Update: As of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 12, Hurricane Irma has weakened into a post-tropical cyclone near Alabama, according to the National Hurricane Center. But the wrath of Hurricane Irma after it made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in the Florida Keys has left significant damage in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.
An estimated 25 percent of homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed, and 15 million Floridians remain without power, according to CNN. Jacksonville suffered record-breaking flooding due to the storm surge, according to the National Weather Service.
Hurricane Irma could cost the country an estimated $172 billion worth of damage. The death toll from Hurricane Irma has reportedly climbed to 12 in the U.S., according to ABC News.
As the Southeast assesses the full damage caused by Hurricane Irma, many residents are beginning the process of filing hurricane and tropical storm damage claims with their insurance company.
And although the worst of Hurricane Irma is over, these homeowners may have a new challenge to contend with. Many insurance companies are known for minimizing, wrongfully delaying, or wrongfully denying insurance claims after hurricanes and tropical storms, even if their policyholders have faithfully paid their premiums for years.
If you encounter any of these problems in this difficult time after Hurricane Irma, our insurance dispute attorneys may be able to help you. Fill out our free, no-risk case evaluation form to learn how an insurance attorney can help you get your life back on track after the storm.
After the devastation that Hurricane Harvey brought to the state of Texas, people are understandably worried about the next big storm to hit the country as we approach peak hurricane season. For residents of Florida and the rest of the Southeast, it could be coming sooner than you think.
Hurricane Irma — a Category 3 hurricane that is growing in intensity by the hour — is the next major hurricane crossing the Atlantic, according to CNN. Although it’s too early to know exactly where the hurricane will hit, or if it will make landfall on the continental United States at all, some of the models project that the storm may approach Florida sometime next week.
That’s bad news, especially if Hurricane Irma grows to a Category 4 storm.
The question on everyone’s mind right now is: how can we prepare for the possibility of this next big storm and keep our property and family safe?
Fortunately, with the potential hurricane threat nearly a week away, there’s time to get ready for the worst case scenario of a Category 4 or 5 Hurricane Irma making landfall in the mainland U.S.
We’ve put together some basic hurricane preparation tips to help keep the family safe and connected, minimize the damage to your home, and maximize your claim in the event of serious property damage.
Have an Emergency Kit Prepared
All homes should have an emergency kit prepared, whether it’s for a house fire, flood, or any other type of natural disaster.
This kit should be portable and ready to go in case a swift evacuation is necessary. Make sure that your emergency kit includes the following items, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:
- First aid supplies
- Family documents including bank account records, identification, and copies of your insurance policies
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio
- Cell phones with chargers/backup battery
If possible, also pack three days’ worth of non-perishable food and water for each family member, in case you are unable to make it to shelter.
Have a Family Emergency Plan
Is everyone in your family on the same page about what to do if there’s an emergency? Waiting until an emergency to find out isn’t an option. Remember that with school, work, and other life responsibilities to consider, the whole family may not be together if a hurricane strikes.
How will you communicate and reconnect during an emergency? To figure out your family emergency plan, discuss questions such as:
- How will we receive emergency alerts and warnings in the event of a hurricane?
- What is the nearest evacuation route and shelter?
- Who will take care of the pets in case of an emergency?
- Is there any medical equipment we need in case of evacuation?
- What is the family meeting place, in case we’re separated?
Make sure every family member, young and old, understands the plan. Practice your family emergency plan, so everyone is familiar with it.
Secure Your Home
Whether you ride out a less-severe hurricane in your own home, or evacuate to a shelter, it’s important to secure your house as best as you can against flooding, storm surges, and strong winds to minimize damage.
A few days before the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency advises that you should:
- Clean out your gutters and downspouts, making sure to remove any debris or clogs that could result in flooding and water damage.
- Bring patio furniture, garbage cans, and other objects around your home that could become projectiles in high wind hurricanes.
- Cover your windows to shield the glass from shattering — use permanent storm shutters if you have them, but if you don’t, you can board up your windows with exterior grade plywood.
- Secure entry doors by installing additional bolts.
- Trim and remove damaged trees and tree limbs near your property that could break and fall during a hurricane.
What’s the difference between a Category 1 hurricane and a Category 5 hurricane? Download our infographic about hurricane categories to learn more today.
Take Photos of Everything
Before the storm begins, be sure to take comprehensive photos of your home. This doesn’t mean just a few photos of the outside of your house. Take photos of everything on your property, including multiple angles of your house inside and out, roof, cars, shed, outdoor furniture, and more.
Begin by taking wide shots of your yard, then get closer to take close-up shots with more detail. Then, go inside the house and begin taking photos of entire rooms. Be sure to also take photos of individual items of value.
The more detailed photographs you have, the better. If you suffer property damage in the hurricane, you want to have all of the proof you can get about the condition of your property when filing a claim with your insurance company.
Some insurance companies are notorious for undervaluing and wrongfully denying claims, even when their loyal policyholders are dealing with the tremendous setback of hurricane damage. That’s why it’s important to be prepared to push back with an insurance claim dispute if your insurance company acts in bad faith.
Know Your Evacuation Zone and Route
If you got the order to evacuate your home, would you know where to go? Most communities, especially those in hurricane-prone areas, have designated evacuation zones. But it’s not good enough to know whether you should evacuate in the event of a hurricane — you have to know the safest route to get to a shelter, as well.
Most states have websites that allow residents to look up their evacuation zone and route. For example, if you live in Florida, you can find your evacuation route and zone on this interactive map provided by the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Georgia residents, on the other hand, can find their evacuation route on the Georgia Department of Transportation website’s Hurricane Information page.
And remember: when in doubt, contact your local county emergency management program. They will have the information you need to evacuate your family safely to the nearest shelter.
No one can be certain yet if Hurricane Irma will strike the Southeast, or if it will make landfall in the mainland United States at all. But if the terrible aftermath of Harvey has taught us anything, it’s that it is never too early to prepare for the threat of a hurricane.
To learn what to do if your home is damaged in a storm, visit our hurricane insurance page today. If in the aftermath of a hurricane, you file an insurance claim and end up with a denied, low-balled, or delayed claim, contact our insurance dispute attorneys today for a free, no-risk case evaluation.
Our lawyers and their teams will investigate how they can help you potentially get compensation from your insurer. Enduring a hurricane is bad enough. You shouldn’t have to fight your insurance company for benefits you dutifully pay for each month.