NEW YORK (CNNfn) - By the time a hurricane strikes, it's too late to prepare.|
Yes, you're enjoying all the delights of summer right now, but experts say this year's hurricane season, which runs from June to November, will be marked by above-average storm activity.
Eleven tropical storms, seven of which may become hurricanes, are predicted to form in the Atlantic this year. Of those seven, three are expected to be severe enough to cause major damage. So it's important for consumers to protect their homes, businesses and vehicles.
"People have to plan for a hurricane," said Ed Charlebois, vice president of the personal lines area at Hartford, Conn.-based Travelers Property Casualty. "There's lots of good information out there, but it won't do any good if you can't access it."
When Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, it caused $15.5 billion in insured property damage, making it the most costly insured catastrophe in U.S. history. Experts believe if a storm of this magnitude hit a major metropolitan area, the cost would exceed $50 billion.
"You have to plan that your house will have no power, no water and no telephone," Charlebois said. "Then you have to ask, 'What will you need to have on hand under those conditions?'"
The Insurance Information Institute said anyone living along the Atlantic or Gulf coasts is potentially at risk during this time of the year. Sixty million people now live in hurricane-prone coastal areas, the I.I.I. said.
This may seem hard to believe, but Charlebois said the wind is not the major killer in hurricanes. The vast majority of deaths occur when people drown in swiftly moving waters, he said.
Click here for additional homeowner's tips for dealing with disasters
The National Weather Service will issue a hurricane watch when there is a threat to coastal areas of hurricane conditions within 24-to-36 hours. Travelers compiled a list of what you should do when the watch is issued.
The list includes:
- Be prepared to evacuate.
- Fill your vehicle's gas tank and, if no vehicle is available, make arrangements with friends or family for transportation.
- If you must evacuate, pack only essential items, such as clothing, bedding, water, medicines, infant needs, vital family papers and extra cash.
- Cover windows and doors with plywood or boards if possible. Otherwise, put large strips of masking tape or adhesive tape on the windows.
The National Weather Service will issue a hurricane warning when hurricane conditions are expected in a specified coastal area in 24 hours or less. If a hurricane warning is issued for your area, or if you are directed to evacuate the area, you should:
§ Take only the essential items with you.
§ Leave pets indoors in a safe, covered area with ample food and water.
§ If you have time, turn off the gas, electricity and water.
§ Follow the designated evacuation routes—others may be blocked—and expect heavy traffic.
§ Listen to the radio for emergency updates.
When returning home, allow travel time to and from home if your area is under a curfew. Be aware -- crime can also increase following a hurricane. If your area is under martial law, obey all orders by authorities — they will be armed.
Also, to avoid injury during clean-up, use common sense and wear proper clothing, including clothes with long sleeves and long pants and safety shoes or boots.
In addition to preparing your home, you must also get your paperwork—specifically your insurance coverage—in order before any disaster strikes. Experts suggest you:
- Review your insurance coverage to make sure it is adequate. While hurricane damage is covered under standard homeowners/renters policies it is important to insure your home and belongings to their full replacement cost. If your home is damaged or destroyed by a hurricane, you will be covered for the cost of temporary repairs to prevent further damage. If the storm makes your home uninhabitable, you will be covered for reasonable additional living expenses.
- Ask your insurance agent about flood insurance. Flooding is generally not covered under standard homeowners policies, the I.I.I. said, but it is available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
- If you live by the coast, your insurance policy may have a separate windstorm deductible. You may also need a separate policy for protection against wind and wind-blown water damage. Charlebois said consumers should talk with insurance agent about your coverage and make sure you have the right amount.
- Take an inventory of your property. A complete record of personal property, including receipts, will help determine the value of your belongings and help settle your insurance claim quickly and efficiently. It will also verify losses for tax purposes. You can either make a list or make a videotape of your possessions and keep this material in a safe deposit box.