Plan Ahead to Stay Safe
Residents of Florida, Texas and Louisiana know all about hurricanes because they live in the most vulnerable – and volatile – region for them, according to the National Hurricane Center. But you don't have to live in those states to feel the effects of these colossal ocean storms.
In fact, hurricanes can travel hundreds of miles inward. With them comes excessive rainfall (usually between six and 12 inches), high winds (gusts of more than 100 mph),1 as well as severe thunderstorms, potential tornadic activity and high risks of flooding. Because these potent storms can cover a wide area, they can pack a powerful economic punch as well. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused more than $41 billion in damage. (By comparison, the May 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri caused $2.8 billion in damages.)
If you are in a region that has just been issued a hurricane watch or warning, visit our Hurricane Safety Action Guide for immediate information. In the mean time, consider the following tips to hurricane-proof your home.
First Things First – Fortify Your Home, Protect Your Family
Be impact resistant. Impact-resistant glass is able to withstand direct force, as well as protect your home from pressure changes and structural damage. Compared to smaller windows and wooden doors, sliding glass doors are particularly vulnerable because of their wide spans. Remember: Broken windows and doors don't just increase the risk for water and debris damage inside your home – they compromise your safety too.
Reinforce windows and doors. If you can't install impact-resistant glass, you have the option to shutter your windows and doors with impact-resistant shutters, or board them with marine plywood. Plywood (at least 5/8-inch thick) is an inexpensive option, but it is less convenient because it has to be installed at the last minute. A more permanent option is to buy and install roll-up or accordion shutters that attach to your home. Panels and shutters come in steel, aluminum, plastic, reinforced and/or composite varieties.
Strengthen your roof. Consult a local contractor about the strength of your roof. Consider reinforcing it. Or, instead of completely revamping your roof, invest in higher-quality shingles as a way to sustain it even in gale-force winds. Your family members will benefit from having a good roof over their heads.
Elevate appliances. If you use your basement to house expensive utilities like washers, dryers and water heaters, raise them higher than water levels may rise. Or, if you have the opportunity, relocate them to another floor, where they'll be safe should floodwaters rise.
Protect against sea surges. If you live on or very close to the shore, consider raising the ground floor of your house in an effort to mitigate damage during a sea surge. If you are further from the shore, you may still want to make some modifications in the event of high water and/or a flash flood.
- Wet floodproofing. A method commonly seen in homes that are on or very close to a beach, this process allows flood waters into and through uninhabited parts of your home, such as a basement or crawlspace, in order to equalize pressure on the other parts of the housing frame.2 This process includes installing an adequate number of small openings in the walls of a house, and should be installed below the expected flood level, so flood waters can enter and exit the home at roughly the same rate as floodwaters rise. FEMA recommends one square inch of openings for every square foot of floor space in the enclosed area, and should be no more than one foot above the ground.3 It's important to note that this method does not guarantee protection of your home, it's merely a measure to strengthen your house against fast-moving floodwater. Check with a local contractor for an estimate.
- Dry floodproofing. This process changes a structure to help make it water tight. This requires using waterproof coatings to seal walls, and may include installing removable shields in windows and doors and fitting sewer lines and drains with backflow valves.4For a more basic modification, some home owners simply seal the walls of the basement and ground levels of their home. Look to a local contractor for more in-depth advice.
- Build a levee or floodwall. These are man-made barriers to protect against rising water levels. A levee is typically made of earth, and limited to a six-foot height. Floodwalls, on the other hand, are made of concrete or masonry and up to four feet high. Both should be constructed at least one foot higher than base flood elevation for more dependable protection.5
Have an in-home safe room. As with tornados, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends in-home or underground shelters. No matter how it is built, in-home safe rooms are engineered to be independent of the original construction of the house. The shell should be impact resistant so as to sustain repeated blows by debris.
Understand Your Coverage
Find the proper coverage. In most states, damage from a hurricane is typically covered under the basic home insurance policy. If your home is at risk for severe damage due to a hurricane, be sure your coverage is sufficient for the reconstruction cost of your home from the interior to the exterior, foundation to the roof, and your possessions. It's important to note that a standard home policy provides limited coverage on certain high-value items. If you own items such as jewelry, artwork or collections that are particularly valuable, you'll want to consider purchasing special coverage just for them. If you live in a hurricane-prone region, we can help you identify the proper coverage to protect your home and your belongings. Give us a call, we're here to help.
In Case Disaster Strikes
Give us a call. Touch base with us as soon as you can, and have your policy number ready if possible. We can initiate a claim, explain your available coverage, and provide recommendations and solutions for cleaning up and drying out your home. Our Emergency Service partners can help take the burden off of you, so you can focus on the safety of your family. If necessary, we'll contact an on-call adjuster to visit your home and work on your claim.
Take pictures – before and after. Photographic evidence of your home and the valuables in it helps us better help you in the event of a loss. Long before damage occurs, take pictures of your home – from the outside and some of each room – especially the basement. Ideally, you would store copies of these photos in a location other than your home. (Uploading them to a free online photo storage site is an easy solution.) If you do experience a loss, take detailed photos right away. That way, you can provide before and after photos of damage, which gives us a basis for comparison and a more thorough understanding of the scale of the damage.
Save receipts. If you are told by authorities to evacuate your home, you may file a claim for additional living expenses. These are expenses beyond what you would normally incur – things like charges to stay at a reasonably priced hotel, half the costs of meals, and even pet boarding fees. Save all receipts for the purposes of reimbursement at a later date.
If you own one of the 50 million American homes in a region at risk for hurricanes, plan ahead today to protect your home tomorrow.