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Protect Your Home for Hurricane Season

Sep 12, 2019 3 min read Susan Johnson Taylor

Photo courtesy of the Russo family

Key Takeaways

  • Consult your insurance provider to make sure you have adequate coverage.
  • Take inventory of your personal belongings before the storm hits.
  • Prepare an emergency safety kit.

 

Hurricane season officially starts in June and runs through November. These tropical storms can wreak havoc on anything in their path. 

Raina Russo, who was living in Atlantic Beach, New York, when Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012, experienced this firsthand. 

“We had the ocean come in from one side and the bay come in from the other, and they met in my living room,” she says. 

The house’s foundation survived, but the storm destroyed her family’s cars and caused enough damage in the basement and first floor that they had to move out for four months. Insurance covered some but not all the cost for repairs, and finding a rental home near her kids’ schools proved challenging. 

Fortunately, Russo and her husband kept meticulous records of spreadsheets, photos and receipts for their insurance provider and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “We had quite a lot of documentation supporting all of our damage and expenses,” she says. 

Here are some steps you can take now to protect your home and prepare for hurricane season. 


Review coverage with your insurer

Sit down with your insurance agent to find out if you have adequate insurance for your home, car and any boats or recreational vehicles. Does your policy provide temporary housing in case your residence is uninhabitable following a storm? Do you know your deductible and any policy limits? Tropical storms can impact inland areas, too, so these questions aren’t just for those living on the coast. 

Your homeowners policy may cover damage caused by hurricane winds (sometimes subject to a separate deductible). However, a standard homeowners policy does not cover flooding, which is the most common type of damage from tropical storms. Ask about purchasing a separate rider for flood coverage if needed, but understand that any changes or additions to your insurance policy may take 30 days to take effect.


Inspect your home

To prepare for possible storm damage, walk around your home’s interior and take an inventory of personal belongings with a short video. Anything stored in a garage or basement could get water-damaged in a flood, so consider raising items on blocks or moving them to other parts of your home. Secure outdoor furniture to prevent exterior damage. 

Create an emergency evacuation plan, write it down and share it with all family members. Note where you’re storing insurance documents and other important paperwork. Consider scanning these documents and uploading them to secure cloud storage online, or be sure to take hard copies with you in the event of an evacuation. 


Build an emergency safety kit

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recommends preparing an emergency safety kit in case you need to evacuate or you get trapped in your home. You may not be home when you’re ordered to evacuate, so consider preparing kits for your car and workplace, too. 

DHS suggests that your kit include enough water and non-perishable food for each person in your family for at least three days. If you have pets, don’t forget to include extra water and pet food. Other useful supplies: a manual can opener for food, flashlight and extra batteries, first aid kit and wrench or pliers to shut off utilities. 

 

What you can do next

Hopefully you’ll never need to use your flood insurance or an emergency safety kit, but if you do have that unfortunate experience, you’ll be glad to have them. Planning for a natural disaster and making sure you have the proper insurance coverage can also help give you and your family greater peace of mind. 

 

Susan Johnston Taylor writes about small business, entrepreneurship and personal finance. Her articles have appeared in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, Entrepreneur, Fast Company and the money section of U.S. News & World Report online.

 

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