Tropical Storm Erika Prep: Changes since 2004 storms

Hurricane preparation has changed since last Florida storms

The shelves at the Lowe's of Fern Park are packed full of the usual hurricane supplies - generators, tarps, batteries, flashlights, water, charcoal grills, and tools.

But the Hurricane Readiness Area also features some new gadgets that weren't around when Charley, Francis, and Jean roared through Central Florida in 2004.

"This is a 7-hour power pack, great for an iPad or cell phone," said Paul Homes, Lowe's assistant manager, as he handled the device that uses regular batteries to recharge your cell phone battery. "A lot of people don't have land lines, so with this you'll be able to get another seven hours out of your phone."

That is, of course, if the cell towers have not lost power.

Homes showed Local 6 another device that wasn't around a decade ago: an LED flashlight.

"LED's use less wattage which means less battery life you're gonna be absorbing," said Homes.

Homes said upgrading to an LED flashlight is a good idea because it will last long after the storm passes.

Insurance has also changed since 2004.

Kris Pontell, of Pontell Insurance & Financial Group in Winter Springs, said many insurance companies have made screened enclosures a separate endorsement, which means you have to add, and pay for, the additional coverage. Pontell said large-scale damage to the enclosures resulted in losses for insurance companies in 2004 and prompted the change.

Pontell recommends flood insurance, which is also separate, administered by Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"Everywhere in Florida is technically a flood zone, some are more at risk than others," said Pontell.

Pontell, however, warns flood insurance comes with a 30-day wait, so it will not be effective if Erika causes damage.

Pontell also warns that if you're considering changing your deductibles - your hurricane or AOP (All Other Perils) - do it now. The closer a named storm gets to Florida, the more insurance companies will stop writing policies.

"You can't up the coverage, can't get new coverage on a home that doesn't have coverage on it, you can't buy any new insurance until a storm passes," said Pontell.

The AOP deductible, which is usually lower than your hurricane deductible, applies to damage caused by any storm other than a hurricane.

"If it ends up being a tropical storm that damages your home, then it would be your AOP, all perils deductible, which would be a $1,000, sometimes $500, sometimes $2,500," said Pontell.

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.