For a week in September 2004, we grilled dinner every night, grabbed drinks out of a cooler, stared up at the stars, listened to a local radio station, found our way using a lantern and let the kids play with flashlights. My youngest son was 1 ½ at the time and he doesn’t remember this time, nor does he remember life before iPhones, Facebook, Weather Channel app and when the hashtag was still a pound sign. What is the significance of this timeline? It wasn’t a weekend camping adventure, it was the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan and we haven’t seen anything like it since.
In Case You Somehow Forgot
In case you forgot about the summers of 2004 and 2005, there were more than 40 named storms with 13 of them being major hurricanes. In fact, in 2005, we ran out of names and had to move to Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon and Zeta. Instead of laughing about your friend having the same name as a hurricane, we were comparing them to college sororities. In 2004, in Florida we worried about Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. 2005 brought us Dennis, Katrina and Wilma.
Hermine was the first storm in 11 years to make landfall in Florida, coming in as a Cat 1 just south of Tallahassee in 2016, which didn’t really concern those of us here on the North West side of the Panhandle in Niceville, Fort Walton Beach, Crestview, Freeport and Destin. For those of us that went through Ivan and Dennis, a Cat 1 was nothing to get worried about. However, it may have been our wake-up call to get ready for 2017 since the NOAA issued its forecast at the end of May and called for:
* Eleven to 17 named storms – including April’s Tropical Storm Arlene.
* Five to nine of which would become hurricanes.
* Two to four of which would become major hurricanes.
We all know the typical items to have in our Hurricane kit – portable radio & flashlights with extra batteries, candles (make sure you have matches or a lighter), first aid kit, 3-day supply of food and water for each person, required medication, home phone that plugs in, etc. Some websites list a cell phone charger, but I’m going to go one step further and suggest a portable charger; if your power is out, the charger that plugs in to the wall is not going to do you any good.
Since we have a couple of storms out in the Gulf, now is a good time to get prepared “just in case”.
Preparations Need to Start Now! BEFORE –
Home Inventory – This is a good thing to do once a year. I always suggest to clients to walk in to each room and take a photo from opposite corners. There does not need to be 20 pictures of each room, just a couple will do. The photos will help you to remember what is in each room, especially during a stressful time such as fire or hurricane. For valuable items, keep a record of the date of purchase, approximate value as well as the make & model. If you have the receipt, keep that with your records.
Review Policy – Contact your agent to know what you have. How much is your Dwelling insured for? Is your fence covered? Do you have adequate Personal Property limits? What about if lightning hits your neighbor’s house causing a surge to yours with no direct hit? Does your policy allow you to hire your own contractors or does the company schedule their own service provider and supplies? (This is becoming more common so make sure you are aware.) Is the correct mortgage company listed and the Named Insured’s up to date? A claim check will be issued to the Named Insured’s and possibly the mortgage company, depending on the amount. I’ve seen too many instances of someone not removing their spouse either due to them passing or divorce OR not updating their mortgage and this delays the cashing of the check. Also, make sure that you have the information for your insurance company, not just your agency, including policy number and claims phone number. Be aware of your hurricane deductible. The standard is 2% of the dwelling coverage ($100,000 dwelling coverage = $2,000 hurricane deductible) but make sure that you didn’t opt for a 5% or 10% to save a bit of money.
FYI – Your homeowners policy does not cover Flood Damage.
WATCH / WARNING ISSUED –
Outside – Protect windows with plywood or shutters; secure outside objects by bringing inside what you are able and place other items in a sheltered area if possible; trim down any branches that are over hanging your roof.
Inside – Make sure your hurricane kit is ready; have a secure room in case of tornadoes; fill a box up with games and books to keep the kids busy to make the time go faster.
Traveling – First of all, if you are told to evacuate, DO IT! If you do leave the area and you know someone that is staying, give them a key to your house so they can check for damages after the storm. Also, know the projected route of the hurricane; you will not want to evacuate to where the storm is headed a day or two later. Be patient on the roads and expect delays as others are leaving the area, also.
DURING THE STORM –
Stay away from windows and do not use the candles (in case of damage to the home and the wind hitting the flame). If the cable is out, I suggest monitoring a local radio station since they will have local information. Do not open your windows to prevent the build up of pressure; there are enough tiny openings all around your house so that will not be an issue. Plus, when you open a door or window and that forceful wind comes in, just remember that it has to go somewhere.
AFTER THE STORM –
Please make sure that the storm has completely passed before heading outside. Not only should you be concerned with the lingering weather, it is a possibility that there are downed power lines or trees blocking the road. My suggestion, be patient and let the necessary workers get to where they need to be before venturing out to look around. Police, Fire & Rescue, City / County employees, hospital staff, grocery store / gas station employees and yes, even insurance agents. We know that this part of the job is what you rely on us for so we will be at our office as soon as it is safe.
Going through any natural disaster like this can be extremely stressful. Preparing is one way to ease the burden while you wait for the storm to pass. When Ivan was coming through, I remember looking out at the huge pine trees across the street and amazed at how they could bend and being mesmerized by the sky. After the storm subsided, we drove around our area and it was heart warming seeing people that had never spoken, coming together to help in the neighborhood.
So, take a deep breath and make sure that you are prepared for Hurricane Season 2017. Please contact your agency to review your coverage prior to the storm. We would rather do this now and make adjustments if needed than to explain after the storm that you opted for a high deductible or actual cash value to lessen your yearly premium.
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