Hurricane season is in full swing, and if you live in hurricane country, it’s best to prepare your home sooner rather than later.
Colorado State University predicted a near-average hurricane season last year, with 12 named storms (indicating storms with winds of at least 39 miles per hour), five hurricanes (wind speeds of 74 mph), and two major hurricanes. Remember coastal residents: Only one hurricane has to make landfall to cause millions of dollars in property damages. So the big question that should be on your mind: Is your home prepared?
According to a recent AAA Consumer Pulse survey, 1 in 3 Florida residents (34 percent) don’t make any advanced preparations for severe weather. In Georgia, it’s even worse, with 64 percent of residents not preparing ahead of time. That’s akin to flirting with disaster.
With the most recent storm, Harvey, making it’s way towards the Gulf Coast, now is the right time for homeowners in hurricane country to ready their homes, make emergency plans, and check their insurance policies to see what’s covered if a big storm hits.
Guarding your home from a storm
Fortifying your property against the high winds and nasty weather generated by a hurricane is a step-by-step process. Start with the simple stuff – cleaning out gutters and making needed repairs. Move any outdoor furniture inside. When that’s done, you can move onto the safeguards that take a bit more time.
These include, but certainly aren’t limited to, strapping down your roof with hurricane clips (useful for reducing roof damage), installing head and foot bolts as extra protection on entry doors, caulking around doors and windows to keep rain out, and testing sump pumps and drains to make sure they’re up-to-snuff.
Whenever a hurricane is about to roll in, news stations inevitably show people boarding up their windows. But that isn’t especially effective protection, Weather Channel meteorologist Maria LaRosa told U.S. News & World Report. Your time is better spent elsewhere, like in installing window shutters and garage door braces.
You’ll also want to protect your landscaping. Trim larger trees and bushes so they aren’t as vulnerable to the wind, and tie smaller trees and shrubs down. If you’re unsure about whether to remove a tree, consider hiring a professional arborist to help you.
Make a plan
Sometimes, the best strategy for planning for a hurricane is to pretend there’s one right around the corner (and considering it’s now June, there very well may be). You don’t want to be one of those people stuck waiting in a long line for batteries and gas. Have emergency supplies ready to go in advance.
Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, recommended putting together a “go kit” of basic items families might need in an emergency. These would include water, nonperishable food, and supplies like flashlights, battery-powered radios, and maps.
Knowing your home evacuation route is equally important. Many communities in hurricane country have established evacuation zones and routes to get citizens to safety. This information is usually found on the websites of your local town, county, or state emergency management office. If officials recommend evacuating, don’t hesitate to do so.
Check your homeowners insurance
Last but not least, preparing for a hurricane means checking your homeowners insurance to confirm you’re covered. In 19 coastal states (including Florida, Georgia, and Virginia), the damage wrought by hurricanes is usually subject to a separate deductible. If you live in one of these states, it’s time to check your coverage.
Information on special storm deductibles can be found on the primary declarations page of your insurance policy. If you can’t find it, or you’d like to know exactly what’s protected, call your insurance provider and ask. It’s best to know these things in advance rather than after a storm has hit.
Standard homeowners insurance policies cover wind damage from hurricanes and tropical storms. Some forms of water damage (like rain blown in through a roof damaged by the storm) would also likely be covered. Flood damage, however, would not be part of your homeowners policy. You need a special policy for flood damage.
Keep in mind that there is often a 30-day waiting period from the moment you buy flood insurance to when it takes effect.