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Hurricane Awareness

Hurricanes can shatter lives as well as damage property. Fortunately there are steps you can take to minimize the impact of a hurricane.

Before the Hurricane Season Begins

When a hurricane watch is issued it may already be too late to take certain precautions. The hurricane season begins in June. You can reduce property damage and get through the emergency with less stress by preparing before hurricane season begins.

1. Plan your escape route early

  • Find out where the nearest official shelter in your area is in case you have to leave your home. The Red Cross or your local government can give you this information. Find out what you should bring and if there are restrictions in terms of pets, etc. If you are unfamiliar with the area, make a trial run.
  • If you plan to leave the area entirely, check with city or county officials for the quickest and best route to your destination and the roads to avoid. Keep a good map in your car in case planned evacuation routes cannot be followed.
  • If you live on the coast or in a mobile home, you’ll probably have to evacuate in the event of a major storm.

2. Take an inventory of your personal property

  • A home inventory will help ensure that you have purchased enough insurance to replace your personal possessions. It can also speed the claims process and substantiate losses for income tax purposes. A detailed home inventory is also helpful should you need to apply for disaster aid.
  • To make creating a home inventory easier, the I.I.I. provides free Web-based software at KnowYourStuff.org. Know Your Stuff allows you to organize easily and list your possessions, as well as add digital photographs of your valuables and upload scanned receipts. The program provides free, secure storage of your inventory on Amazon Web Services. Storing your inventory online gives you the ability to access it from any computer in the event your own computer is damaged or destroyed.

3. Review your insurance policies

  • Remember that your homeowners insurance covers the cost of temporary repairs. It also pays reasonable additional living expenses. These are costs over and above your normal living expenses, such as the extra expense of getting to work or to school if your temporary home is in a different community.
  • It also pays for items that allow you remain in your house such as a portable stove to cook on if your stove is damaged.
  • If you have questions about what your insurance will cover, contact your insurance agent or company representative.

4. Ask about flood and wind insurance coverage

  • Your homeowners policy doesn’t cover flood damage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides useful information on flood insurance on its Web site ( http://www.floodsmart.gov ). If you live by the coast, you may also need a separate policy for protection against wind and wind-blown water damage.

5. Take steps to protect your home

  • Hurricane force winds can turn landscaping materials into missiles that can break windows and doors. Replace gravel/rock landscaping materials with shredded bark and keep trees and shrubbery trimmed. Cut weak branches and trees that could fall on your house.
  • Buy the materials you need to brace garage doors and windows. If you live in a mobile home make sure you know how to secure it against high winds. If you have a boat on a trailer, it too needs to be protected. Make sure you’ll be able to move it close to the house, fill it with water to weigh it down and lash it securely to the trailer. You’ll need to be able to anchor the trailer to the ground or house.
  • Consider retrofitting your home against hurricane damage. This can be an expensive project, but you can do it in stages. Insurance companies may offer discounts for retrofitting which can help offset the cost.
  • Protect windows and doors against breakage. Much of the property damage associated with hurricanes occurs after the windstorm when rain enters structures through broken windows, doors and openings in the roof. Install impact-resistant windows or hurricane shutters.
  • Make certain doors have at least three hinges and a dead bolt security lock with a bolt at least one inch long. Since sliding glass patio doors are more vulnerable to wind damage than most other doors, consider installing impact-resistant doors made of laminated glass, plastic glazing or a combination of plastic and glass.

To find out more about how to retrofit your home, go to the Institute for Home and Business Safety.

When a Watch Is Issued

A hurricane watch is issued when there is a threat of a hurricane within a 24-36 hour period.

There are a number of things you should have ready in case a hurricane watch is issued.

  • First, decide what supplies you might need in an emergency and keep a list handy.
  • Purchase what you can in advance, such as plywood for boarding up windows, before the stores run out of supplies.
  • You may want to have a bag set aside with some provisions—for example, an emergency kit that includes a three-day supply of drinking water; food you don’t have to refrigerate or cook; first aid supplies; a portable NOAA weather radio; a wrench and other basic tools and a flashlight.
  • Jot down the name and phone number of your insurance company and agent and keep this information handy in your wallet or purse.

You should also have:

  • A cellphone with a charged battery to call for help in case of emergency
  • Extra batteries
  • Candles or lamps with fuel, matches
  • A full tank of gasoline
  • Materials for emergency home repairs
  • Prescription drugs
  • For insurance purposes, keep all receipts for temporary repairs.

When a Warning Is Issued

  • A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions are expected in 24 hours or less.
  • This means a storm is imminent. You should stay informed by listening to the radio or TV and use the telephone only when necessary.
  • Lower antennas and anchor or bring inside loose outside objects such as garbage cans and awnings.
  • Check mooring lines of boats in water. Do not remain on a boat during a hurricane.
  • Board up or shutter large windows securely, tape exposed glass and draw drapes across windows and doors.

If you remain at home

  • If you don’t need to relocate, stay indoors. Don't go out during the brief calm when the eye of the storm passes over. Wind speeds can increase dramatically in seconds.
  • Stay away from windows and glass doors and move furniture away from exposed doors and windows.
  • Stay on the downwind side of house. If your home has an "inside" room, stay there during the height of the hurricane.
  • Keep the radio or television tuned for information from official sources.
  • Without taking any unnecessary risks, protect your property from damage. Making temporary repairs can reduce your losses

If you must relocate

  • Be certain there is a safe refuge to accommodate you and do not wait until the last minute to leave. Don't travel any farther than necessary, roads may be jammed.
  • Take along survival supplies such as a first-aid kit, water and prescription medicine.
  • Keep important papers with you at all times. Make sure you have the name and phone number of your insurance company or agent.
  •  Take warm, protective clothing and remember to lock windows and doors.

