Hurricane’s coming, are you prepared?by Gina Pogol
What a week for natural disasters here on the East Coast. After a 5.8 earthquake hit outside Washington D.C., Hurricane Irene is expected to hit North Carolina this morning and work its way up the coast today and throughout the weekend.
Hurricanes at their worst can cause damage to life and property on a catastrophic scale, but fortunately they can be predicted and prepared for.
Homes built to modern codes in hurricane-prone areas are much less likely to be damaged, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.
A recent study conducted by the organization shows that homes built to current codes were 60 percent less likely to incur hurricane-related damage than homes constructed earlier.
However, with a few retrofits and reinforcements, any home can be made much more resistant to hurricane-force winds.
- Secure your garage. According to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, approximately 80 percent of residential hurricane damage is caused by wind entry through garage doors. Many modern garage doors are made of lighter and cheaper materials which makes them vulnerable to high winds. If your garage door has a high pressure rating (there should be a sticker on the door), it is built to resist hurricane damage.
- Bolt down your outdoor possessions. Your patio furniture, grill, garbage cans, potted plants, and other items can cause incredible damage if blown by a hurricane. Exhibit A: the extensive post-disaster footage showing bicycles on roofs, small boats in trees, and kids’ toys skewered through walls.
- Invest in impact-resistant windows and storm shutters. Impact-resistant windows cost about twice as much as regular panes; those who can’t afford them can achieve some protection by nailing plywood sheets over their windows in advance of hurricanes.
- Strengthen your roof. It’s not hard to do–the Federal Alliance for Safe Home says you can go to your local home improvement store, buy a very strong premium flooring adhesive, and apply a small bead of glue to the underside of your roof where the roof and the support beams meet (use a caulking gun).
- Make sure that your trees are strong and healthy. Trees and limbs can become deadly missiles in the event of a hurricane. Keep trees pruned of dead branches.
Homeowners should review their insurance policy well before hurricane season starts.
If you live in an inland area, you may not need a hurricane policy–most home insurance policies cover wind damage anyway. However, homeowner policies in states on the Atlantic or the Gulf Coast often exclude hurricane-related claims, and you’d need to buy additional coverage. Do yourself a favor and check your policy now.
If you’re a coastal dweller, you’ll probably want the extra protection from hurricane insurance.
Most insurance companies require a 30-day waiting period before hurricane coverage kicks in, and insurers don’t issue new policies when a storm is imminent. Hurricane insurance picks up where standard property insurance leaves off.
However, coverage can vary widely, with some policies insuring against damage from wind, flooding from the hurricane surge, and mildew and water damage. Others exclude flood damage, even flooding caused by a hurricane. If you live on the coast, you want flood coverage, period.
The cost of comprehensive hurricane coverage can vary as much as the coverage itself, from as little as $300 a year for a small home inland to over $20,000 annually for a mansion in a high-risk zone.
On top of the premium, policies issued in hurricane-susceptible states can come with hurricane deductibles of 1 percent to 5 percent of the insured value of the home. That means if your house is insured for $200,000, and it’s damaged in a hurricane, you have to pay between $2,000 (1 percent of insured value) and $10,000 (5 percent) for repairs before your insurer kicks in a penny.