Hurricane season on the Pacific Coast of the US technically began in May, and on the Atlantic Coast it began last week. While the bulk of hurricanes happen in the latter part of the season, when temperatures reach their highest points, they can happen any time during the warm summer months.
The New Jersey Department of Insurance recently offered these tips on hurricane preparedness, which we are offering verbatim, with the reminder that no matter which coast you live on, if you’re told to evacuate, do it. Things are replaceable. Lives are not.
Complete a Home Inventory
• Make a complete list of all the belongings in your home. Having a home inventory makes it far easier for consumers to file an insurance claim in the event they suffer property damage.
• Photograph or video tape each item and document a brief description that includes age, approximate value and purchase price.
• Group your possessions into logical categories, such as by type or room.
• Gather copies of original sales receipts or appraisal documents. Note model and serial numbers where applicable.
• Share a copy of your home inventory with a trusted friend or relative and your insurance carrier or broker.
• Once the inventory is completed, homeowners should store it on a mobile phone, offsite computer or keep hard copies, including photographs, in a safe deposit box or waterproof, fireproof box or safe.
• The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has a smart phone application, MyHOME Scr.APP.book, that can capture images, descriptions, bar codes and serial numbers of consumers’ possessions. It also organizes information room by room and creates a back-up file for email sharing. This application is available to iPhone or Android users.
Collect Insurance Information
• Homeowners should gather all of their insurance documents in one safe place, along with their home inventory.
• Verify 24-hour contact details for your insurance agent and carrier. Make a list that includes your policy numbers, insurance company and agent’s phone numbers, Web site and mailing addresses. Also, check to see if your carrier has set up an emergency information hotline. Keep this information with your policies and home inventory.
• Before a storm hits, review your policies and make sure you understand the coverage you have. Call your agent or carrier with any questions.
• Flood insurance is not part of a standard homeowners or renters policy, and must be purchased separately. Homeowners and renters can purchase a flood insurance policy directly from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federal program which is the primary provider of flood insurance, or directly through their insurance carrier or broker.
• Consumers should also be aware that flood insurance is not effective until 30 days after it is purchased. Therefore, consumers who decide to purchase flood insurance should contact an approved flood insurance policy agent immediately and not wait for an approaching storm.
Get Ready Now
Homeowners can take important steps immediately to help mitigate some damage caused by a hurricane or tropical storm.
• Make sure storm shutters, if applicable, can be quickly installed or used.
• Keep the yard free of debris and clutter that could become projectiles in high winds.
• Trim dead or overhanging branches from trees near their house.
• Make sure that roof sheathing is secured, end gables are fastened to the roof and doors and garage doors latch properly.
• Make an evacuation plan for their family. They should identify the nearest storm shelter.
• Prepare an emergency kit that includes survival supplies, such as bottled water, first aid items, flashlights, a battery operated radio, three days of non-perishable food items, blankets, clothing, prescription drugs, eyeglasses, personal hygiene supplies and enough cash for at least three days.
• If ordered to leave home, consumers should follow their evacuation plans and depart as soon as possible.
• Before vacating their homes, they should turn off all utilities and disconnect appliances to reduce the chance of additional damage and electric shock when utilities are restored.
• Evacuees should plan more than one evacuation route in case the preferred one is closed due to an emergency.