ORLANDO, Fla. – Just because a hurricane has passed doesn't mean the hardest part is over.
A lot of the headaches a storm will bring don't come until after the storm hits, when you have to deal with repairs and insurance claims.
We hope you never have to do that, but it's important that you're prepared to navigate the insurance process should you ever have to.
With that being said, it doesn't always have to be the dreaded task people make it out to be. In fact, there are some steps you can take before a storm to make the process easier on you, should you have to face it once the weather clears.
Considering these tips, courtesy of Lisa Miller and Associates, will help you prepare:
Know your risk
Is it high winds, coastal storm surge or inland flooding? It could be all three, depending on where you live. Preparing for each is different. The good rule of thumb is “Run from the water, hide from the wind.” If you live near water, you evacuate further inland. Hiding from the wind means hunkering down in a sturdy building. There are ways to fortify your home ahead of time.
Protect your home
Protecting your roof, windows and doors is key to keeping out damaging wind and water. Consider installing storm shutters or impact resistant hurricane glass. Seal around your doors and windows with weather resistant caulking and adjust your doors and windows or add weather stripping for a tight seal. Repair any damaged roof shingles or tiles. Eliminate hazards now, such as branches overhanging your roof and damaged trees. Declutter drains and gutters.
Talk to your agent
Your homeowners agent is there to help you protect your largest asset: your home! Give them a call now to confirm you have the proper coverage. Remember that most homeowners policies do not cover flooding. Ask about a separate flood policy from the federal government or the growing competitive private flood insurance market.
Prepare to file your claim now
Grab your phone or camera and take a leisurely video or pictures of each room in your house, noting all your worldly possessions. Do the same outside with your cars, boats and other valuables. Upload the files or otherwise store securely off-site. Should you suffer future damage, you’ll already have a complete indisputable inventory for filing your insurance claim.
Make a kit
Think about what you’d need to have and live on for five days cut off from the world, including water and electricity. Besides enough nonperishable food, water and medicines for your family and pets, you should have a weather radio, flashlights, extra batteries, cellphone battery backups, toolkit, can opener, help whistle, matches, sterno, fire extinguisher, ax and comprehensive first aid kit.
Make a plan
Decide under what circumstances you will hunker down and ride out the storm versus evacuating. Become familiar with your evacuation zone, the evacuation route and nearest shelter locations. Have “the talk” with the family about what you’ll do and choose a relative or friend outside the state that everyone can stay in contact with during and after the storm. Find creative ways to test your plan throughout hurricane season. Have a plan for your pets, and for storing any boat and trailer, too.
Gather important papers
If you have to evacuate, you’ll be happy you took time now to gather your important household and life documents, including your insurance policies and financial accounts information. Put them in a double-sealed bag that you can grab on your way out. Store your insurance company’s phone number and your policy number in your phone. Include the state insurance helpline number, 877-693-5236, manned by experts who can help you better understand your policy, file an insurance claim and settle issues that may occur during the claims-filing process.