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How to Prep for a Hurricane and Insurance Claims

Oct. 25, 2016
Homeowners Insurance, Insurance
How to Prepare for a Hurricane and Insurance Claims
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Hurricane readiness is the last thing you want to worry about during an actual hurricane. Prepare your insurance coverage and home in advance for whatever Mother Nature throws at you, while you have plenty of time and a clear head.

Review your insurance

Recovering from a hurricane can be a complex process involving multiple insurance policies. Take the right steps today so you can better weather the insurance claims rigmarole.

  • Check your insurance coverage for holes: Verify that your homeowners, condo or renters policy includes coverage against wind and other weather-related hurricane risks. In hurricane-prone states, you might need to buy separate windstorm insurance. Here’s more about getting hurricane insurance. Also ask your agent or insurer about adding coverage for debris removal, sewer backup and other potential post-storm issues.
  • Get flood insurance: Homeowners, renters and condo insurance won’t cover damage from flooding. Shop for separate flood insurance in case of damage from a storm surge.
  • Learn your home’s replacement cost: If you own your home, ask your insurer or agent for help calculating the cost to reconstruct it. Double-check that the level of dwelling protection on your flood and homeowners insurance is high enough to cover a total loss.
  • Don’t forget about your car: Consider adding comprehensive auto insurance to your auto policy if you don’t have it. It will pay to repair vehicle damage from floods, hail and other weather-related problems. It also covers other issues, such as vandalism and theft.
  • Take a home inventory: If a hurricane hits, you’d hate to discover that you don’t have enough personal property coverage to replace your stuff — or forget to make a claim for some of your items. Taking a home inventory can help you calculate the insurance coverage you need for your belongings and develop a record of your possessions. Try this inventory app from the Insurance Information Institute for assistance.
  • Prep for evacuation: Homeowners and renters insurance typically covers additional living expenses, such as the cost of a hotel if you have to leave your home — for example, because of a mandatory evacuation or storm damage. It’s smart to bring your insurance documents with you if you have to evacuate. Store them in a central location in your home so you won’t have to waste time digging in a file cabinet as a hurricane approaches.

Secure your home

Take these steps to prepare your home for a hurricane, minimizing the risk of damage and insurance claims.

  • Clear the outside area: Loose objects such as plants, deck chairs, grills and bicycles can become veritable wrecking balls in hurricane-force winds. Bring them inside before a storm.
  • Guard against water damage: You might not be able to keep your home completely dry in a hurricane. Still, sealing windows and other outside openings, installing storm shutters and stacking sandbags around the perimeter of your house can limit potential flooding.
  • Check your doors: Make sure your outside doors aren’t missing any hinges and each has a deadbolt lock at least one inch long. Flimsier locks might not stand up to the high winds. Cover sliding glass doors with plywood.
  • Disconnect utilities and appliances: To reduce the chances of damaging electrical surges, shut down your electricity and unplug all appliances before a storm hits.

Check out the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s guide to preparing for a hurricane for other tips on securing your home, building a survival kit and staying safe if you have to evacuate.

» MORE: Complete guide to hurricane insurance

Alex Glenn is a staff writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected].