With Kim Lankford, Contributing Editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance
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In the first week of September 2018, Hurricane Florence battered the Carolinas and became the first major hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. Florence was the sixth most expensive hurricane on record, with damages of over $38 billion.
To see what Americans can do to improve hurricane preparedness, Steve speaks with Kim Lankford, Contributing Editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Kim has authored “10 Things to Know About Hurricane Insurance Claims”, “Key Documents You Need to Take With You in an Emergency” and “How to Prepare for Hurricane Florence”.
Secure Your Home
Just before a hurricane strikes, homeowners must secure their homes. Close all exterior and interior doors and windows so they don’t burst open when hurricane winds strike. Use plywood or thick plastic shields to keep out the wind, rain, and projectiles.
If high winds enter your house, they act like a balloon. This wind force puts upward and outward pressure on your roof and walls and can break your house apart.
Use a flashlight to check your attic for tiny cracks so water can’t seep in. Caulk and seal doors and windows. Clean your gutters, and make sure downspouts point away from the house.
Trim trees to prevent branches from breaking off and becoming flying projectiles that could damage your home.
Hurricane preparedness is best done months before hurricane season.
A good time to think of hurricane safety is when you’re replacing your roof. Secure it well and qualify for special insurance discounts.
Secure Garage Doors And Your Yard
Garage doors are often the weakest link in home safety during hurricanes. Make sure the rollers and tracks are tightened and consider buying a kit to brace the door.
Secure items in your yard so they do not become projectiles during a wind storm. Clear away patio furniture, potted plants, and sundry yard items.
A storm could take out electricity for days, so pack an emergency kit with flashlights, batteries, etc. Take out emergency cash because ATMs may no longer function. And stock up on food, water, and gas to sustain you for at least a week.
Kim Lankford recommends being careful about who you hire for repairs because scammers prey upon people after disasters. Preferably, employ handymen you trust for post-disaster repairs.
If you’ve been through a storm and are still at home, take photos and videos of the damage so you have proof. Many insurance companies let you file claims and upload photos/videos online. Doing so can expedite claim processing and payment.
There is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about flood insurance. As many unfortunate victims learned after Hurricane Harvey last year, flooding is not covered under homeowner’s insurance. Only water from rainfall or wind-driven rain is covered.
But with rampant flooding, as with Hurricane Florence, private insurers have started offering flood insurance. To learn more about these policies, check out floodsmart.gov and speak to local insurance agents for the best deals.
Steve reminds listeners that policies mostly come with deductibles of 2% to 5% before insurance kicks in, so make sure you save enough to cover initial expenses.
To learn more about hurricane preparedness, check out disastersafety.org and flash.org for tips on strengthening homes and safeguarding families. In addition, check your state’s website for information and mobile apps that offer localized help with disasters such as shelters and for tips to keep you safe.
Be sure to also speak with your insurance company on what your policy covers, along with valuable tips to minimize damage. Remember, your insurance company does not want your home to suffer damage, so they are on your side for hurricane preparedness.
Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily United Capital. Interviewee is not a representative of United Capital. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions. Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital.
Steve Pomeranz: For those of us in hurricane tracking territory, especially here in South Florida, watching Hurricane Florence devastate Wilmington, North Carolina and the surrounding areas was a big wake up call. So it’s time to talk about what we need to do in advance of any hurricane which might hit our shores.
Kim Lankford is the contributing editor at Kiplinger and she’s going to help us focus our attention on the hurricane season as it plays out. Hey, Kim, welcome back.
Kim Lankford: Thanks for having me.
Steve Pomeranz: We all saw the effect of Hurricane Florence this month and it looks like hurricane season might be active this year. Let’s all talk about what we can all do to protect ourselves. Number one, I guess you have to secure your home. Let’s talk about how to do that.
Kim Lankford: Well, and that is right, and it really depends on what kind of timeframe you have. On the long, long-term scale, especially people in Florida, whenever you’re replacing your roof really think about all of the things that can help protect your home from hurricanes. And in fact, in Florida people can get special insurance discounts for using a lot of hurricane protection steps when they’re replacing the roof, when they’re replacing their windows.
