How to Prepare for Hurricane Season

Living in Florida has many advantages. Each year people flock to its beaches, sunshine, and laid-back lifestyle. But as many states do, Florida also has its hazards. If you own property or reside in the sunshine state, you probably already know that hurricane season begins on June 1 and typically lasts five months. While no one can predict what hurricane season will bring, if you are unprepared, you may find yourself in a situation where you are running low on supplies or trapped in a flooded or severely damaged property. And if the worst were to happen, you could even lose your life.

Legal Grit has put together this guide to hurricane preparation to provide the information you will need to protect your home or property from the potentially devastating effects of hurricanes and tropical storms. We take pride in representing homeowners and property owners throughout the property claims process and work hard to ensure you receive what you are entitled to under your property insurance policy.

Understanding Hurricanes

Preparing for hurricane season first involves understanding the terminology and basic facts surrounding hurricanes so you can comprehend news forecasts and meteorologist reports. Having a fundamental knowledge of weather systems and the difference between the various types of storms will help you take the appropriate steps based on the information available. While you do not need to be an expert, it will be helpful to make yourself aware of how hurricanes travel and the steps you should take to protect yourself when weather reports indicate a hurricane or storm may make landfall.

If you live in an area vulnerable to hurricanes, you have likely heard several terms being used to describe the potential storms and the conditions that could bring them about. Understanding these terms is vital to preparing for a storm that could cause damage to your property. Some of the more common terms surrounding a hurricane or similar storms are:

  • Tropical Cyclone – A low-pressure weather event with rotating or circular winds formed over warm ocean waters.
  • Tropical Depression – a tropical cyclone with winds of 38mph or less.
  • Tropical Storm – a tropical cyclone with consistent winds that reach speeds of 39mph to 73mph.
  • Hurricane – a tropical cyclone with sustained winds of 74mph or higher.
  • Tropical Storm Watch: Conditions that could lead to a Tropical Storm are possible in the area.
  • Hurricane Watch: The conditions in the area indicate that a Hurricane could form.
  • Tropical Storm Warning: Conditions show that a tropical storm is expected.
  • Hurricane Warning: Hurricane conditions are anticipated in the area. This warning is issued 36 hours before the presence of tropical-storm-force winds.
  • Eye: The center of the storm with calmer conditions – usually clearly defined on a weather map.
  • Eye Wall: The surrounding area of the eye. Usually contains some of the most severe weather with the highest wind speed and largest amount of precipitation.
  • Storm Surge: The potentially deadly effect of ocean water swelling as a result of a storm that has reached land.
  • Rain Bands: Bands produced by the cyclone cause severe weather conditions such as high wind, heavy rainfall, and tornadoes.

Understanding these terms and paying attention to weather forecasts is crucial to preparing for a hurricane. You may also want to connect with local government officials that issue warnings concerning storms or other natural disasters. These officials may require that an area be evacuated if a hurricane is predicted to make landfall. If such a mandate is issued, then it is strongly recommended that you follow its direction and leave the area as soon as possible.

Hurricane Forecasts

As you probably already know, predicting the weather can be tricky. While most of the time, meteorologists get it right, there are times when their prediction simply misses the mark. This is because the conditions that typically create specific weather events do not always react in the same way every time. Low-pressure fronts sometimes move out to sea, avoiding a land mass altogether. And when it comes to hurricanes, meteorologists often over-predict just to be on the safe side.

Still, hurricane forecasts will be your best resource in deciding when you should begin to prepare for a hurricane or tropical storm. Most weather forecasts can accurately predict if a hurricane will hit an area 2-3 days out. You can look at your local news or use some of the resources available online. The National Hurricane Center has some of the most up-to-date information on forecasts, tropical cyclone developments, and weather alerts.

Preparing For A Hurricane – Hurricane Kits

Unfortunately, when a hurricane is predicted to hit an area, people tend to panic. When this happens, stores are raided, and the supplies you may need to ride out a hurricane are suddenly in short supply. Additionally, the dramatic increase in demand can cause what little available supplies are still available to be significantly overpriced. That is why it is recommended that you assemble a hurricane kit well in advance of a predicted hurricane. This kit should not only include items that you’ll need if you are forced to evacuate but should also include things that will be useful if you can remain in your home. Your hurricane kit should be able to fit into a bag that you can easily bring with you if you are forced to evacuate. Keep loose items in airtight plastic bags and check/update your kit at least once a year. Some of the recommended items to be included in a hurricane kit are:

