2022 Hurricane Preparation Guide

2022-05-18 Hurricane Guide

Hurricane Preparation

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Page 29 of 47

Page 30 Be prepared to protect your financial interests BY MCC It's easy to underestimate the scope of the financial burdens caused by natural disasters. Here are a few ways to protect one's financial interests in advance of natural disasters. • Experts at Property Casualty Insurers Association of America advise consumers to review and update their insurance policies regularly. Many homeowners are underinsured for natural di- sasters, particularly for flooding, which are not included in most policies. • Adjust insurance shortfalls based on what insurers provide and the type of weather that tends to affect the area where you live. • Remove valuables and store them in a bank safety deposit box or another location that's outside the path of the storm. Theft, vandalism and looting can occur after storms. • Have a savings strategy if storms come through regularly. It is not uncommon for local busi- nesses to shut down for some time to recover. • Recognize your portfolio may suffer as commodity prices and stocks take a hit if regions are decimated by natural disasters. Think ahead in regard to how your investments may be affect- ed and make changes accord- ingly to mitigate the financial damage. Plan ahead to reduce pocketbook stress STAFF REPORT While we can't schedule a storm-related crisis, we can plan to reduce the stress that comes with it. Knowing what's covered under your homeowner's insurance policy, which contractors to call if needed, as well as having important items in one safe place can make a big di er- ence in reducing pocketbook stress. WHAT'S MY COVERAGE? If you haven't reviewed your home- owner's insurance policy recently, sit down with your agent before su er- ing a loss. Verify there's su cient hazard cov- erage on the value of your home — especially with rising area construc- tion costs — and its contents. Are your contents reimbursed for actual or replacement cash value? That's the di erence between what a used couch would fetch at a thrift store or a new one o the showroom fl oor. What happens if your windows are blown out, but current building codes require they be replaced by more expensive hurricane impact-re- sistant ones? "Law and ordinance" coverage pays for that signifi cant di erential. If you don't have it, you pay for the upgrade. And your pool cage? After Hurri- cane Charley, most policies began dropping it from standardized cover- age, making it a purchasable option. Seawalls and boat docks, however, cannot be insured. If shopping around, make sure you're comparing policies on an apples-to-apples basis, including the hurricane deductible amount. DO YOU NEED FLOOD INSURANCE? Only water damage caused by wind blowing water in through an opening is covered by hurricane insurance. Rising water damage caused directly by fl ooding is specifi cally excluded. That's why it's also important to talk with your insurance agent about a separate fl ood insurance policy. If you have a mortgage and live in what FEMA determines is a high- risk fl ood zone, you're required by the lender to purchase a policy. While not required, most home- owners in moderate-to-low-risk areas are eligible for coverage at preferred rates and should consider purchasing a policy as well. Just a few inches of interior water can cause tens of thousands of dol- lars in damage. Statistically, those outside of mapped high-risk fl ood areas fi le nearly 25% of all fl ood insurance claims and receive one- third of federal disaster assistance for fl ooding. Flood policies issued by the National Flood Insurance Program — and purchasable through most insurance agents nationwide — will be the best choice for the majority of homeowners. However, depending on residency status and fl ood zone area, private insurance policies may o er a better alternative. Those private companies also can o er excess fl ood insurance over and above standard NFIP limits. Don't wait. There's usually a 30- day waiting period after the premi- um is paid before a fl ood insurance policy becomes e ective. HAVE A 'GOTO' CONTRACTORS LIST Now's the time to prepare a list of trustworthy contractors, because good ones are harder to get after a storm. That means having a plumber, air conditioning contractor, electri- cian, door and window installer and, if appropriate, a septic contractor and a pool and spa contractor. Ideally, you already have an exist- ing relationship with many of these contractors. Not only does it allow you to trust their work, but current customers will usually get preferen- tial treatment in an emergency. More than 300 licensed contractors — besides the key trades noted above — as well as aluminum, drywall and roofi ng contractors and companies that specialize in debris removal, garage doors, gutters and painting, are in the Charlotte-DeSoto Building Industry Association's directory. Go to cdbia.com or call 941-625-0804. CDBIA vets all members, including verifi cation of appropriate state and/ or county licensure, if it's required. It will also check licensure of non-members if requested. There is a similar association serving Sarasota County, the Mana- tee-Sarasota Building Industry Asso- ciation at ms-bia.org and 941-907-4133 x 309. BEWARE OF SCAMMERS Unlicensed activity typically increases after a storm as scammers prey on desperate situations. During a declared state of emergency, unli- censed contractor activity is a felony o ense. Homeowners who knowingly hire unlicensed construction contractors face a fi ne of up to $5,000. Addition- ally, your insurance company may not cover work performed without a permit. To verify Charlotte County licen- sure, call 941-743-1201. For Punta Gorda, call 941-575-3324. In North Port, call 941-429-7016. And in DeSoto County — including the city of Ar- cadia — call 863-993-4811. In Sarasota County, call 941-861-6678. For Venice, call 941-486-2626. The Better Business Bureau cautions homeowners to be wary of any contractor who demands full payment up front or asks to have pay- ments made to an individual rather than a company. A contractor's vehicle should include the company's name and phone number. Resist high-pressure sales tactics. If possible, use a credit card for added protection. Otherwise, pay by check, but never in cash. And get everything in writing. Hiring someone without liability and workers' compensation insur- ance could make you liable for per- sonal injuries on your property and the cost to repair any damage. GET A PORTABLE FIREPROOF BOX Put important documents, an external back up to your computer's hard drive if it's not in the cloud, an extra set of keys for your house and car, your safe deposit box key, a list of your valuable possessions with photos, and some cash in a fi re- proof-safe box. The Federal Trade Commission suggests those important documents should include copies of health insur- ance cards, Social Security cards, cur- rent prescriptions, policy numbers for auto, fl ood and homeowner's insur- ance, and a list of telephone numbers of your insurance companies. Also make front and back copies of all credit and debit cards and a list of bank, loan, mortgage and investment account numbers. REPORT PRICE GOUGING If there's a declared emergency in our area, Florida law prohibits extreme price increases on such needed commodities as food, water, hotels, ice, gasoline and lumber. If you suspect any price gouging, call the Attorney General's hotline at 866-9-NO-SCAM (966-7226). FILE PHOTO Many businesses took a long time to recover after Hurricane Charley. Business owners should gather all insurance documents and record all damage.

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