is important to note that it takes 30 or more days from when a flood policy is purchased to when coverage takes effect. So while it may be too late for Hurricane Florence, if the 2018 Hurricane Season turns out to be nearly as bad as the 2017 season, you will be in a better place for any future storms.
Prepare Your Home and Business
The best way to prevent major damage from a hurricane is to be prepared. Here are a few things you should do before a storm hits:
- Take a personal inventory of your belongings and business equipment
- Bring in all outdoor furniture, signs and light-weight items, such as trash cans
- Trim trees, shrubbery and landscaping that could cause damage to your house or commercial property
- Clear gutters and downspouts, and make sure they drain away from your property
- Reinforce your roof with hurricane straps
- Secure doors, windows and garage doors
- Install storm shutters on doors and windows
- Test your sump pump
- Fuel and service any family, fleet or emergency vehicles
- Identify the best evacuation routes and pet-friendly hotels along your route
Create Your Emergency Plan
When a hurricane hits, it is important to have an emergency plan in place. Your emergency plan should be known and understood by the whole family. The plan needs to include step-by-step directions for remaining in your home and evacuating. The National Weather Service is a great resource, providing guidelines for creating an emergency supply kit and developing an evacuation plan.
During the Storm
When you are in the thick of the storm, particular in the warning area, follow these general guidelines to stay safe:
- Closely monitor NOAA Weather Radio or TV for all official bulletins
- Follow all instructions issued by local officials, if evacuation is ordered, LEAVE!
- DO NOT stay in a mobile or manufactured home, on a coastline or in a high rise building
- Turn the refrigerator the maximum cold setting and keep it closed
- Turn off all utilities if ordered to do so by local officials
- Unplug all small appliances
- Fill the bathtub and large containers with clean water in case tap water is unavailable
- Take shelter in a small interior room
- Be alert for tornadoes
After the Storm
It is important to stay alert after the storm has passed. There are a number of dangers to consider in the aftermath of the storm. Follow these general tips:
- Wait until an area is declared safe before entering
- Watch for closed roads, never go through a barricaded or flooded road
- Stay on firm ground and do not walk through water—it can be electrically charged from downed power lines
- Never use generators indoors
- Check your home and business for gas, water, electrical and appliance/equipment damage
It is also very important to have your insurance policy information, your insurance agent’s contact information and other important information written down and easily accessible. If the power goes out you may be unable to search for information online or charge your cell phone if you need to call for help or file a claim.
Although you cannot control the weather, you can take steps to prepare for and reduce the damaging effects of a hurricane. If you need help reviewing your homeowner’s policy or are looking to increase your protection, contact RCM&D.