5 Ways to Prepare for Hurricanes and the Insurance Coverage You'll Need
Hurricanes can be highly destructive as a result of storm surges, floods and high winds. In recent years, hurricanes have also grown larger and more powerful. It is important to be prepared, even if you live in a state that’s less likely to get hit by a storm.
Supplemental homeowners insurance policies can protect you against any damage that may occur. Stockpiled food can provide nourishment if roads become impassable in a storm’s aftermath. Here is a checklist to follow to help you be prepared.
1. Prepare Your Home
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Preparing your home to withstand a hurricane is one of the most important tasks you’ll need to tackle. Having basic equipment on hand can be vital in case of an emergency, so start by making a basic kit. Make sure the kit is placed in an accessible place and your family knows where to find it. Gather up these items:
- Flashlights and batteries
- Battery-powered radio
- First-aid kits
- Any prescriptions you (or your family) may need
- A fire extinguisher
- Lighter and/or matches
- Anything you’ll need for your pets (food, water, etc.)
- Signal flares
If a storm is projected to make landfall, bring in any loose or stray items that could get swept away. Those include:
- Patio furniture
- Gardening equipment
- Outdoor decorations
Next, secure your home. Close storm shutters or board up windows, turn off propane tanks and make sure your car is in a covered area, if possible.
2. Stock up on Food and Water
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Within a few days of getting a warning that a hurricane is on the way, make sure to stock up on any necessities. The Red Cross recommends having access to at least three days worth of non-perishable food that is easy to prepare.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Red Cross also recommend having 1 gallon of water per person per day, which amounts to 12 gallons of water for a family of four. It's a good idea to have a three-day supply of water on hand.
Be prepared to stand in line at your local grocery store to stock up.
3. Make Sure Your Insurance Policies are in Order
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Keep your policies up-to-date. Many insurance policies go into effect a month after the policy is taken out, so you won’t be covered if a storm happens before that. Most insurers will also be reluctant to extend coverage over the waiting period.
Buying coverage early in hurricane season is the best way to guard against the pitfalls of a big storm.
Flood insurance is the first line of defense toward protecting your home. Flood insurance covers the cost of repairing water damage resulting from natural causes like hurricanes.
This type of hurricane insurance costs around $400 a year, on average, for a $100,000 policy in a low-to-moderate-risk area. The U.S. government offers the most common form of flood insurance. You can get a quote from The National Flood Insurance Program.
Windstorm insurance can usually be added to your basic homeowners insurance policy, but will often come with a separate deductible, depending on where you live.
Most major insurance companies offer this type of insurance, but some states offer windstorm insurance through their own programs. For example, both Texas (Texas Windstorm Insurance Association) and Florida (Citizens Property Insurance Corporation) offer state-sponsored insurance, which isn’t surprising considering they’re two of the states that are most prone to hurricanes.
Personal Property Coverage (If You’re a Renter)
If you’re a renter, you may only need to worry about protecting your personal belongings. Renters insurance is an important purchase to make when you move into a new apartment.
Most renters insurance policies offer personal property coverage which helps you replace lost belongings in the event something is stolen or destroyed. Unfortunately, belongings that are destroyed in a flood will not be covered by your renters insurance policy.
Possessions lost in a windstorm are covered by renters insurance, so it’s still worth the investment if you live in a state that frequently experiences hurricanes.
Comprehensive Car Insurance
If you live in a state that’s known for hurricane damage, chances are you already have comprehensive auto insurance to protect your vehicle. Comprehensive car insurance protects your car from anything that is unrelated to a crash, including damage from flooding, hail and wind.
In the event that your car is destroyed during a storm, comprehensive coverage will be your best bet.
4. Put Your Personal Documents in a Safe Place
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Many important documents are now kept in the virtual cloud and can be accessed from any technological device. But for those documents, you still have hard copies of, make sure they’re in a waterproof box. These documents include:
- Will and estate documents
- Insurance policies
- Social security cards
- Bank account numbers
- Credit card account numbers and companies
- Birth certificates
- Passwords and login info for your accounts
5. Understand Your Local Evacuation Plan
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There’s a good chance you’ll need to evacuate before or during a hurricane, so understanding your city’s evacuation plan can save your life. Here are a few items to keep in mind:
- Review the emergency exit routes nearby. Exit routes will be indicated by blue “hurricane evacuation route” signs along the side of the road.
- Find your local mass care shelters. You can try texting "SHELTER" and your zip code to 43362 to find shelters closest to you.
- Create a family emergency plan. If you get separated from your family at any time, you have a plan in place to find each other.
- Practice your plan a few times. Going through your plan a few times will provide you and your family clear understanding of what to do in case of emergency.
Getting Started with Hurricane Prep
Preparing for hurricane season can seem like a daunting endeavor, but the list above can get you started. Make sure to also check in regularly with your local radio stations, stay tuned for emergency alerts and listen to authorities.
About the Author
Christopher is a professional personal finance and sustainability writer who writes about budgeting, unique investing options and other topics. You can find his work on sites like MoneyGeek, Money Under 30 and ChooseFI.