After the hurricane, dangers remain! The storm may have passed, but new dangers lurk.

  • Beware of outdoor hazards. Keep away from loose or dangling power lines, and report them immediately to the proper authority.
  • Walk or drive cautiously, washouts may weaken road and bridge structures.
  • In the event of a power outage, throw out food that may be spoiled. Boil municipal water before drinking until you have been told it is safe.

If Your Home Is Damaged

  • Notify your insurance company representative as soon as possible of any losses. If you had to relocate, let your representative know where you can be contacted. Make temporary repairs to protect property from further damage or looting. Use only reputable contractors and get written estimates for the proposed job.
  • Be especially careful of building contractors who want huge deposits up front or encourage you to spend a lot of money on temporary repairs. Ask for their references and check with the Better Business Bureau on complaints. Keep all receipts for materials used.

Five Tips to Protect Yourself, Your Family and Your Property

Hurricane season starts June 1 and runs through November 30. To prepare for a hurricane and other disasters, the I.I.I. recommends the following five tips.

1. Buy enough insurance

  • Get enough insurance to rebuild your home and to replace all of your personal belongings. If you have made a major alteration or improvement to your home, or you have made significant purchases, notify your insurance agent so that the increased value is reflected in your policy.

  • Find out how much coverage you have for Additional Living Expenses (ALE). Additional living expenses coverage pays for the additional costs of living away from home, such as hotel bills and restaurant meals, while your house is being repaired or rebuilt. If you rent out part of your home, it would also replace lost income for the time you are not able to collect rent. Many policies provide coverage for 20 percent of the amount of insurance you have on your house and may be for a specified time period. Additional coverage is generally available for an extra premium.

2. Get the right type of policy

  • Ask about flood insurance. Flood damage is not covered under standard home insurance policies. Insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and can be purchased from the same agent or broker who provided your home or renters insurance. Additional information on flood insurance can be found at www.floodsmart.gov. Excess flood insurance is also available from some private insurance companies if you need more coverage than the $250,000 for property and $100,000 on contents that the NFIP provides.
  • Look into getting a guaranteed or extended replacement policy for the structure of your home. Extended replacement cost coverage pays a certain amount above the policy limit to replace a damaged home—generally 20 to 25 percent. A guaranteed replacement cost policy pays to rebuild your home regardless of cost. Both policies are designed to protect you in the event that after a major disaster the high demand for building contractors and materials pushes up the normal cost of reconstruction.
  • Ask about replacement cost coverage for your belongings. When insuring your possessions, you have two coverage choices. One is actual cash value, which replaces your possessions less depreciation. The other is replacement cost coverage, which replaces your property in today’s dollars—without a deduction for depreciation. It costs about 10 percent more, but provides more extensive coverage.

3. Create a Home Inventory

  • A home inventory will help ensure that you have purchased enough insurance to replace your personal possessions. It can also speed the claims process and substantiate losses for income tax purposes. A detailed home inventory is also helpful should you need to apply for disaster aid.
  • To make creating a home inventory easier, the I.I.I. provides free Web-based software at KnowYourStuff.org. Know Your Stuff allows you to organize easily and list your possessions, as well as add digital photographs of your valuables and upload scanned receipts. The program provides free, secure storage of your inventory on Amazon Web Services. Storing your inventory online gives you the ability to access it from any computer in the event your own computer is damaged or destroyed.

4. Prepare an Evacuation Plan

Plan ahead and practice so that your evacuation is safe, smooth and fast. In an emergency you may have only a few minutes to gather your important papers and leave your home, possibly for good. Have the following ready to go:

  • Medicines, prescriptions, comfort items and a change of clothes.

  • Emergency supplies such as flashlights, radio, batteries and water.

  • Computer hard drive or laptop.

  • Photographs.

  • Insurance policies; birth and marriage certificates; wills; deeds; financial information such as account numbers, recent tax returns, stocks, bonds and other negotiable certificates; driver’s licenses and other personal identification.

5. Hurricane-Proof Your Home

  • Install storm shutters to protect your windows or use plywood panels, which can be nailed to window frames when a storm approaches.
  • Make sure exterior doors have at least three hinges and a dead bolt lock that is at least one-inch long. Sliding glass doors should be made of tempered glass and covered with shutters or plywood.
  • Replace old garage doors and tracks with a door that is approved for both wind pressure and impact protection. Wind coming into your home through an opening this large poses grave problems for the rest of your home—especially your roof.
  • Seal outside wall openings such as vents, outdoor electrical outlets, garden hose bibs and locations where cables or pipes go through the wall to prevent water penetration by using a high quality urethane-based caulk.
  • Prepare your yard by removing all outdoor furniture, lawn items, planters and other materials that could be picked up by high winds. Trim trees and shrubbery and remove weak branches on plants and trees.

6. Hurricane Preparedness for Business Owners (1)

Prepare a business continuity plan. Having an emergency plan in the event of a natural disaster will help your business quickly recover.

  • Verify employee, supplier and vendor contact information so you can check on their well being and communicate next steps for resuming normal business operations. Use the downtime before the storm hits to update your supplier and vendor contact information, as well as other important contacts, such as your bank or insurance carriers.

  • Identify an alternative site for business operations should your facility be unavailable following the storm. Be sure the location is equipped with any special supplies or equipment that will be needed to continue business operations.

  • Secure your vital records and data and be sure all your important information is backed up and accessible should you not have access to your computers or network.

For more information on steps to take to protect your home, go to the Web site of the Institute for Business & Home Safety.