It’s National Preparedness Month! If you haven’t done so already, it’s important to get your storm damage preparedness planning honed and completed. And that includes reviewing your insurance coverages as well! As the saying goes, life is what happens to us while we’re busy making other plans. 2020 has brought an increase in hurricanes and tropical storms, tornadoes, derechos, wildfires, firenados, hail, wind, and floods across the U.S. As we continue to respond to COVID-19, it’s even more imperative to have a plan and be prepared.
PREPAREDNESS IS KEY
It’s not just those along the coast that can experience significant, life-threatening impacts. The threats from hurricanes can vary widely depending on where you live. Evaluate what you need to do to protect your business and communicate with your team before the first storm of the season even forms.
1. Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today!
It’s time to update your Emergency Plan. Know how you’ll communicate with family and/or staff members before, during, and after a storm or weather event. Ensure that your plan that is updated per the latest CDC guidelines surrounding the coronavirus. Create your shelter and evacuation plans. Communicate the plan with your family and staff members and ensure that everyone is informed. If you’re a business owner, ensure that your staff, vendors and key personnel have copies of your Business Continuity Plan, and that everyone knows their role.
2. Ensure You Have Supplies On Hand
Build your Readiness Kit and be sure you have all the essentials including water, food and supplies that will last for several days after a storm or major weather event. Don’t forget to include the unique needs each person or pet may have in case you have to evacuate quickly. Update your kits and supplies based on recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and your local area. Check out FEMA’s recommended supplies checklist.
3. Understand Your Insurance Policy, Coverage & Deductibles
We can’t stress this enough. Review your insurance policies. Ensure you have adequate coverage. Know the risk of disasters in your area and what supplemental coverage and policies you may need. Call your agent if you have questions. The very core of our profession as licensed Public Adjusters is managing insurance claims to ensure that policyholders receive fair and balanced settlements after a storm or major weather event. Insurance policies vary widely and can contain hundreds of stipulations, exclusions and details to review, along with complex reporting required to substantiate your claim. This is a confusing and often neglected topic for many property owners. Having the right coverage with a reputable insurance company can save you from further hassle and headache after enduring the already devastating process of property loss.
Given that the 2020 storm season coincides with the shutdown of much of the U.S. economy due to the coronavirus pandemic, claims handling has been even more complicated for policyholders.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2019, severe convective storms – thunderstorms with lightning, tornadoes, hail, or destructive straight-line winds – were the costliest peril for insurers. As we can already see this year, our major weather events have only increased across the country. According to weather.gov, in an average 3-year period, roughly five hurricanes strike the U.S. coastline. Of these, two are typically major hurricanes with winds greater than 110 mph. In spite of the fact that storms can and will happen, we continue to see property owners and renters in many storm prone areas throughout the U.S. who have inadequate coverage, or even worse, no coverage.
Homeowners Insurance Tips
Homeowners insurance is an absolute essential, but every year, thousands of homeowners find out they’ve purchased inadequate policies and by then, it’s too late. Take some time to assess your risks and coverage. Standard homeowners policies do not cover flooding, earthquakes or poor maintenance. Flood coverage is provided by the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program and takes 30 days to take effect. Earthquake coverage is available either in the form of an endorsement or as a separate policy. Most maintenance related problems are the homeowners’ responsibility.
Business Insurance Tips
If you own a business, it’s important to include commercial insurance to protect your business against damage or loss of company property due to events such as fire, smoke, wind and hail storms, civil disobedience and vandalism. Take the time to review your policy and ensure you have appropriate coverages in place. A standard business insurance policy covers fire damage to the building, office space, equipment and product inventory; however, damage from flooding, including flooding generated by hurricane-generated storm surge, is not typically covered under a standard commercial policy. If needed, earthquake coverage is purchased as an endorsement to the standard business owners policy. Business interruption insurance is a separate option you can purchase that covers the profits your business would have earned, along with any added operating expenses incurred as a result of the disaster (such as the cost of operating out of a temporary location).
STORM PREPAREDNESS TIPS
Identify Your Risks & Be Prepared to Respond
To potentially limit the impacts that disasters have, know what to do to strengthen your property. Know the difference between watches and warnings. Even with the best-laid plans, sometimes we have no warning of a threat.
Thunderstorm Preparedness: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!
Thunderstorms can include lightning, powerful winds over 50 mph, and the potential to create hail, flash flooding and tornadoes. Be prepared! Know your area’s risk for thunderstorms and lightning. At least annually or prior to storm season, cut down or trim trees that may be in danger of falling on your property. Know the difference between a Thunderstorm Watch and Thunderstorm Warning and what to do in each scenario. The best defense against thunderstorms is to stay inside a sturdy building or shelter that can protect you from deadly lightning, large hail, damaging winds, flooding rain and tornadoes. Preparedness is key! If indoors, avoid running water or using landline phones. Electricity can travel through plumbing and phone lines. Listen to authorities and weather forecasts for information on whether it is safe to go outside and instructions regarding potential flash flooding.
