What if it's a Hurricane?

Have you ever done all the work to gear up for a hurricane and found yourself totally disappointed when it turned out to be only a calm tropical storm?  Well, if you lived through some of the strongest hurricanes to hit the U.S. in recent years, or you know people who have, you also know you’ll never be disappointed again when that would-be hurricane turns out to be a “mere” tropical storm — even after you’ve done all the preparation.  And, you know what we mean when we say — What if it’s a Hurricane?  

Hurricanes are one of nature’s most destructive weather occurrences.  They start as smaller storms and most rage harmlessly in the ocean.  But sometimes they grow into powerful storm systems with intense winds and heavy rain. 

These storms often run their course without hitting land or populated areas.  But sometimes they cause billions of dollars in property damage to homes, offices, and landscapes.  They can disrupt your life, your business and general commerce across wide areas. 

It’s a hurricane when winds go above 74 miles per hour.  The most violent winds and heavy rains occur just outside the “eye” of the storm.  These storms often produce destructive tornadoes.  The slower they move, the more likely they are to cause flooding. 

Even Category-One storms, like Hurricane Floyd, have caused billions of dollars in damage.  Hurricane Katrina was one of the most costly hurricanes in history, flooding New Orleans, devastating homes, businesses and claiming many lives.   And if you lived in neighboring states, you know the damage didn’t stop there.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November.  Even if you’re not in areas most noted for Hurricanes, don’t think you’re immune.  Many devastating storms have hit the United States at various points along the east coast and pushed inland.  And, cities all around the Gulf of Mexico have gotten hit with major storms on a fairly regular basis. 

While it’s true, hurricanes are one of the natural disasters that seem to give us “fair” warning — usually we hear about them at least a week before they arrive -- the last thing you want to do is be complacent. Perhaps the coming storm won’t land on your doorstep.  But what if it does?

You’ll be smart to make preparations well in advance of any disaster. What should you do to ensure the safety of your home, office and family before an emergency is at hand?

First, you’ll want to make sure that your home and office meet hurricane building standards well before a storm is approaching.  Building codes have changed dramatically over the years as lessons have been learned about the destruction they cause. You can check with state and county building authorities to see what safeguards are suggested. Your homeowners insurance company may be able to provide some tips as well.  

Experts advise the most important precaution to reduce damage to your home and property is to protect areas where wind can enter. You can do this by reinforcing critical areas such as roofs, shutters, doors, and garage doors in advance. 

Many upgrades will get you a better deal on insurance so be sure to check with your insurer before you spend your money. You’ll want to invest in changes they recommend.  And, be sure to let your insurer know after upgrades are complete so you can get any associated discounts. 

Don’t wait!  Even if you have to do it slowly, plan your budget to get the upgrades.  Make the important changes now so you’ll have a far better chance of staying safe and safeguarding your property during an emergency.

Second, make sure your homeowners, auto and business insurance are up-to-date and adequate to cover any losses.  You should contact your agent or insurance company for a policy check at least annually.  If you’re a business owner, you will want to make sure you have insurance that will pay for losses if you’re unable to operate for any length of time. 

Third, make sure the insurance company you’ll depend on will be financially able to cover your losses.  Insurance companies are often hit with significant claims from one large disaster or multiple disasters that hit an area where they have high policy exposure.  You won’t want to find out the coverage you’ve been paying dearly for isn’t available when you need it.  Or, isn’t going to pay what you expected.  Make sure to review the Weiss Financial Strength Ratings regularly to keep your insurance in the safe zone.  

Fourth, make tree and shrubbery maintenance part of your regular routine.  Remove dead branches and strategic limbs which will let the wind blow through.  Don’t wait until just before a storm to do this because debris-collection services may not be operating. 

Flood damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.  Do not make assumptions.  Check your policy.  The National Flood Insurance Program provides federally backed flood insurance for residents and business owners. 

Develop a disaster plan with a preparation checklist.  It’ll help you remember important “to do’s” when you’re under pressure of an approaching hurricane. Include a designated meeting place, in case you are not with family when the storm hits.  Then, if a hurricane is approaching, put your attention to making the preparations you’ve planned. 

Read more – Prepare as the hurricane is approaching.

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