  • Whistle
  • Kitchen accessories and cooking utensils
  • Cash
  • Extra clothing, blankets and sleeping bags
  • Photocopies of identification, insurance, prescriptions, household inventory, credit cards and your utility bill
  • Copies of important documents such as birth certificates, adoption certificates, marriage licenses, divorce papers, Social Security cards, passport, green cards, will, insurance policies (home, auto, life, health, etc.), bank statements
  • Battery-powered portable television or radio with extra batteries
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • First aid kit and manual
  • Sanitation and hygiene items, such as instant hand sanitizing gel, disinfectant wipes, moist towelettes, toilet paper, and feminine hygiene products
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves
  • Thermometer with batteries, if required
  • Matches and/or a lighter in a waterproof container
  • Prescription medications, eyeglasses, contact lens solution, and hearing aid
  • Batteries
  • 7-day supply of non-perishable foods
  • 7-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day, including pets)
  • A manual can opener
  • Type ABC fire extinguisher
  • Telephone that is not dependent on electricity and/or a cell phone
  • Formula, baby food, diapers and pacifiers
  • Pet carriers, leashes, shot records, and food for each animal evacuating with you
  • Tire repair kit, booster cables, pump and flares
  • Toys and games for children
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Sunscreen (45 SPF recommended)
  • Sleeping Bag, Tent, Blankets, Pillows and/or other bedding materials

    Making A Hurricane Emergency Plan

    While you should certainly know when hurricane season occurs, you should also craft a hurricane emergency plan well in advance of hurricane season. This plan should outline what you need to do once you become aware of a potential hurricane and the information and instructions you will need to follow if the hurricane does touch down. Going over the hurricane emergency plan with your family is recommended so that everyone knows their role and relieves the stress and panic that could set in.

    If you live with physically or intellectually challenged people, you need to account for their limitations in your emergency plan. A step-by-step approach can take away the anxiety of not knowing what to do and in what order. Getting the difficult or time-consuming tasks out of the way first can ensure that there is time left over for the remaining less intensive steps. Include your office, child care, or school in your emergency planning. If you own a business, you may want to have a continuity plan that will allow it to continue to operate during this time.

    Your Hurricane Emergency Plan should include:

    • Phone numbers of a pre-assigned contact person for family members to call.
    • List and contact information of family members, friends, neighbors and physicians.
    • A safe place to store important documents in a waterproof container or bag.
    • How you will get assistance if needed for older adults or those with functional needs in the home.
    • How to turn off the water, gas and electricity safely.

      Protecting Your Home and/or Business

      It is crucial if you have time, to prepare and protect your property prior to a hurricane, as it can prevent and minimize some damage. However, your safety is the first priority. This means that you should only spend time well in advance to a Hurricane making landfall preparing your property and only if you have already taken the steps necessary to ensure that you will be safe and personally prepared for the storm. It is recommended that you first secure your hurricane kit before preparing your property for a hurricane. Some of the more common ways to prepare your property are:

      • Secure and cover all of your windows. This can be done with hurricane shutters or plywood.
      • Secure your roof to the structure of your property with secure straps. This may not be possible for every home.
      • Remove loose debris or items that could turn into projectiles during the storm.
      • Trim shrubs and trees and remove any dangling or dead branches.
      • Clear rain gutters.
      • Secure and reinforce garage doors.
      • Remove all outdoor furniture, flags, and/or fixtures and secure them indoors if possible.
      • Make sure all internal doors are shut and secure.
      • If possible, park all vehicles in the garage.
      • Back up important digital information.
      • Take photos and videos of the exterior and interior of your home and/or business.

      Property Insurance Considerations

      If you have a property in an area prone to hurricanes or if you just want the added security, then it is recommended you purchase property insurance that will provide coverage if it is damaged in a hurricane or tropical storm. To be sure, there is no such thing as hurricane insurance. Instead, you can purchase flood insurance and wind damage insurance. Because hurricanes typically only cause damage from the heavy rainfall and high winds, these coverages should be enough to protect your property from the damage usually associated with a hurricane. Still, flood insurance is usually not included in a standard property insurance policy. You will likely need to add that coverage through a rider.

      Flood Insurance

      Flood insurance can be costly, and some insurers may deny coverage if your property is in an area that sees routine flooding. To combat this problem, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has created a program where it manages a network of flood insurance providers. Anyone can purchase flood insurance through this program, and instructions on using the database are located here.