The best protection against lightning is to avoid the threat whenever possible. Cancel or postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are expected. If you’re caught in a storm, find a sturdy building or stay in a hard-topped vehicle. If you’re inside, stay away from doors and windows. Don’t touch anything that’s plugged in. Avoid contact with water during a thunderstorm, including washing dishes and showering. Lightning can travel through a building’s plumbing during a thunderstorm.
Hail Storm Preparedness
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it only takes a wind speed of as little as 58 mph or hail as small as the size of a quarter to cause severe property damage. Hail-related insured losses between 2000 and 2019 averaged between $8 billion to $14 billion a year, according to a study by Aon. Over 50% of hail claims were made over a year after the hail storm took place, because homeowners did not get their roofs inspected. Remember, state statutes to file a claim vary. Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to get your property inspected if you think you may have damage.
According to Accuweather, tornadoes and severe storms resulted in approximately $19.5 billion worth of damage across the U.S. in 2019 alone. You may not always receive an official tornado alert so it’s important to know the warning signs, including the difference between a Tornado Watch and Tornado Warning, and what to do in each scenario. Lightning and hail are common in tornado weather. High winds can knock out power. Get to a sturdy building with a small, interior, windowless room. Go to the lowest level or a basement. If you have access to a storm shelter or safe room, use it.
Flood Preparedness: Turn Around, Don’t Drown®
Floods occur in every U.S. state. Each year, flooding causes more deaths than any other hazard related to thunderstorms. The most common flood deaths occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous floodwaters. Turn around, don’t drown! As little as 12 inches of moving floodwater can be enough to float and carry away a small vehicle. Just 2 feet of rushing water will carry away large vehicles, including pickup trucks and SUVs. A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. Know the difference between a Flash Flood Emergency and a Flash Flood Warning and what to do in each scenario.
Storm Surge Preparedness
Storm surge is one of the greatest threats to life and property following a storm. It can be caused by tropical storms, tropical cyclones, hurricanes, Nor’easters and even winter storms. Many areas along the U.S. Gulf and East Coasts are vulnerable, including areas several miles inland from the coastline. It’s important to know if you live in a storm surge evacuation zone and what to do. Remember, storm surge can cutoff evacuation routes, so don’t delay if an evacuation is ordered. If your area is not affected by storm surge after a storm, other dangerous hazards such as downed power lines, water and sewage problems, impassable or blocked roads may be an issue. Downed electrical wires can pose an electrocution risk. Always follow instructions from local officials.
Hurricanes cause major damage due to storm surge, wind damage, and flooding. Hurricane Season in the Atlantic Basin runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. According to the Congressional Budget Office, hurricane winds and storm-related flooding cause an annual economic loss of $34 billion to households. It’s important to be prepared well in advance to help minimize the impact. Know your communication plan, evacuation plan, and be sure to have supplies, food, water, cash, and fuel on hand. Know the difference between a Hurricane Watch and Hurricane Warning and what to do in each scenario. Preparedness is key!
Wildfire Preparedness: Wildfires Move Fast. What’s Your Plan?
Wildfires can travel and burn a football field per second. The 2020 fire season has been record-breaking across the western U.S., burning nearly 6 million acres to date. Know what to do before, during, and after a wildfire. Know your community’s evacuation routes and find several ways to leave the area. Keep emergency supplies in place at home, at work, and in the car. Create a communications plan with your family. Be sure to listen to local officials. If you have access, use N95 masks to keep particles out of the air you breathe. If not, try to limit your exposure to smoke. Wildfires dramatically change landscape and ground conditions, which can lead to increased risk of flooding due to heavy rains, flash flooding and mudflows. Flood risk remains significantly higher until vegetation is restored—up to 5 years after a wildfire.
Earthquakes can happen without warning and can result in injuries and damage to property and roads, as well leaking gas and water lines and downed power lines. Expect aftershocks to follow the main shock of an earthquake. If you are in a damaged building, go outside and quickly move away from the building. Once you are safe, listen to local news reports for emergency information and instructions via battery-operated radio, TV, social media or from cell phone text alerts.
Stay Informed: Download Weather Apps & Technology
Download weather apps now, so you’re prepared when you need to be. Sign up for local alerts on your phone. Visit Ready.Gov Alerts and learn how to search for local alerts and weather apps that are relevant for hazards that affect your area. The FEMA app includes weather alerts, safety tips and disaster resources.
MITCHELL ADJUSTING: YOUR CALM AFTER THE STORM
At Mitchell Adjusting, we know firsthand what it’s like to endure the devastating experience of property damage and loss due to weather events completely out of your control. With over 25 years of experience, our expert Public Adjusters help homeowners and business owners with insurance claim settlements due to storm damage and natural disasters. Licensed in 44 states, we’ve seen it all, and we are your advocate, every step of the way.