While the direction and intensity of tropical activity currently brewing near the Bahamas is uncertain, Floridians should take steps now to prepare for this and other possible storms, said the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)
Late summer is peak time for hurricanes. Of the top 10 costliest hurricanes to strike Florida, all of them made landfall between August and October. This is typically high time for hurricanes nationally as well, according to an analysis of data ranging from 1851 to 2011 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
When hurricane season launches on June 1, there is a flurry of interest in preparedness. Yet, as the 6-month season goes on, attention wanes, points out the I.I.I.
“This is the midpoint of the season, and it’s vital to remain vigilant,” said Lynne McChristian, Florida representative for the I.I.I. “If it’s been a year since you last talked to your insurance professional about your coverage and options, then have the conversation now while you still have time to make changes.” Once the National Hurricane Center issues a hurricane watch or warning for any part of Florida, most insurers will not allow changes to be made to insurance policies.
These four actions will help you be ready for whatever lies ahead between now and the end of hurricane season on November 30:
- Review Your Insurance Coverage: Homeowners insurance provides financial protection against disasters. It insures the home itself and the things you keep inside. If you have upgraded your home or added many new possessions, make sure your insurance reflects this. Talk to your insurer about what is covered and what is not. Ask questions. You want to be confident you have enough insurance to rebuild your home and replace all personal belongings. Understand your deductibles; you have two — one deductible for hurricane damage and one for everything else (such as a fire or hail damage).
“Ask about additional coverage you should consider. For example, does your policy cover sewer backup? If your home is more than 5 years old, you may also need building ordinance and law coverage, which covers the added costs to rebuild a damaged home up to the improved, latest building codes,” said McChristian.
- Don’t Overlook Flood Insurance: Flood insurance is not only for those living in high-risk flood zones. More than 20 percent of flood insurance claims are paid to those living in low- to moderate-risk flood zones. A standard homeowners policy does not cover flood damage. Heavy rains often accompany tropical weather systems, but not always, as Louisiana residents learned earlier this month.
Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or from a private insurance company. Excess flood insurance is also available from private insurance companies if more coverage is needed than the limits available from the NFIP.
- Conduct a home inventory: An up-to-date home inventory will make it much easier to file a claim. If a home is damaged, insurance companies may ask for an itemized list of what was lost. Doing the inventory now speeds up the claim process and it is also necessary if filing for federal disaster aid. The I.I.I. has a free home inventory app available at https://KnowYourStuff.org/.
- Know your evacuation zone, where you will go and what to take with you: The Florida Division of Emergency Management has a county-specific evacuation map. There is also a storm surge map on the page to help Floridians recognize their vulnerability and plan for it. Advanced planning is essential, especially if you have children, pets, elderly relatives or anyone with special needs. The I.I.I. has KnowYourPlan software to help you prepare to evacuate and relocate to safe shelter with what your family needs.