Falling down is a part of life and getting back up is Living: acknowledge what is happening and quickly pull yourself up to get everything back in action. More importantly, learn from what you could have done better, be prepared, and come stronger for any such danger in the future.
With Hurricane Irma as our next visit, it is time to take all the right measures, whether evacuating or staying in our homes – staying safe and staying prepared should be our motto.
Tips preparing yourself for Hurricane Irma:
Before starting any preparation, you should access your house and be surrounding to understand what effect a hurricane could have on you and your assets:
- Check your house elevation to understand how much the hurricane and the flood might affect you.
- Check all windows, doors, and garage doors so that they close tightly and no wind can enter the house. Have storm shutters or marine plywood installed to try to protect the windows from the hurricane’s attack.
- Know your community evacuation route and figure out your shelter options to move to if authorities instruct you to evacuate.
- Assess beyond your house and neighborhood and check for dams near your house which can worsen the impact.
- Take pictures of your home and belongings to compare and spot missing or damaged items after the natural disaster. This will help in creating a home inventory.
- Stay updated on weather news and danger indications.
- Keep your important documents safe and your insurance information handy for when you need them. Storing them online is the safest place in a hurricane. If you have to file a claim, it is very important to take quick actions.
- Floods are not covered by Homeowners insurance. And Flood insurance only takes effect after 30 days of purchase. Review your policy to know what coverages are there and how much is the deductible.
Many customers believe their homeowner’s insurance would cover flood and also they don’t properly check their insurances during renewals to check if there are disclosures on through policy changes. Both of these mistakes lead to frustration and denial from expected claim support.
- Prepare your family communication plan
- Create an emergency kit
- Cut shrubs and trees to make them strong to survive the storm and rain and not cause further severity and damage.
- Check your roof to see if it is well anchored and if needed attach with hurricane straps.
- Check which appliances and electronics could be kept at higher locations away from the floor and kept unplugged during the Hurricane.
- Keep refrigerators to its coolest temperature and have a lot of ice to help to keep food supplies fresh if your power cuts.
- Have the car fully fueled and make sure it is in good condition.
- Keep emergency supplies packed in the car and home with food, water, flashlights, clothes, battery-operated radio, blankets, first aid, medicines, and some cash.
- Clean and unclog rain gutters and downspouts to avoid rainwater blockage.
- Bring all outdoor furniture, décor, grills, garbage cans and any loose items that the wind could blow away or into your house causing more damage.
- Have a generator installed for power outages that might continue for days or weeks.
- If you have in-ground swimming pools, lower the pool water level by 6 to 12 inches. Keep pool waters over-chlorinated to save it from contamination.
- Disconnect electric pumps and propane gas at the tank.
Post-Hurricane Irma Recovery
- Floodwaters have high chances of getting an electric charge from electric lines. So avoid going in water if you do not have to. Flowing water also poses a danger of sweeping you off and may make you lose control over your vehicle when you are driving.
- Stay updated on local news and advice from local officials and return home when authorities instruct you to do so.
- Take photographs of all areas in your house where there are any damages, to compare with your ‘before Hurricane’ photos. Make sure these are easily available via the cloud. These proofs will make your claims processing quicker.
- It is important to start drying out your house to control your water damages with the help of a dehumidifier.
- Apart from your inventory, have cost estimates valued for all repairs required by an external contractor.
- Contact your insurance companies to report your damages as soon as you can.
- Maintain the record of all communication with your insurance companies and other contractors. If it is a communication from your end, written copies are good to have.
- It is also important to inform the mortgage company because in severe cases they might defer payments for few months.
- You could get your utility and cable bills temporarily halted if you notify them that your house is not fit for living.
- If you are living away from your home due to mandatory evacuation instructions, then you might get some funds from insurance policies with ‘additional living expense’ coverage. This may include your living and food expenses so it is important to keep all your bills if you are staying in hotels or temporary housing spaces.
- Repairs that will prevent further damages need to be addressed before the insurance claims are approved. Further damages that are caused after Hurricane will not be covered by your insurances.
- Track ‘mobile’ bank branches which may be made available for the convenience of cash withdrawal.
- Activate fraud alert with credit bureaus and the federal trade commission to stay protected from identity theft issues.
- Check with your employer if you can access any employee assistance programs.
- Don’t rush when you fill out your ‘proof of loss’ form, keep it clean and add enough information to support and validate your claim request.
- If the insurance company tells you that your damages are not covered, do not believe them and give up. Rather be strong and negotiate as if it is a business deal as your discussion is a for-profit company. Get it re-evaluated by an expert. Attempt to get a payment for your losses.
