We can expect more to come. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted an above-average hurricane season.
Preparation for a hurricane is essential. The more prepared you are, the faster you will be able to evacuate and, if necessary, file an insurance claim. There are lessons learned from last year’s hurricane season that can help you be ready for the next one.
Here’s what you can do if you’re in the path of Hurricane Sally.
Review Your Insurance Coverage
If a hurricane is coming your way, review your insurance policies and make sure you have the right coverage in place. Here’s what to look for.
Homeowners, Condo and Renters Insurance
Your homeowners insurance policy will cover your dwelling (home), but coverage for hurricane damage can get tricky (more on that below). If you rent or live in a condo, your landlord’s insurance or HOA association typically covers the building while your renters or condo insurance covers your belongings inside your unit.
- Personal belongings, aka contents coverage: This includes your clothes, furniture, electronics, artwork, pots and pans, and everything else, even down to the knick knacks on your shelves. If you haven’t already, create a home inventory, which can help speed up the claims process. You can increase the coverage limit for your personal belongings if you think it’s inadequate.
- Additional living expenses (ALE): Also called “loss of use,” this covers expenses when you can’t live at home due to a mandatory evacuation or damage covered by the policy. Expenses that can be reimbursed by ALE coverage includes lodging, restaurant meals and other services, such as laundry or pet boarding. Make sure to save your receipts that might apply to an ALE claim.
Homeowners Insurance and Hurricanes
When it comes to hurricanes, your home insurance may not be enough. That’s because a standard policy generally excludes coverage for flood damage. Depending on where you live, wind damage caused by hurricanes could also be partially or completely excluded.
Speak with your home insurance agent to understand what’s covered and to make a hurricane insurance plan. You may need to purchase both flood insurance and wind insurance. Keep in mind that certain types of policies have a waiting period. For example, if you’re planning to get flood insurance through FEMA, there is typically a 30-day waiting period, with a few exceptions.
You may be able to find flood insurance without a waiting period through a private insurance company, depending on where you live. Insurers without a waiting period include Flood Guard, TypTap Flood Insurance and Zurich Residential Private Flood Insurance.
Other private insurers sell flood insurance with shorter waiting periods. For example, Neptune Flood Insurance has a 10-day waiting period and Private Market Flood has a 14-day waiting period.
Don’t Forget Your Car
If you want your vehicle covered for hurricane-related damage, you’ll need comprehensive car insurance. This covers vehicle damage from floods and falling objects (like tree branches). If you don’t already have this coverage, you can typically add it to your car insurance policy without a waiting period.
Gather Important Documents
If your home is in the path of a hurricane, make sure you have important documents gathered and stored in a waterproof container.
If you need to file an insurance claim, you’ll want to have your insurance documents ready and available, such as:
- Homeowners insurance
- Windstorm and hail coverage
- Flood insurance
- Car insurance
Make a safe storage place for documents such as:
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Divorce decrees
- Military certificates
- Social Security card
- Driver’s licenses
- Credit cards
It’s also a good idea to write down any important contact information (such as friends and family) in case your cell phone battery dies.
Home and Property Documents
This might include documents such as:
- Home deed
- Mortgage and closing statements
- Appraisal documents for valuable items, like jewelry
Other Types of Documents
Here are some additional documents you may want to include:
- Estate documents, like your will and estate planning paperwork
- Health insurance cards
- Prescription list for current medications
- Contact information for your doctors
- Financial documents, such as bank statements, IRA or 401(k) account numbers, tax records, stock and bond certificates
Protect Your Property
There are several steps you can take last-minute to prep for a hurricane and reduce damage from high winds, rain and flood water. FEMA recommends the following:
- Reinforce doors, windows, walls and roofs to safeguard your home from high winds.
- Bring lightweight objects (like patio furniture and garbage cans) inside.
- Anchor objects that you cannot bring inside.
- Trim tree branches that could fall on your home or car.
Assemble a Disaster Supply Kit
You’ll want to prepare a disaster kit ahead of time and keep it handy in case you need to evacuate quickly. Your disaster kit might include:
- Food and water for at least three days
- A battery-powered or hand crank NOAA radio
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries and cell phone chargers
- Dust masks
- Duct tape, plastic sheeting, garbage bags and plastic ties
- Tools, such as a wrench or pliers
- Local maps
- Wool blanket or sleeping bags
- Change of clothes (including rain gear)
- Prescription medications and over-the-counter medications
Additionally, it’s a good idea to keep your car’s gas tank at least half-full at all times and stocked with emergency supplies, such as flares, jumper cables, bottled water and snacks.
Don’t drive into water that’s in roads. Cars driven into flood water are the most common cause of flood deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here’s more about what to do if your car is caught in a flood.
What To Do Right After a Hurricane
After the hurricane passes, FEMA recommends you return to the area only after local authorities have declared it safe. Avoid entering any damaged buildings until they are inspected by qualified professionals. FEMA also recommends the following:
- Do not walk or drive through flooded roads.
- Be cautious when removing heavy debris. Wear gloves and thick-soled shoes. Do not remove debris by yourself.
- Do not drink tap water until local authorities say it’s safe to drink.
If your home was damaged, contact your insurance agent as soon as possible to initiate the claims process. If you need to file a homeowners insurance claim for roof damage=, you may need to take steps to prevent further damage, like putting up a tarp.