With as many as 500,000 Canadians owning a second home1 and spending more than a month each year in Florida2 hurricane season 2017, while currently uneventful, is still something to keep an eye on. There’s no guarantee it’ll stay calm. In fact, this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting as many as 11-17 named storms (slightly higher than the average 10.1 storms). This coupled with the fact that the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest in four years, has put homeowners and insurance carriers alike on high alert.
Regardless of the forecast, though, all it takes is one storm to wipe out your winter home and valuables in a coastal U.S. state, causing you and your family great physical, financial and emotional hardship. In preparation for the worst this June through November, consider the following 6 hurricane preparation tips to ensure you and your winter home stay safe.
- Review Your Insurance Program. Do this at least annually at the start of the hurricane season. Your homeowners’ insurance review should include both coverage limits and policy limitations and exclusions.
When it comes to coverage limits: determine whether your dwelling limit reflects the current replacement cost to rebuild your home, and whether the coverage for your contents, like furniture, draperies and other household items is adequate. If not, you might need specific coverage for valuable articles. If you have a condominium, find out first what types of condo coverage your association has and what you’re individually responsible for.
Determine policy limitations and exclusions. Will your policy pay replacement cost or actual cash value for your residence and its contents? Will your living expenses while you’re at a hotel, including meals if your residence becomes uninhabitable, be covered? Is wind a covered peril? Because most homeowners policies don’t cover flood damage caused by rising water, and especially if your winter home is in a high hazard flood zone, it is best to check with your broker to determine if you need to obtain separate flood coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
- Maintain Your Residence. Maintain your winter home now to help minimize the potential damage a storm can cause later. Proper hurricane preparation could include: taking down loose roofing, bracing the gable end of your roof or trimming dead or weak branches. Ask your HUB broker if your insurance provider will conduct a home inspection to offer credits for any proactive safeguards you have taken.
- Create a Home Inventory. Take a thorough inventory of your personal possessions, including furniture, appliances, clothing and valuables. A videotape or photographs of the items will provide an excellent source of documentation in the event of a claim. Store the inventory with your insurance documents in a safe place – perhaps your home in Canada, and send a copy to your insurance broker and a relative out of the area. Update it every six months.
- Develop an Evacuation Plan. First, establish a safe room in your house with a disaster supply kit, including: a flashlight and extra batteries; first aid kit; non-perishables and water (1 gallon/person/day); non-electric can opener; essential medications. Next, determine a viable escape route from your home that leads to a meeting place beyond the hurricane evacuation area. Have a car fueled and packed up. Forward your home number to your cell phone in the event of an evacuation. Appoint an out-of-state relative or friend as the single point of contact for the family.
- Protect Your Home Inside and Out. Inside, consider taking items off the walls entirely and placing them in an interior room. Elevate items at a minimum of three inches off the floor with blocks of wood and wrap in plastic sheeting, when possible. Significant fine arts collections should be moved out of the storm area entirely. Consider contracting with an art storage facility ahead of a potential storm so you can move your valuables off-site quickly when necessary.
Outside, permanent shutters provide the best protection and having them installed can potentially lower your premium.
- If You Must Evacuate… Take your disaster supply kit with you (see #4). Don’t forget your driver’s license, insurance broker contact information, claims reporting telephone number and insurance policy information -- and keep it all in a waterproof container. Turn off electricity, water and gas. Lock all windows and doors, and only return when officials determine it’s safe to do so.
Start Your Hurricane Preparation Now
Being prepared can greatly minimize the physical, financial and emotional damage of a major storm or hurricane. Consider these 6 Hurricane Preparation Tips and how you can apply them to your home today. Start by contacting your HUB broker to review your coverage limits and policy limitations and exclusions.