Hurricane Season is Here! Six Steps to Protect Your Home
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a “normal” season of 10-16 named storms, 5-9 hurricanes, and 1-4 “major” storms, category 3 strength or higher. CNN says an average Atlantic basin season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. What NOAA can’t predict is where these storms will go. Before last year’s Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the United States had gone 12 years without a major hurricane –again, category 3 or above–making landfall.
Memories of Hurricane Irma still linger in our minds. Make time now to prepare one of your most important investments: your home. We’ve written about hurricane preparedness measures before, including the lessons we personally learned from Hurricane Irma. Plenty of other resources exist regarding personal preparation for your family or evacuating. Preparing to protect your home, especially for sheltering in place as many Floridians do, should be part of the planning. Consider taking these measures while Atlantic is calm and quiet.
1) Verify your insurance coverage.Carefully read the details of your home insurance. Not all private insurers cover hurricane flood damage. See the updated hurricane flood maps to verify if you live in a flood zone. Note: even if you live a few miles inland, you could still experience flooding during a major storm if you live near one of Sarasota’s many creeks or drainage canals. Separate flood policies are available through the National Flood Insurance Program or a private insurer.
Floridian home insurance policies need to address wind damage. Some policies have a higher deductible for hurricane-specific wind damage. Check to see your policy’s stipulations and limitations. Do you want the policy to cover loss of personal property? Will the amount of coverage cover the potential cost of repairs or rebuilding your home? You might need to purchase separate windstorm coverage.
2) Purchase generator or conduct maintenance on your existing generator.Generators quickly become scarce when a storm approaches. Buy one before the rush. If you have a generator on hand, make sure it works now. Empty the gas tank before storing, or the stale gas can cause problems. Generators need frequent oil changes, so keep oil and filters on hand in case of long power outages. Run the generator for 30 minutes about every three months to keep the starter charged. Avoid letting the generator run out of gas, as that can burn it out quicker and cause a slew of problems.
3) Prune the landscaping.Cut down dead tree limbs now before a windstorm turns them into projectiles. Now is the time to work on yard drainage problems, dying trees, and other landscaping issues. Secure loose fence boards. Check the stability of storage sheds. It will be one less thing to worry about when a storm approaches.
4) Visually document your house.Everyone should do this not just for hurricane season, but to assist with insurance claims resulting from fire, flood, sinkhole damage, or theft. If you haven’t updated your video or photo of assets in a while, now’s the time. Store the videos or photos securely, like in cloud-based storage or off-site in a safe deposit box. Keeping them in your house–the asset you’re trying to protect–invites loss.
5) Gather important documents.Evacuations can be stressful. Is it mandatory or elective? Where will you go? How much time do you have? Whether you have plenty of lead time, like days before landfall, or just a few hours thanks to a change of course, take one step to protect your assets. Gather vital documents, originals or copies, into one place. Think insurance policies, warranties, passports, licenses, pet records, et al. Place into a waterproof container like a Ziploc, Tupperware, purpose-built folder. When the time comes, all you’ll need to do is grab and add into your vehicle.
6) Inspect Your Home.Whether you hire a professional or do-it-yourself, take an hour one day and give your home a thorough once-over. Check the roof inside and outside for damage or leaks. Inspect around windows and doors. Fix water damage or rotten wood areas before the weakness comprises the structure of your home. This hurricane retrofit guide contains an excellent overview of what to look for in your home. Newer homes are built in Florida are engineered with the latest developments to resist hurricane damage. However, while these homes tend to resist wind damage better, it is near impossible to completely “hurricane-proof” a home.
For more information on hurricane preparedness, we recommend resources from the National Hurricane Center.