And many other things kind of on a long-term home improvement side. But now that we’re in hurricane season, and if you have just a few weeks or even a few days before a hurricane, there’s still a few things you can do. For example, some of the hurricane experts say that a really key thing to do is close your interior doors.
And that just helps the wind from getting around in your house and essentially blowing off your roof. They found in all of their research that simple step can make a big difference. If you have a little bit more time, you can end up boarding up some of the windows or even just looking in your attic and seeing if any light is coming through.
And knowing that those are some things that are some cracks that you can seal up with caulk or some of the adhesive. And some of those things can really just help protect your home even at the last minute. Another key thing is trimming trees, anything you can do to trim some of those branches because they can go flying around, become projectiles, and then just cause a lot of the damages that may not be covered by your insurance.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, so there’s a couple of things that you said there. I thought it was really interesting about going up in your attic with a flashlight or during the day so you can see if there’s any water stains. That’s number one, that would be something to look for. And then, of course, if you can see daylight in your attic, that’s not a good sign. You’re going to want to get that fixed right away.
So you’ll want to caulk or seal around doors and windows. The interesting thing about closing your doors because there is some mythology here. I think with tornadoes as to whether you’re supposed to keep your doors, there’s some event that is the door thing. But I always thought keeping your doors closed inside was just a myth.
But you’re saying no because the air pressure in the house if it gets to go throughout all of the house, well, that then could lift off your roof, right?
Kim Lankford: That’s exactly right, and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, their website is disastersafety.org. Their CEO was just telling me that they’ve been doing a lot of studies about this recently and found out that it really does make a difference.
That’s one of the key pieces of advice they’re giving to people. Even if they have just a day or so or even a few hours before the hurricane hits.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, yeah.
Kim Lankford: That’s a simple, simple thing they can do. And another thing is disastersafety.org, their website, and also flash.org, which is the Federal Alliance For Safe Homes.
Both of those have a lot of really great step-by-step advice for protecting your home from hurricanes. And you also mention tornadoes, they also have a lot of advice for protecting against tornadoes and other types of disasters because some of the stuff can be different.
Steve Pomeranz: We’ll, list those websites on our website which is stevepomeranz.com. And so if Kim spoke too quickly—and I could not write that fast either—we’ll get together with Kim after the segment and make sure to put those up. Now the State of Florida would have a website; FEMA would probably have a website as well, right?
Kim Lankford: That is correct, and these government resources really have a lot of information. In North Carolina, for example, right before Hurricane Florence, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety put up a page devoted to preparing for Hurricane Florence.
And they have the ready NC app, which a lot of the states have an app like that that can provide all kinds of really localized information about disasters. You can sign up for disaster alerts; it can also help you find out where there are some mobile claims units.
For example, FEMA and the state disaster agencies usually after a hurricane set up places where you can go in person and meet with them about some of your issues because, in many cases, cell systems may be down. You may not be able to access your phone. And you can go in person and find out from them about things you can do to apply for aid, things you can do to protect your home.
And your insurance company may be there as well. Also, find out from your insurance company ahead of time if there is a disaster predicted, the best way to reach them. A lot of insurers have apps now as well where you can start to submit your claim through your cell phone.
And if your home is in a situation where you can actually access it afterwards. If you weren’t evacuated, go around with your phone, take a video, take pictures right afterward, so they can see what the damages were. And you might be able to upload those on to that app to your insurance company right away, get you in line to get that claim paid.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, so that also brings up the point about videoing or taking pictures of your valuables before the hurricane. And then uploading them to some site that is in the cloud, that’s not attached only to the memory on your phone or the storage on your phone. Also I want to get back to some of these more simple things too as far as clearing the yard.
I mean, getting the deadlines out of the way and even your patio furniture. Used to be years ago, people threw their patio furniture into the pool. Is that something recommended?
Kim Lankford: That’s one of the people at one of the disaster preparation organizations said people still do that, and that can still help.
The key thing is, all of these things that are out in your yard could become projectiles during a big wind storm. And so, think about whether it’s your furniture, whether it’s even just potted plants, any sculptures you have out there. So think about what you can do to make sure that they’re not going to go flying away.
Also another key thing is cleaning your gutters, a simple thing will make it so the rain will drain where it’s supposed to go. And also just see where that’s draining, make sure that it’s draining away from your house and not kind of pooling right there because that could cause a lot of problems too.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, so it’s a question of using common sense and focusing. Some other ideas here are pack an emergency kit. It’s not unusual for electricity to be out for a while. Let’s see, flashlights, batteries, a phone that plugs into the wall. What is that, I wonder?
Kim Lankford: Back in the old days-
Steve Pomeranz: [LAUGH]
Kim Lankford: Before everyone had their cell phones, and even just your regular phone that you’re on for your landline. A lot of people have a handset that is powered by electricity. And so, if the electricity goes out they can’t even access their land lines. So think about one of those old phones that just actually plugs into the wall.
Not that you can walk around your house with it, but just that plugs into the wall. Have that just so you can access that if you need to. And another thing is ATMs, and a lot of times I talked to a lot of people after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Katrina, were just a long time when the electricity was out in their area, ATMs were inaccessible. And so just have some extra cash on hand, if it’s difficult to get some cash or if it’s difficult to get somewhere. In fact, if you have some damages you may have to pay someone right away
Kim Lankford: May need to pay someone in cash immediately. That also brings up the issue to be careful about who you get to work on some damages because some people do prey upon people after disasters. So try to work with people you’ve already had a relationship with to help patch up your house after a disaster.
Steve Pomeranz: Well, so many of us remember that type of situation back in Wilma in 2005, not being able to get any money because the ATMs, there was no electricity for many, many weeks. As a matter of fact, interestingly, unfortunately, we had a family member that was in the hospital.
They had full power, and they had an ATM down in the lobby, so- [LAUGH] That was able to take care of that. The other thing too is to make sure you get your gas tank filled beforehand. You don’t think about these things, but if the electricity is down and gas stations are not necessarily going to be able to pump gas for you, so you want to have a full tank.
I want to talk about things to know about insurance claims. I think there’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about flood insurance. Tell us about that really quickly.
Kim Lankford: And then so many people, I think, really learned after Hurricane Harvey last year that flooding is not covered under your homeowner’s insurance.
And so, if it’s wind-driven rain or water that comes in from the top down or wind damage, those things are covered by home insurance. But water that is coming up from the bottom up is not covered, and there’s several ways you can get coverage. For years and years, the main game in town was FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program.
And you could go to floodsmart.gov, find out about those policies, and your home owner’s insurance agent, most of them also sell those policies. But in many states, in Florida is one of the leaders in this area, there’s many more private insurers offering flood insurance as well. And this is offering some competition to the federal program.
In some areas, the private insurance can cost less, in some areas, it can cost more than the federal program. So it’s really a good idea to talk with your insurance agent and find out if they sell both types of policies and compare what those costs are. Another key thing with the private policies is you can get coverage up to the amount of your home owner’s insurance in many cases as opposed to some much lower limits you have under the federal program.
Steve Pomeranz: Awesome.
Kim Lankford: So it’s really a good idea to check it out, and in Florida people do have a lot more private flood insurance options than they do in many other states.
Steve Pomeranz: Also, don’t forget that your policy will probably have a hurricane deductible of 2% to 5% before you get your first dollar back.
So don’t be surprised about that. Well, we’re out of time. My guest, Kim Lankford, contributing editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, and we’re talking about hurricanes. And we will list all of the websites that she mentioned on our website. So remember to visit our website, stevepomeranz.com to join the conversation, and listen,\ and read all of our segments.
While you’re there sign up for our weekly update for all of the important topics that we’ve covered straight into your inbox, that’s stevepomeranz.com. Thanks, Kim.
Kim Lankford: Thank you very much.