      If a storm causes your property to flood, it can not only cause damage to the property itself, but it may also destroy your personal belongings. Things like electronics, furniture, appliances, and other valuables could potentially be ruined by a hurricane. Again, damage caused by flooding may not be covered by a standard property insurance policy, so you may want to add that coverage if you have not already. Additionally, making a list of your valuables before a hurricane strikes can help prove what you have lost once you file an insurance claim. Taking photos of these items and the inside of your property is another wise thing you can do to document your possessions before you suffer a loss due to a hurricane.

      Wind Insurance

      Wind damage is typically included in most property insurance policies as a covered peril. If high winds from a hurricane shatter your windows or tear-off part of your roof, then your property insurance will likely cover the damage. Still, as with any insurance-related issue, it is important to look over your policy documents to see what is covered. When you are purchasing insurance, be sure to ask questions and to get clarification on what is covered. You will not want to be in a position of wondering if you are covered after a hurricane has ripped through your area.

      Know Your Evacuation Zone

      If the worst happens and you are forced to evacuate your property, you will want to know where that designated area is. Typically, local emergency management officers will provide instruction and direction on how and where to evacuate. During this time, you will want to review and follow your emergency plan to ensure you have provisions for yourself and that your property is as secure as possible. Because gas stations may be closed if the hurricane hits, filling up your tank as you prepare to evacuate is recommended.

      While it is not required that you evacuate to a specific place, you should have several options on where you can stay if you cannot remain on your property. This can be friends, family members, or even a hotel located far enough away from the hurricane site. Still, there will likely be only certain routes you will be able to travel during an evacuation. Knowing which roads are closed and where you can travel should be mapped out in advance.

      After The Storm

      Once the area where your property is located is deemed safe, you may want to return to it as soon as possible to assess any damage. While clear, visible signs of damage will be obvious, other damage may not be. You will want to thoroughly check your basement and any other area where water could accumulate for signs of flooding. Even if the water has now drained, there may have been flooding at some point which could have damaged your personal effects or the structural foundation of the property.

      Other areas you may want to check will be the roof, siding, windows, and exterior doors. If the storm has caused damage that requires cleanup, only do so while wearing protective clothing. Exposure to mold and other harmful substances can cause health issues if you are not properly protected. It is also never recommended to touch wet wires or attempt to operate electronic devices that have recently been exposed to water. Never attempt to wade through the flood waters if your property has flooded, as underwater power lines may still present a hazard.  

      Taking photos of the condition of your property before and after a hurricane can be vital to proving the damage your property sustained from the hurricane. This evidence can be helpful when you go to file a claim with your property insurance company.

      Filing A Property Insurance Claim

      If you had purchased property insurance before the hurricane, you likely have some coverage for the damage. You will first need to review your insurance policy to determine which coverages you have and to what extent. If you have questions about which coverages you have or have difficulty locating your policy, you can contact your insurance agent or a claims specialist that works with your insurance company. The law requires your insurance company to provide you with a copy of your insurance policy upon request.

      You may or may not want to file a claim to the extent you have coverage. This decision will depend on a number of factors, including the amount of your deductible and the likelihood that the claim will be approved. If you decide to file a claim, you should be aware that it may be denied if you do not provide proof of loss or fail to complete the required claim documents on time. While a claim denial is not the end of the road, you do not have unlimited chances to get it right.

      If your property has suffered significant damage and your insurance claim is denied, then you will likely want to file an appeal. To best aid in getting your claim denial reversed, it is recommended to keep copies of all documents and correspondence with your insurance company. These letters and the information that they contain could be vital to filing an appeal against the claim denial. You may wish to consult with a property insurance claims attorney before filing an initial claim or appeal to give yourself the best chance of securing a favorable outcome.

      Hurricane Coverage Disputes

      The hurricane season poses many problems for property owners. Indeed, damages sustained during the hurricane season may mean that you have to file a hurricane damage property claim or a homeowner’s insurance claim. Property damage claims often involve contentious interactions with insurance companies, resulting in claim denials. In these circumstances, having a hurricane damage lawyer experienced with claim denials on your side is best.

      At Legal Grit, our hurricane damage lawyers know how devastating a hurricane can be to your property. We also know that dealing with insurance companies and claims adjusters after your property has sustained damage caused by a covered event can be frustrating and exhausting. We take pride in representing insurance policyholders and use all of our resources and expertise to ensure that you receive everything you are entitled to under your policy. We always remain mindful of the bigger picture and will give our honest opinion to guide you through your options and strive to secure the most favorable outcome. Reach out today by calling (561) 331-4476 or by contacting us online.