Now that it is officially June, also known as hurricane season, and we are hearing about the first tropical storm “Cristobal” making landfall in Louisiana, The Webb Insurance Group wants the families we love to stay safe and be prepared! Storms can form over weeks, days, and even overnight, making it extremely stressful when you don’t know how to prepare or have just a short while to do so. These storms have forces strong enough to impact every area of your life, so there is a ton to think about, and if you aren’t prepared in the long-run you may only have time to pick a few things to prioritize.
Of course, the most important aspect to take care of is getting yourself and your family to safety, whether that means evacuating or just doing your best to secure your home and safely waiting it out. Once you have a plan to ensure the safety of loved ones, then you can focus on protecting your assets and personal belongings and making the time it takes the storm to pass, as comfortable as possible. To give you ideas on how to prepare, The Webb Insurance Group has created a checklist for long-run preparations you should always have solidified, as well as a checklist of things to do before a storm arrives. But first, let’s discuss a bit more about what a hurricane is scientifically and the impacts it can have based on its tropical storm category.
What is a hurricane and how can I grasp the impacts of this impending natural disaster?
A tropical cyclone, better known as a hurricane, is a storm system with strong winds due to its low-pressure center combined with a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, this creates a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms and heavy rainfall as it rotates rapidly. These storms are extremely unpredictable and are never something to underestimate or underprepared for.
Luckily, meteorologists are able to determine the storm’s wind speed which gives us an idea of how it could impact our world, and each storm will fall into one of the five known categories which are listed below. However, the problem with hurricane categories is that they don’t consider rainfall and storm surges which often cause the greatest damage. It is crucial to prepare and stay somewhere safe for the duration of the storm because things can take a turn for the worst at any point, no matter the previous predictions.
Category 1: Winds from 74-95mph will make it dangerous for any human or animal without shelter, due to falling debris. There can be damage to power lines, unprotected glass, mobile homes, and framed structures.
Category 2: Winds from 96-110mph make conditions extremely dangerous for humans and animals. In this category, you can expect complete power outages for a few days or weeks. Homes, apartments, and businesses should expect roof and siding damage as well as uprooted trees.
Category 3: Winds from 111-125mph create a high risk for injury or death of humans and animals. People should prepare for possibly devastating damage to mobile homes, houses, apartments, and stores, as well as a loss of water and electricity for days or weeks post-storm.
Category 4: Winds from 130-156mph pose major risks of loss of life for humans and animals due to flying and falling debris. It is most likely that there will be catastrophic damage like the complete destruction of mobile homes and house frames or at least severe roof damage. Tall buildings will have damage to upper floors and high-rise buildings can expect upper floor windows to be completely blown out. There are usually massive uprootings of trees causing water shortages and power outages that can last for months at a time.
Category 5: Wind speeds of 157mph or higher indicate near-total destruction that can threaten the lives of people and animals even when they are somewhere sheltered. Most mobile and frame homes will be completely destroyed and metal buildings may completely collapse. Those homes and buildings that don’t collapse will have extreme roof damage and the windows will most likely be blown out. Most power poles and trees will be uprooted, so there will be long-term power outages and water shortages that will leave the affected area practically uninhabitable for an unknown amount of time.
Long-Term Preparation Checklist:
- Keep non-perishables and emergency supplies in your home at all times.
Food that does not have to be refrigerated or cooked, a week’s supply of drinking water, medicines, first aid kits, toilet paper, batteries, flashlights, candles, matches, radios, and tools will all be the first things to sell out in stores when there is word of a hurricane approaching. It is so important that you keep these items on hand so that you don’t have to scavenge multiple stores and spend extra money to acquire them when there is excess demand right before a storm.
- Review all insurance policies.
This is by far one of the most important preparations to make because even though we humans cannot control the storm, we can control how strongly we protect our assets in order to withstand damages, at least monetarily. Although standard insurance policies will cover the structure of your home during a hurricane, you must also verify that the limit on the policy will be enough to rebuild the home (market value is not the same as rebuilding costs) in case there is extensive destruction.
