April, 2010
Insurance Information Institute

"Those who take the time to prepare for a hurricane stand the best chance of surviving the storm and getting back to their normal lives in a timely manner," stated Ms. Salvatore, who is the I.I.I.'s national consumer spokesperson. Salvatore offered actionable steps coastal residents should take to prepare for a disaster in a presentation today to the 2010 National Hurricane Conference at the Orlando Hilton, Orlando, Florida.

To prepare for the possibility of a hurricane and other natural disasters, the I.I.I. recommends the following five steps:

  1. Review your insurance coverage.
    Speak to your agent or company representative to make sure you have the right kind and amount of insurance coverage. You need enough insurance to rebuild your home and to replace all of your personal belongings. If you have made a major alteration or improvement to your home, or significant purchases to furnish it, notify your insurance agent so that the increased value is reflected in your policy.

    Speak to your agent or company representative about your homeowners insurance policy deductibles. Most coastal residents have percentage deductibles for storm damage rather than the traditional dollar deductibles that are used for other types of losses such as fire or burglary.

    Ask about flood insurance. Flood damage is not covered under most standard home insurance policies. Flood coverage is available, however, from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and some private insurance companies. It can generally be purchased from the same agent or broker who provides your homeowners or renters insurance, although new NFIP policy purchases have to wait at least until mid-April because Congress allowed the NFIP program to expire on Sunday, March 28. Congress is expected to revisit this issue when it reconvenes on Monday, April 12. Additional information on flood insurance can be found at FloodSmart.gov or by calling 888-379-9531. Should you need coverage over and above the $250,000 for property and $100,000 for contents provided by the NFIP, excess flood insurance is also available from private insurance companies.  
  2. Create a home inventory
    A home inventory will help ensure that you have purchased enough insurance to replace your personal belongings. It can also speed the claims process and substantiate losses for income tax purposes. A detailed home inventory is also helpful should you need to apply for disaster aid.

    To make creating a home inventory easier, the I.I.I. provides free Web-based software located at KnowYourStuff.org. The Know Your Stuff software allows you to organize and list your possessions easily, as well as add digital photographs of your valuables and save scanned receipts. The program provides free, secure storage of your inventory on Amazon Web Services. Storing your inventory online gives you the ability to access it from any computer in the event your own computer is destroyed.
  3. Protect your property
    Keeping wind and water out of your home is critical to its survival. According to the Institute for Business & Home Safety, a house is most vulnerable to high winds when the building's "envelope" is not sealed by forms of protection such as storm shutters or reinforced garage doors. In addition, homeowners should secure loose roof shingles and seal openings, cracks and holes while also strengthening soffits such as beams, arches and staircases. Keep in mind that unsecured building materials or trash from partially completed homes could, if wind gusts are strong enough, become airborne and pose a serious physical threat to individuals and nearby buildings.
  4. Plan your evacuation and what you will need to take
    Identify where you will go and how you will get there. Try to have more than one option: the home of a friend or family member in another town, a hotel or a shelter. Keep a map and the phone numbers and addresses of these locations handy. If you have a pet, identify locations where animals are welcome. When an emergency or disaster strikes you may be forced from your home for several days or even weeks. That's why the First 72 is Up to You! Seventy-two hours is the most critical period after a disaster or emergency has occurred and the time it may take before rescuers can get to you.

    In the event of an evacuation, have the following items ready to take with you:
    • Medicines, prescriptions and first aid kit.
    • Bottled water
    • Clothing and bedding (sleeping bags, pillows)
    • Flashlight, battery-powered radio and extra batteries
    • Special items for infants or elderly or disabled family members
    • Computer hard drive or laptop
    • Photographs
    • Pet food and other items for pets (litter boxes, leashes)
    • Important documents such as insurance policies, passports, drivers licenses, wills and deeds, birth, adoption and marriage certificates, recent tax returns, stocks, bonds and other negotiable certificates
    • Your home inventory.
  5. Take the Ten Minute Challenge
    Find out if you are ready to evacuate by doing a real-time test. Give yourself just 10 minutes to get your family and belongings into the car and on the road to safety. By planning ahead and practicing, you should be able to gather your family members and pets, along with the most important items they will need, calmly and efficiently, and with a minimum level of stress and confusion.

Insurance Information Institute