Hurricane season hadn’t even officially kicked off when Tropical Storm Arthur, the first-named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, passed near the coast of North Carolina in mid-May. Indeed, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual Atlantic hurricane forecast shows an abnormally active season in the coming months, with between 13 and 19 named storms, six to 10 of which could become hurricanes (compared to the average six).
Hurricane season formally began June 1 and lasts through November 30, with the possibility this year to have an already potentially catastrophic event exacerbated by the coronavirus. The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) is running point amid COVID-19 and is stretched to its limits. In fact, FEMA is encouraging homeowners to prepare for the upcoming season and review how COVID-19 may impact their disaster-preparedness plans.
“Social distancing and other CDC guidance to keep you safe from COVID-19 may impact the disaster-preparedness plan you had in place, including what is in your go-kit, evacuation routes, shelters and more,” said FEMA’s acting deputy administrator for resilience, Carlos Castillo, in a statement. “With tornado season at its peak, hurricane season around the corner, and flooding, earthquakes and wildfires a risk year-round, it is time to revise and adjust your emergency plan now.”
We talked to RPS Area President Jay Pellegrini about five critical preparation tips for homeowners:
1. Get an Annual Insurance Check-Up with Your Agent
Review your insurance policies with your agent/broker to ensure you have the right coverages, limits and deductibles in place.
“Review your coverage for wind exposure, particularly if you are in a coastal area where separate wind insurance needs to be purchased through a state-run plan,” says Pellegrini.
“Go over your coverage values to make sure they are currently adequate. Oftentimes, insureds either make huge purchases (such as boats, fine art or other collectibles) or undergo major home improvements (like a new addition to the house) without consulting their broker to update their policies to reflect new values. Know your hurricane deductible, if any, in the event of a loss.”
2. Get Flood Insurance
Many individuals don’t realize that flood coverage is not part of a homeowners policy. In addition, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requires a 30-day waiting period before coverage is in effect unless it’s a new home purchase.
“If there is a storm heading towards the Gulf or Atlantic, you won’t be able to obtain flood insurance. It’s too late at that point,” Pellegrini warns.
Private flood programs also have a waiting period, which could be as few as seven days. Again, if a hurricane were on its way, coverage would not be available for the pending storm.
3. Take Video of Your Possessions
Technology allows us to easily record our personal property and valuables.
“Using your phone, walk around your home and make a video of key items,” advises Pellegrini.
“In the event of a total loss the video serves as documentation; it also serves as a reminder of the things you own. After the trauma of a loss, many people have difficulty remembering all of their possessions.”
Store the video in the cloud for easy access, not on the actual device itself.
4. Be Prepared to Evacuate
Have plans to either evacuate or shelter in place. Both scenarios require preparation.
“You need water, food, a first aid kit, prescriptions, a plan for your pets as many shelters don’t allow animals, etc.,” says Pellegrini.
“Also, carry cash for fuel, etc. During Hurricane Katrina, the power was out and ATMs were not working, which made it difficult for people to purchase supplies.”
5. Don’t Take Anything for Granted
Pelligrini emphasizes that in preparing for a natural catastrophe, it’s often the things you don’t think about that may trip you up. Review your coverage, your inventory documentation, and emergency plan, and be sure the entire family knows what to do during and after a hurricane.