Hurricanes are powerful and often deadly storms whose strong winds and heavy rains can wreak havoc on businesses and homes. In the event of an impending hurricane, it is essential to prepare for days or even weeks without power or access to fresh food and water. Homeowners may also consider investing in insurance coverage to protect against losses caused by these terrifying storms.
Preparing an Emergency Kit
The most important element of an emergency kit is a minimum three day supply of both food and water. A flashlight with extra batteries and a first aid kit are crucial items as well. The Ready website provides a comprehensive list of necessary items, as well as additional emergency supplies, required for a first aid kit and supplies for those with special needs such as infants or the elderly. The Weather Channel and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) blog also offer advice on hurricane preparedness. Hurricanes arrive with several days of advance warning; these preparations should be made as soon as possible.
Before evacuating, it is important to secure your house against the storm. Cover all of the windows with permanent storm shutters, or board them up with 5/8” marine plywood. Install straps or additional clips to fasten the roof to the frame structure in order to reduce roof damage. Trim any trees and shrubs around the home to increase wind resistance, and clear loose or congested rain gutters. Reinforce garage doors, as wind entering a garage can cause dangerous structural damage. Finally, bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and any other loose items. Close and lock doors and windows, and unplug electrical equipment and appliances. Additional suggestions can be found on the Ready website as well as The Weather Channel.
In the event that an evacuation becomes necessary, local officials will provide information to media outlets. Other warning methods such as sirens or telephone calls may be used as well. Some people simply choose to evacuate on their own when they feel threatened. Make sure the car to be used for evacuation has a full tank of gas, as gas stations may be closed or unable to pump gas during power outages. Most importantly, follow recommended evacuation routes. Shortcuts may be blocked or flooded, or there may be downed power lines and always be sure to designate a meeting spot in the event of a separation.
Further evacuation guidelines are provided by FEMA on their website.
Keeping Current on the Weather
During a severe storm like a hurricane, having up-to-date weather information is critical. The National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center tracks all developing storms and issues advisories; it also provides links to hurricane preparation. AccuWeather’s Hurricane Center is another source for information on current and developing storms as well as general facts about hurricanes. The Weather Channel’s Hurricane Central is an additional resource for current weather and storm preparedness.
Flood damage is one of the most common results of a hurricane, but it is not covered unless additional flood insurance, offered by the National Flood Insurance Program, is purchased. SmartMoney reports that flood insurance costs an average of $600 annually, while homeowners living on high-risk coastlines can expect to pay almost $6,000. Homeowner policies do pay for wind damage, including broken windows, torn roofs and interior damage from water falling into the home, as well as tree limbs or entire trees blown onto a home, garage or shed. Tree removal is typically covered up to $500.
Traditional insurance policies often do not cover the damage caused by hurricanes; as a result, 18 coastal states have allowed hurricane deductibles to be incorporated into homeowner policies, according to Insurance Information Institute. However, residents will have to pay a costly deductible, as high as 1% to 5% of the total amount the home is insured for, before the insurance policy takes effect. Some states allow policyholders to pay a higher premium in return for a traditional dollar deductible, depending on how close to the coast their home is located. On an encouraging note, most standard homeowner policies will pay for a family’s living expenses, including food and housing, while the home is being restored.
Preparing for a hurricane can be stressful; however, failing to do so could be the cause of even more stress. Remember, the earlier these precautions are taken, the better.