The coastal states, like Florida, include separate deductibles for hurricanes/windstorms which will affect the bottom line of your insurance payout. These deductibles are usually anywhere from 1-5% of the insured value of the structure of your home. Also, if you live in an area with more risk for hurricane damage, your deductible is probably within the higher percentage range. Either way, it is especially important to have a rainy day fund set aside during hurricane season in case you need to rebuild or repair your home.
It is critical to realize that your standard homeowners insurance policy will exclude flooding and sewer backup, and often in the event of a hurricane, those things will occur. So, if you live in a higher risk area flood insurance is a must, but we recommend it for any home that FEMA approves. For more information about flood insurance please read our other blog post.
Keep an updated inventory of all of the possessions within your home, how much will it cost to replace everything you own? Whenever the replacement costs or cash value of your belongings increase, it is also important to update your insurance so that you remain adequately covered.
You should always be prepared for an evacuation when you live in Florida and the chance that your home will be uninhabitable for a period after a natural disaster. Standard homeowners policies will include coverage for additional living expenses such as hotel bills and restaurant bills, but there is generally a limited time frame and a limit of up to 20% of the insured structure of your home. Depending on where you live, it is advisable to acquire more coverage for the additional living expense portion of your policy.
Lastly, your cars will quite possibly also be in danger, so it is important to check with your insurance provider about different circumstances that may occur. In case of circumstances where you are waiting out the storm at home and don’t have a garage to protect the car, flooding damage occurs, or you have to abandon it during an evacuation, you will want to know how this asset will be protected.
Things to do Before The Storm Hits Checklist:
- Plan an evacuation route.
This step must be done very early on at the beginning of hurricane season, even if there is no word of a storm yet. Plan on what type of transportation you will take, what highways will be the safest and least busy, whether you can afford hotel costs for a period of time, or if you have family that you can stay with inland or in nearby states that won’t be hit by the storm as bad. When evacuation is advised by the government, chaos tends to ensue, so we recommend taking only one car per family. We advise this because roads will be gridlocked and you never know how long you will be stuck in traffic so it is important to be able to switch drivers and avoid fatigue during the stressful journey.
- Pack minimally, but strategically.
It is smart to pack light whether you are evacuating or waiting it out because you will need to be able to move around quickly if and when things change. Bring your medications/prescriptions, important documents, expensive jewelry, and only other items that are precious to you. It is so hard to leave behind memories, but the safety of your family and friends will always come first and new memories can always be made.
- Protect your home.
There are a variety of things to do in this step and if you have little time you may only be able to prioritize a few, but pick the ones that will keep your home the most secure. Board up windows, hurricane proof doors and garage doors, seal openings to the outside such as vents, pipes, cables, hoses, and electrical outlets. Cut down weak branches or trees entirely if they are already unstable, cover and secure any loose gravel or landscaping rocks, and move cars or boats into the garage or higher ground.
- If you are staying in your home, identify which room will be your storm shelter.
This room should be in a basement or at least have no windows. Put your emergency kit that includes every possible thing you could need in this room so that if you end up trapped there for a period of time you can be somewhat comfortable until a rescue team arrives.
- Power up, then unplug.
Fully charge your cell phone, laptop, and portable charger then use these devices minimally to sustain the battery. Test a generator if you have one or purchase a new one if you are able. Once the storm comes, have your appliances unplugged or shut off the power in your house completely. Make sure the gas tank of your car is full and try to get an extra gas can to keep somewhere secure because areas, where there is a higher risk of storm surge, usually have extremely long waits to buy gas or will be completely out of it altogether.
Stay Safe, and Be Smart
Of course, this list does not exhaust everything that you may need to do before a storm or at the start of hurricane season, but we hope these checklists will help give you an idea of what generally needs to be done and give you some peace of mind. Never wait until the last minute to do any of these things. It is so important to the Webb Insurance Group that you all stay safe, if you need any help or have any questions about protecting your hard-earned assets this hurricane season, please give us a call. We know everyone has been through a lot this year, so we hope hurricane season takes it easy on us all. Stay safe, well, and in touch!