Recap: Prepare for Hurricane Season

“Hurricane season brings a humbling reminder that, despite our technologies, most of nature remains unpredictable.” – Diane Ackerman

It’s official: hurricane season has begun. Now that there’s the potential for a hurricane any time, have you started to prepare your home? In last week’s full blog post, we detailed several ways that you could help to get ready for the potential of a hurricane hitting the northeast this summer or fall. Here is a quick recap of the tips:

  • Prepare your home by having your roof inspected regularly. If there is a storm coming, bring in anything that could act as a projectile in high winds, like patio furniture, bicycles, and potted plants.
  • Update your emergency kit with everything you would need for a few days without power, including water and nonperishable foods. Also include entertainment for everyone in the household!
  • Have an evacuation plan. It is invaluable to have a few potential destinations picked out just in case you are ordered to evacuate. Make sure to account for any family pets, if you have them. If there’s a hurricane coming, fill your car’s gas tank before the inevitable rush on the gas station.

And remember, it only takes a few minutes to have a Massachusetts insurance professional review your home insurance. One call to 617-298-0655 and you will know whether you have enough coverage to weather a potential storm. But don’t wait for the rain to start falling – before we end up on the wrong end of a spaghetti plot you need to call!

Prepare Your Home for Hurricane Season

It’s the beginning of June, and that can only mean one thing: the beginning of Atlantic Hurricane Season! While we don’t tend to get hit as hard as more southern states, Massachusetts still typically gets hit by a few storms every year, so it’s worth making sure that your home and your loved ones are prepared for any storm that may head our way.

2018 Hurricane Season Predictions

As always, this year’s hurricane season will last from June 1 until November 30. In those six months, there are expected to be 12-18 named storms, 6-11 hurricanes, and 2-5 major hurricanes. This would represent an above average year in terms of hurricane activity.

The hurricane names that will be used this year are as follows: Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sara, Tony, Valerie, William.

These are the same names that were used in the 2012 season (the names cycle every six years) with the exception of Sara, which replaced Sandy (retired in 2012). If any of these storms are significant enough, their names will be retired and replaced in Spring 2019. Otherwise, these same names will be used in 2024.

Hurricane Emergency Kit

You should always have an emergency kit in your home. Occasionally, though, you need to check to make sure that it is still stocked. The start of hurricane season is a great time to do this. Gather your emergency kit, and make sure that it follows the Red Cross’s guidelines, including:

  • A two-week supply of food and water for every member of your household.
  • A flashlight and a radio (both with extra batteries).
  • A first aid kit.
  • A multi-purpose tool.
  • Items for sanitation and hygiene.
  • Copies of personal documents, emergency contact information, and extra cash.
  • And more…

When you have an emergency kit with these items, you can rest assured that your household will be ready if you need to hunker down for a few days to wait for a hurricane to pass. Remember to avoid going out until local officials say it is safe to do so.

Evacuation Plan

In rare cases, a hurricane will be threatening enough that officials will suggest or order an evacuation. In case of this situation, it is important to make sure that your car has enough gas well before an evacuation is ordered.

Depending on which direction the hurricane is coming from, you may need to have evacuation plans in several different directions. Talk with the other members of your household about potential destinations, including shelters, hotels, and friends and family members that live in another town.

While evacuating, use routed recommended by local authorities. Remember never to drive through flood waters, and keep an eye out for downed power lines, especially as you return home.

When a Storm Threatens

If and when a hurricane watch or warning is issued, there are a few things you can do right away to make sure that your home suffers as little damage as possible. First, secure anything that could act as a projectile in high winds. This could include lawn furniture, outdoor potted plants, bicycles, etc. Also ensure that damaged trees and limbs are removed so that they won’t snap off during a storm. If you can, secure your windows and other vulnerable areas with plywood so that they are less likely to be hurt during the storm.

Ensure that your cell phone has a full battery well before the power might go out and stay in contact with friends and relatives so that someone knows your plans. It may also be nice to check on elderly neighbors to make sure that they are equipped for the storm.

In Case of an Insurance Claim

If a hurricane hits the Boston area, your home may suffer from damage. If this is the case, you will need to call our agency to begin the claim filing process. Phone lines here can get busy after a big storm, but you can rest assured that we will help you with your claim. In the meantime, please do what you can to prevent further damage to your property.

Speak to one of our Massachusetts home insurance experts to find out what you will need to get the claim process started. Depending on the problem, this could include pictures of the damage or a copy of your home inventory if you have one. Also make sure that you have any accessible policy information ready when you speak to an agent – the more information you have available, the easier the claim process will be.

Home insurance and flood insurance are the only true ways to make sure that you are financially prepared for potential hurricane damage. Call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655 to speak to an insurance agent. They can tell you if you have enough coverage to get you through the coming hurricane season and beyond. Our agency offers free insurance reviews, so it’s worth your time to talk to your insurance agent and to have them assess your coverage.