The information you need to keep handy (have these saved electronically as well as have it in papers wrapped well to keep them waterproof):
- Contact information of Insurance Agent
- Contact information of Insurance Company
- Their customer service helpline numbers
- Their website addresses
- Their email addresses
- Their emergency hotline numbers (if they have)
- Home inventory list
Having an account of what assets you have, and how much money you would need in order to replace it, will also help you estimate how much insurance you should get.
Having all of your insurance information in one place helps you know if your benefits are duplicated between more than one insurance policy. It also helps you know if you have a risk that should be covered by insurance; it also helps to evaluate any changes that the insurance company may have added during renewals.
It is a smart idea to evaluate your risk profile once a year and verifying all the benefits are rightly placed for you, eliminating unnecessary and adding crucial ones based on your changing needs.
If you have pictures ready, insurance information ready, and estimates calculated, it will be easy to have your focus on getting a fair claim approval from your insurance provider. As a proactive person, one should always have their insurance information digitally and securely stored. One such American provider of the insurance management service for free is InsuredMine.
With InsuredMine, you are always prepared in advance with your insurance management, not just before a crisis. This should be a must do task after crossing the hurdle of this natural hazard. You can save your information, view what you have, pull any useful contacts you need, every renewal policy analysis could be done to know if your risk and your liabilities have changed or not, get suggestions beforehand to know if you have a gap in your insurances that might make you vulnerable even if you have most of your insurances in place. It helps in your safety plan, apart from saving you from paying more and browsing through different websites for information as it allows you to store all your insurance information in one place.
Hurricane Harvey’s devastation, scams, tips & eye-openers:
Hurricane Harvey brought more destruction and loss than what earlier Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy caused. The summed up estimates of the losses and claims accounted so far will make the Harvey horror reside in our minds for long. The facts shared in the article ‘Charting Hurricane Harveys jaw-dropping size and destruction’ will do a good round up. Here is a chart describing the sizes for these hurricanes below.
Further Numbers as shared by CNN
To get an update on Hurricane Harvey as of September 4th, read this.
There are various scams created around events that make us vulnerable. While we see examples of people helping each other forgetting any differences, there are scammers who take this as an opportunity to loot and cheat people for their own benefits.
Scams to be Caution of
- Fraudulent companies imitate the names of renowned charities if you are not careful with checking every detail of the charity – from phone number to website – your money for a good cause might end up going to wrong pockets.
- Unsolicited Investments frauds on the aftermath of Harvey are another one in the list to be watchful of.
- Distressed real estate remediation
- Water cleaning and Purification
- Investment pool creation for helping Harvey affected people
- Scams also target victims when they receive large insurance settlements.
- There are scams of robot-calls that demand payments on the past due flood premiums reported to FEMA.
The Insurance Situation
Followed by the aftermath of Harvey and accounting of the damages it caused, the ray of hope dimmed with the realization that many homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover floods.
After Hurricane Katrina, 50% flood affected victims had flood insurance; during Hurricane Harvey, it was revealed that only 2 out of 10 victims have flood insurance.
Those who only have homeowners insurance could not file a claim on flood insurance but could file based on wind insurance if the damage was caused due to wind entering by breaking windows. If water enters through floor or walls, it no more falls under Homeowners insurance.
Flood insurance is available through the federally run NIFP (National Flood Insurances Program), compulsory for homeowners who have federally backed mortgages and their houses fall under the Special Flood Hazard Zones. Those who were not mandated to buy flood insurance, mostly, did not get them. NFIP requires proof of loss to be submitted within 60 days. NFIP policies usually cover up to $250,000 to the structure of the home and $100,000 for personal possessions. It might also be useful to know more about what flood insurance does and does not cover.
For people who do not have flood insurance, they could apply to FEMA. For qualifying homeowners without any flood insurance, it grants emergency repairs, uninsured and underinsured property losses, medical, dental and funeral expenses caused due to any disaster. They also cover temporary housing.
There is no guarantee that all repairs and replacements will be 100 percent covered by combining Homeowners, Flood Insurance and FEMA together. There is excess flood insurance that covers what NFIP does not cover, suitable for higher valued properties or a community that does not have NFIP. These also cover additional living expenses and come with no deductible.
Places to Find Insurance Help Post Hurricane
For fair claims payments – http://consumerfed.org/press_release/consumers-get-fair-claims-payments-wake-hurricane-harvey/
Government resources for additional information can be found here:
- Texas – http://www.tdi.texas.gov/consumer/storms/helpafterharvey.html
- Florida – http://www.floir.com/Office/HurricaneSeason/hurricaneresourcepage.aspx
Here are some tips from the survivors, which are true tips from their personal experiences.
To make the majority of useful content available to the readers in one place, this resource has references from many useful websites that are dedicated to insurance help and suggestions like iii.org, uphelp.org, fema.gov, insureonline.org.