Homeowners Hurricane Tips


Homeowners that live near coastlines face possibly loss by hurricane. Hopefully, any affected person will own a homeowner insurance policy to help deal with the crisis. However they must be aware of their responsibilities under the insurance policy in order to take full advantage of any available coverage.
The main priority for a homeowner is to be sure that the amount of coverage is adequate in the event that the home has to be totally replaced. Also, the homeowner should keep their deductible in mind, seeking options to make sure that it is affordable. Insurers who operate in areas that experience hurricanes typically require deductibles at a high, flat amount (such as $2,000) or at a percentage of the policy's insurance limit (anywhere from 2% to 5%).
Naturally, a homeowner should consider ways to minimize their possible loss and maximize their personal safety by:

  • Making advance evacuation plans (including determining evacuation route, fueling car, preparing supplies, etc.)
  • Being aware of the nearest, safe shelter
  • Bring outdoor property inside the home (lawn equipment, toys, tools, etc.)
  • Installing or building a proper "safe room"
  • Cover/Secure all windows and doors
  • Have a portable radio and stay turned to accurate source of weather broadcasts.
  • Turn off (unplug) small appliances and turn refrigerators/freezers to their highest settings.
  • If applicable, turn off fuel/oil tanks.
  • Fill sinks and bathtubs with water.

Returning to a damaged/destroyed site is not when a hurricane victim will be at his or her best, but that is the time that certain obligations have to be met in order to make the most out of any insurance recovery. It is important to do the following:

  • At the earliest possible chance, contact your insurer with details about your loss
  • If possible, be sure you have a way to visually record the loss details (camera, digital camera, even a smart phone camera.)
  • Take reasonable action to keep intact property protected from additional damage or loss
  • Keep an accurate record of all expenses that are related to protecting your property as well as items related to temporary housing and meals

Though post-catastrophe times are chaotic and spirit-sapping, it is important to keep in contact with your agent and/or insurer. Take the time to be meticulous about filling out reports, documenting the value of your loss and cooperating with claims personnel.
Loss Control Considerations

Buildings should be checked to make sure it meets local codes. With the knowledge of a region's wind hazards, the adequacy of local building codes should be evaluated. The following factors should be evaluated for hurricane/wind exposed risks:

  • Local building codes - What are the local building codes for the location of the risk? What is the expected wind load within an annual probability (i.e., once every 100 or more years)?
  • Unusual building design - Is the building an unusual shape or size? Is it aerodynamic? Are there special issues to address? What is the height of the building?
  • The site - Is the site protected from water forces (erosion or storm surge)? What is the distance from the shore or nearest body of water? Is the structure on a hill, open flatland, or other locale that might increase or decrease wind factors?
  • Foundation - Is the foundation free from deterioration? Is it properly installed and the building adequately anchored to the foundation? If the structure is built on pilings, are they made of the proper materials and installed to the proper depth? Is the structure adequately supported?
  • Anchoring - All components of the building should be adequately anchored to the foundation and continuously connected from the foundation to the roof. All anchors should be connected and made from non-corrosive materials. Are additional anchors required?
  • Roof sheathing - Roof sheathing must meet local codes for securing the roof to the various components. Inspect the roof perimeter flashing to make sure it is adequately fastened.
  • Roof covering - Special emphasis should be placed on contractor activities during the roof construction. Make sure non-corrosive nail clips are used to securely attach roof covering to roof sheathing. Roofs should be inspected for any design and installation defects. Skylights should be noted.
  • Exterior walls and cladding - All doors, windows, and glass walls must be protected. Are there roll-down gates or other precautions (plywood window and door coverings)? All doors should be reinforced and coverings or shutters adequately fastened and designed to resist the required wind loading.
  • Decorative facades - Decorative facades and similar architectural walls should be avoided. If being designed, they should be made to resist the anticipated wind pressures/forces.
  • Exterior attached and detached structures - Are these of sound quality and, if attached, attached firmly to the building? Is there adequate distance of detached structures to the main building? Additional anchoring required?
  • Utilities - Building maintenance machinery and equipment should be checked. Are they securely fastened to the building and located above expected flood levels? All ventilation systems on the walls or roof should be capable of being covered or disconnected to prevent moisture or water from coming into contact

Mitigation of Hurricane Damage

The economic losses resulting from a hurricane may seem uncontrollable; however, proper loss control practices can significantly reduce the overall damage from a hurricane. Three significant ways to reduce loss exposure can be broken down as follows:

  • Prevention - Prevention should be established before the actual event occurs. This can be achieved through hazard risk assessment and proper planning and protection. Significant advances in computerized hazard modeling can help in estimating wind speeds and storm surge levels. Regional risk maps with maximum wind loads, storm surge levels, and topographical factors can help identify potential risk.
  • Reduction of Impact - There should be an awareness of the construction practices civil engineers considers adequate. In the case of storm surge, sea walls, stilts and the distance from the coastal area are all factors that can reduce loss exposure. In many regions of the country, civil engineers and local municipalities have detailed building codes that pertain to local wind hazards and potential wind forces. Other plans that can be applied to reduce the risk to individuals can be through warning dissemination; evacuation; shelter; and search and rescue.
  • Recovery - This process can be achieved through relief (food and medical aid); post disaster assistance; and reconstruction.

Of these three suggested ways to reduce losses, the most effective is the first, prevention. It should be stressed that the majority of the largest losses can be preventable, or the damage can be substantially reduced, if well-established construction practices are used.
House Checklist
  • remove outdoor items
  • Trim dead branches from trees
  • Board up windows
  • Fill gas tanks and extra containers
  • Get extra cash
  • Move furniture away from windows
  • Store important documents in waterproof containers
  • Extra supply of medicines
Medical Needs
  • Medic-alert tags
  • Insect-repellent sprays
  • Feminine hygiene items
  • Sunscreen
  • Soap
  • First aid kit
  • Prescription medication
  • Over-the-counter medication
  • Children's medicine
  • Bandages
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antiseptic solution
  • Thermometer
  • Tweezers
Prepare your pet
Your pet will need more than a bag in a storm.
  • Water for your pet for 3-7 days
  • Non-perishable food
  • Crate/carrier/tank
  • Leash (non-extendable)
  • Collar and/or harness
  • Favorite Toy
  • Blanket or pillow
  • Clean litter box
  • Updated shots and medical records
  • Microchip with up-to-date contact info
  • Any Medications
  • Calming aids
  • Tags
  • Puppy training pads
  • Heartworm preventatives
  • Rain gear
Hurricane kit
Make sure your hurricane kit includes:
  • Flashlights & extra bulbs
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Battery-operated lanterns
  • Batteries (in different sizes!)
  • Matches
  • First aid kit
  • Duct tape
  • Rain gear
  • Clock (wind-up or battery-powered)
  • Plastic garbage bags
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Scissors
  • Can Opener
  • Clean clothes
  • Extra blankets
  • Heavy gloves
Food and water
Pack non-perishable food for each person 3-7 days
  • Bottled water (1 gallon/person/day)
  • Bottled Juice
  • Two coolers:
  • One for drinks & one for food
  • Canned foods
  • Manual can opener
  • Dry pet food