Everyone lives in a Flood Zone!

Hurricane season is upon us, and based on the devastation that Houston is going through (and with another hurricane on the way) this season may not turn out to be a walk in the park for homeowners and renters.

I am not sure if you are aware, but flood damage (and earthquake damage) are excluded under all homeowners, condominium, and renter’s insurance policies. If you are in a Federally Mandated Flood Hazard area, you are required to purchase flood insurance to satisfy your Mortgage Company or bank.  But there is a misconception that if you are not in a Federally Mandated Flood Hazard area, you are not able to purchase flood insurance – that is incorrect.

Everyone who owns a home or condominium or rents an apartment is able to purchase flood insurance, and if you are NOT in a Federally Mandated Flood Hazard area, you could receive a “preferred rate.”

As an example, the flood insurance policy that Kathy and I carry on our home costs us $1389 per year for $50K on contents and $50K on the building because we are in a Federally Mandated Flood Hazard area. If we were NOT in a Federally Mandated Flood Hazard area our rate would be around $499.00 per year for up to $250K on the building and $100K on contents, a big difference.

Here is the second misconception to flood insurance: many people think that they will purchase a flood policy when they need it or a hurricane is heading in their direction. It does not work this way, as there is a 30-day waiting period on all new flood insurance policies (unless you are purchasing the coverage for a closing or refinance).

Here are some statistics for homeowners:

1. In the past several years, 60% of all declared disasters involved flooding
2. 25% of all insurance claims paid by FEMA involved losses outside Federally Mandated Flood Hazard areas.
3. 51% of all homeowner insurance claims are related to weather or flooding

And it gets worse for business owners. Here are 3 statistics that every business owner should know:

1. Almost 40% of small businesses never reopen their doors after a flood disaster.
2. Floods happen everywhere. 25% of all flood damage occurs in low to moderate flood risk areas. Business owners should not rely on a line of credit at their bank for protection.
3. Business insurance policies exclude flood damage. Only flood insurance pays qualified claims quickly so a business owner can get back to business

I strongly urge you to call Vargas & Vargas Insurance (your Lolocal independent insurance agent) and request a FREE flood insurance quote. Or click here.

If you are inclined to make a donation to help the wonderful people of Houston Texas, my mortgage friend, Richard Smith, recommends making a donation on this site, click here.

Thank you!

Carlos

Create a Family Emergency Plan

Hurricane season is in full swing here in New England – are you prepared? One of the best ways to make sure that you and your family are ready in case of an emergency is with a family emergency plan. If you don’t have one, here are some things that you should think about and decide:

  • Designate one out-of-town family member or friend that each person in your family can contact if there is an emergency. This person will be in charge of making sure that everyone is safe and act as a liaison between family members if needed.
  • Every person in the family should know the out-of-town contact’s phone number, as well as one phone number for each member of the family. “It’s in my phone” doesn’t count – these numbers should be memorized so that they can be accessed from anywhere.
  • Designate two meeting places in case of an emergency. One should be local – somewhere within a few miles of your home. The other should be further away in case of a more widespread disaster. Also make sure family members know the location of the closest shelter in the area.
  • All family members should know the locations of family emergency kits – including those in the home and in vehicles. Make sure everyone knows what is in the kits and how each item should be used.

Make sure that you are doubly prepared by keeping the Vargas and Vargas Insurance numbers among your emergency contacts. By having our office number (617-298-0655) and our after-hours line (617-322-5289) with your other numbers, you will be sure that you are able to get a claim going right away on your home, auto, or flood insurance policy if you need to do so.

Hurricane Season 2017 is Here!

The 2017 hurricane season in the Atlantic will run from June 1 until November 30. Estimates for the upcoming season are already beginning to surface, and they aren’t mild – Weather.com is currently predicting a total of 14 named storms, including seven hurricanes, three of which will be major. This is right in line with the 2016 season, which had 15 named storms, 7 hurricanes (4 major).

Do you know what your home insurance policy will cover if a hurricane causes damage? While every policy is different, most offer protection for damage caused by heavy rain, wind, and hail. In addition, your home insurance may offer coverage if your home is severely damaged resulting in your need to seek shelter elsewhere – this is often called ‘loss of use.’

One important thing to note is that your home insurance probably doesn’t include coverage for damage due to floods – that is covered by a separate flood insurance policy. Since hurricanes and flooding often go hand in hand, flood insurance is something you might want to consider adding to your insurance portfolio in order to ensure complete protection.

Let’s talk numbers: in total, the 2016 storms caused over $16 Billion in damage. It’s not unheard of for a hurricane to affect us here in Massachusetts, so make sure that your belongings are protected. This includes your home, car, and more. To get a complete car and home insurance evaluation before the first threat forms, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655.