Preparing for an unexpected emergency, especially one brought on by severe weather, is one of the most important ways you can protect your home and family. Proactively addressing storm-related issues ranging from property damage to power outages can minimize a potentially disastrous situation.
Step 1: Verify Your Homeowners Insurance Covers Storm Damage
Nearly all homeowners carry some form of insurance on their home, as required by their mortgage lender. But policies can vary, and the aftermath of a powerful storm is no time to find out you’re underinsured.
To ensure your homeowners policy adequately covers your needs, take time to review the policy every year at renewal time, and any time you make any significant improvements to your home. Check that the coverage amount for your main residence accurately reflects the finished square footage of your home, including any upgrades or changes. Confirm that the replacement cost your homeowners insurance agent has determined is consistent with what you would expect to pay to rebuild your home.
In addition, take time to understand any exclusions, especially those for weather-related incidents. For example, many homeowners insurance policies do not automatically include flood protection.
Finally, take time to thoroughly document your personal possessions with video or still images and record their value. Store the documentation in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box or remote-access electronic file, that you will be able to access in the event of an emergency. Not only will this help expedite your claim if you need to replace items, but you’ll have a list ready when you face the daunting task of replacing your belongings.
Step 2: Keep Up With Home Maintenance
Stepping outside after a significant storm is no time to remember that you forgot to trim a tree or secure a loose section of fencing. Making time to provide ongoing home maintenance for exterior features of your home, such as landscaping, decking, siding, roofing and shutters, will ensure they are in good condition when bad weather strikes.
While little can be done to prevent damage from high-impact storms, routinely checking that everything is in good repair will minimize the chances of preventable destruction.
As you assess your home and yard, ask yourself: Are the trees and shrubs properly trimmed and set far enough away from structures that they are unlikely to topple in high winds? Are shutters affixed securely to the house? Are there any cracked or otherwise weakened windows that should be replaced to prevent shattering during a storm?
Step 3: Prepare for Backup Power during an Outage
Loss of power is one of the most common occurrences in severe weather. And the financial impact of outage-related expenses (e.g. spoiled food replacement, supply purchases or home repair) can add up quickly.
The easiest way to prepare for a weather-related power outage is by installing a standby generator in advance of the storm season. Fortunately, attaining the safety and comfort provided by a standby generator during a storm event has become more reasonable thanks to emerging technology that has made generators smaller, smarter and more affordable.
4. Have an Emergency Preparedness Kit
Having an emergency preparedness kit of items that your household may need in an emergency situation is critical. Basic utilities such as electricity, gas, water, sewage and phone service may be unavailable after a storm strikes, so the kit should contain food, water, any necessary medications, lighting and backup battery supplies.
Source: GE Generator Systems