Your home is quite possibly one of your largest assets. Sadly, a hurricane can completely destroy that asset in a matter of hours. Hurricanes pose multiple threats to your home, including wind damage, excessive rain, and even potential flooding from storm surge or localized floods. As with any major natural disaster, the most important thing to focus on is keeping your family safe. However, it also makes sense to prepare your property to minimize any potential financial loss. Here's how to prepare for a hurricane:
1. Make Sure That You're Properly Insured
Insuring your home for a hurricane can be simple or extremely tricky, depending on where you live. Each state has different laws regarding insurance. As such, you should talk to a trusted local insurance agent to make sure that you're covered for all potential hurricane threats.
For instance, some home insurance policies in Florida – like the one my wife and I had on our townhouse – may not include wind or hurricane insurance. Sometimes Floridians have to buy a completely separate wind or hurricane policy for their home in order to satisfy their mortgage company requirements.
Value Penguin conducted a study of insurance costs in Florida for policies that included hurricane insurance. They found that the average annual insurance costs for a $150,000 home ranged from $998 to $1,961 per year using the top five homeowner's insurance companies by market share. This policy had a two percent deductible for hurricane related claims.
Another common insurance mistake is not carrying flood insurance.
Regular insurance policies don’t cover losses from flooding, which can be an expensive mistake.
Even if you live in the lowest-risk flood zone, you still have a small, but entirely possible chance of having a one-in-a-thousand-year flood. Hurricanes often drop massive amounts of rain in a quick period of time that can lead to those rare flood risks. Flood insurance isn't usually too expensive if you live in a preferred flood risk area. Premiums can range from $146 to $474, depending on your coverage options, according to FloodSmart.gov.
2. Have an Emergency Disaster Kit
An emergency kit is an absolute must if you plan to stay in your home through a hurricane. Your emergency disaster kit will help keep your family hydrated, fed, and safe throughout a hurricane. Ready.gov has an exhaustive list of what should be in a disaster emergency kit. Common items include food, water, and supplies such as a weather radio and a manual can opener.
Putting together an emergency disaster kit isn't a one-time event. Whenever you take an item out of the kit, you must make sure to replace it. You should also check at least once a year to make sure that everything in the kit is working properly and has not expired.
3. Secure Your Home
You should have a plan to secure your home well before a hurricane ever forms. Generally, you should have plywood or aluminum window shutters pre-made to cover all glass surfaces. If you plan to leave your home, you may want to turn off the main water line to the home – as well as any natural gas lines – to prevent leaks. You should bring in anything outside your home that could become a projectile, such as trash cans, yard decorations, and patio furniture.
4. Have an Evacuation Plan and Be Prepared to Use It
When major hurricanes are heading to your area, you may be put under a mandatory or voluntary evacuation order. Unfortunately, evacuation is a major pain. Traffic will be absolutely horrific, and hotels will be booked for hundreds of miles along evacuation routes.
Have multiple plans about where you will evacuate based on where a hurricane may be headed.
I prefer to stay with friends and family when possible, but sometimes you'll have to book a hotel.
When you evacuate, make sure you have a plan for your pets, as well. You'll want to take extra supplies for an extended road trip, as well as any documentation you may need after the storm. If you have extra room, you may also want to bring your most valuable items and any irreplaceable sentimental ones.
Of course, your home may still experience serious damage. But if you prepare for a hurricane in advance using the tips above, you'll be in much better shape than someone who just hopes a hurricane never heads their way.