The Next Hurricane: Your Path to Preparedness

Mary loves to explain insurance in terms that her customers can understand so that they can make informed decisions about their coverage.

The 2020 hurricane season is now underway, with experts predicting “above normal” activity in the Atlantic.

If you haven’t reviewed your insurance policies lately, now is a smart time to ask your agent about which coverages you have and which ones you don’t. Common gaps to discuss:

Meanwhile, bookmark this page, along with your insurance carrier’s claims department info, and print it to keep with your household emergency kit.

If you own a business, you may want to reference SBA’s hurricane checklist for small business owners

Your Emergency Kit

There are tons of emergency lists out there, outlining the essential components of a severe weather kit. This list from the Red Cross is a good one. Once the essentials are gathered, don’t forget to set aside the“nice-to-have” provisions, too. These aren’t the kinds of things that actually save people’s lives, but they might feel like lifesavers in the confines of a dark house: instant coffee or a camping coffee maker, paper plates and cups, a board game that your kids haven’t seen in a while (so they won’t be totally bored after 10 minutes without power), a few good books and a booklight, a deck of cards, pet snacks, and dry shampoo.

Your Food Supply

Following a severe storm, the USDA recommends throwing out any perishable food (meat, cheese, eggs, leftovers) after four hours without power. But sometimes you don’t know how long the power’s been out…

For example, if you evacuated your house or sheltered with friends overnight, you may come home to a power outage. Maybe the power was interrupted and restored while you slept. In either case, it’s tough to know if your refrigerated food is still safe to eat.

So, here’s a trick we found floating around: before any storm that’s expected to bring strong winds and outages, freeze a cup of water. Place a quarter on top of the frozen water. Wait. After a power outage, check the position of the quarter. If it was able to sink near the bottom of the cup, your fridge and freezer probably warmed up too much to keep your foods at a safe temperature.

Visit the USDA’s webpage for more detailed information on food safety and storms.

Staying in Touch

Naturally everyone thinks to charge their phones before a storm, but what happens when that batch of battery power runs out? While you still have power in your home, experts recommend charging your laptops, too. They can be used to recharge your cell phone with a USB. Whatever you do, avoid the crazy MacGyver tricks involving nine-volts and pen springs; they don’t work and they’re dangerous.

You might also consider downloading a “walkie talkie” app like Zello. In the wake of Harvey and Irma, Zello attracted six million new users—including first responders and volunteers.The Zello app basically transforms your cell phone into a walkie-talkie or a two-way radio. This is a really useful tool if you’re stuck somewhere in the dark or in the rain, and you’d rather not waste time typing out emails/text messages. However, the app still requires internet access or cellular data in order to work. To be clear: if you do not have access to WiFi or cellular data service, apps like Zello will not work.

Minimizing Property Damage

Most people focus on shuttering windows and doors before a major storm, and that’s important. But don’t forget to take precautions in your yard and driveway, too. First, bring lawn furniture, decorations, bird houses, and potted plants inside, as these can become projectiles in high winds. Next, reinforce your garage doors. If you don’t have a garage, look for a safe parking spot. Many folks—especially in cities—don’t have personal garage space. Contact local officials to see if any public garages are offering free parking in a covered structure. Whenever possible, avoid parking under trees, power lines, or on low ground, where flash flooding could damage your car’s components.

Preparing for Cleanup and Repairs

Before a storm starts, be sure you know how to make a home inventory of all your valuable possessions. Take photos of your home’s exterior—including fences, toolsheds, pool areas, vehicles, etc. If you need to file an insurance claim later on, these photos will help you show proof of exactly what your property entailed.

It’s always a good idea to keep copies of your home inventory (and other estate documents) in a secure location outside your home, but in a last-minute pinch you can stow things in the dishwasher. That’s right! Assuming you don’t have dirty dishes in there, your dishwasher is as effective as a waterproof safe when floodwater becomes a concern.

For more comprehensive advice on hurricane preparedness, visit the National Hurricane Center’s Resources page. As always, if you have any questions about tree damage, water damage, or other storm-related coverage, do not hesitate to call us at 508.339.2951.