We’ve all seen the damage that Hurricane Irene can cause: not just the heavy winds, but also the flooding that followed. So how can you protect your home against the worst…and be covered if it happens? Here are twenty tips to help you protect your home.
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#1) Check Your Coverage
Write to your homeowner’s insurance company before storm season. Ask them about hurricanes, and what your policy does and does not cover. Beef up any coverage you may be concerned about, such as for wind damage and flooding.
#2) Check Your Deductibles
Many homeowner’s insurance policies will cover hurricane damage, but the policy may have different deductibles for hurricane damage. This is more common in areas more likely to be hit by hurricanes. Establish exactly what your deductibles are, and discuss lowering them if possible. After all, you want to make sure you have the best home insurance!
#3) Decide Whether You Want Personal Property Insurance
Flood insurance, which must be purchased separately, comes in two types: insurance that covers water damage to your home, and insurance that covers damage to the items in your home. It’s recommended that you have both, but if you can’t work both into your budget, focus on insuring your home first. Find out what your personal property insurance covers!
#4) Make a Hurricane Shelter Area in Your Home and Stock It With Supplies
Choose a safe area in your home, such as the basement, and stock it with flashlights, rain gear, a small supply of food and water, a first aid kit, blankets, a small “pocket” toolkit, extra cell phone batteries and chargers (consider a solar charger), and a survival radio. Pack it in watertight bags that will be easy to open if needed.
#5) Make a Safety Plan For Your Family
Before hurricane season starts, sit your family down and lay out a plan for when a hurricane strikes. Make sure everyone understands where they need to go. For family members who may need assistance (pets included), appoint one able person to be responsible for them. Also, ensure that everybody knows where to find important supplies. Take a look at these Hurricane Katrina Facts and see areas that could you improve on!
#6) Make A Plan For Your Valuables
Items like stock certificates, precious metals, and fine art are unlikely to be covered by any kind of flood or hurricane insurance. Make preparations for these things to be placed somewhere secure,such as a bank, if a hurricane is threatening. In the case of financial documents, like stocks,consider relocating them to such a facility permanently. Check out various online home insurance quotes to see if any will cover your valuables being properly protected!
#7) Document Everything About Your Home, and Keep It Accessible
After you have put your plans in place, go through your home and take photographs of everything, where it’s located, and what it is. Write down any identifying numbers for household electronics or appliances, and scan any warranties. Also scan a complete copy of your homeowner’s insurance and flood insurance policies. Then store them on a document storage site or “locker” website, so that you will be able to access them at any time. Keep policies on a USB drive on your keychain, so they will always be with you. Also consider scanning and uploading important personal information, such as tax returns, although take care to black out your Social Security Number before uploading anything of that kind onto the Internet. Some homeowner’s insurance policies cover flood damage but some will not. Make sure you have the proper coverage for your area!
#8) Consider What Puts Your Home Most At Risk
Do you have a picture window facing the ocean? Is your home right on a river or other body of water that could be washed away by flooding? Is there an unusual amount of exposure to wind on one side of your house? Make a list of possible problems that you would like to discuss with an expert, or that you know need to be addressed. Then use our ZIP code search to look for cheap home insurance!
#9) Have Your Home Inspected
Have a certified inspector examine your home to see if there are any structural faults or other minor problems that may become exacerbated by the storm. For example, if your soil doesn’t have good drainage, your home may be more prone to flooding. Fix these problems before hurricane season, if possible.
#10) Make Sure Your Garage Can Withstand the Pressure
Many garages are a key “weak point” for homes destroyed by hurricanes. Unlike a house, a garage will generally be flimsier and lighter, without as deep a foundation or as thick walls. Reinforce the garage, but do so carefully: there are many ineffective, yet expensive, “hurricane proofing” materials on the market. Reinforce it with steel or plywood, and consider installing impact-resistant doors. If you are in area that is prone to flooding, make sure you buy home insurance that covers all the areas of your house!
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#11) Secure Your Roof
Another key point to secure is your roof. Hurricanes can destroy homes by simply ripping off the roof, leaving the rest of the house open to debris and water damage. Repair any structural issues that your roof may be having, such as possible soft spots, and pay close attention to how it’s anchored to your house. Consider applying a strong adhesive, such as flooring glue, to the joints. It will offer a little extra protection, and help keep your roof secure. Most homeowners insurance covers tree damages, but use our ZIP code comparison tool and make sure!
#12) Keep Your Trees and Lawn Well Groomed
It sounds a bit odd, but it’s important to remember. The vast majority of fatalities and injuries in Irene were not from Irene directly, but falling tree limbs hitting people who had to be outside for one reason or another; tree limbs falling on houses and train tracks were a major problem in areas not affected by flooding and high winds. So, have a tree surgeon remove limbs that may be problematic, and keep your lawn clear of any sticks or other debris that could fly into your home or damage others. You don’t want the people next door saying “My neighbor’s tree fell on my house – whose home insurance covers this?”
#13) Install Impact-Resistant Windows
Another way hurricanes can cause major damage to homes is through windows destroyed by debris. These broken windows let in water and high winds that can lift up homes and even blow them away. Impact-resistant windows will lower this risk substantially; while no window is impact-proof, it’s rare a storm is so powerful that it can blow out every impact-resistant window.
#14) Set Up Your Own Early Warning System
Modern technology can help you keep your ear to the ground for possible hurricane problems. For example, several weather websites offer text or email alerts when a tropical storm or hurricane warning is issued for your area. Check out the National Hurricane Center for all of your hurricane warnings!
#15) Listen to the Radio and Watch TV
If there’s a possibility for a hurricane, when at home, keep a radio tuned to a local news station, such as your local public radio affiliate or talk news station. If you hear any evacuation warnings or requests from local government, listen closely and comply. You can also use NOAA’s Weather Radio for all the newest updates on weather in your area!
#16) Move Anything Outdoors,Indoors
Remove anything that may become dangerous debris from out of doors: lawn decorations, appliances, toys, patio furniture, and anything else that may be outside.
#17) Keep Your Cool
The key thing to remember, before a hurricane strikes, is that panicking will achieve nothing. By the time the storm arrives, you’ve done absolutely everything you can to prepare for this strike, so, evacuate or take shelter as necessary, and focus on your current situation.
#18) Do Not Leave Your Home During the Hurricane (Unless Absolutely Necessary)
Short of your home becoming dangerous, there is no reason to venture outside in a hurricane. Stay put.
#19) Once the Hurricane is Over, Document All Damage
When you have been given the all clear, document the damage done to your home and valuables with digital photos. This will be important in making your claim later.
#20) Be Ready To Wait
Often, insurance agents will be flooded with calls and emails after a hurricane. While most insurance agencies will have more personnel available to handle the call volume, it may take longer than usual to file your claim. Be patient; you have all the documentation and your policies. It will be a far less painful process for you than for those who aren’t prepared.
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