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Lessons Learned from Hurricane Irma

Hello, from a world post Hurricane Irma. After spending an entire week listening on TV, online, and on the radio that we were all pretty much going to die with that monster category 5 storm, we can now all take a collective sigh of relief. And while the damage to Tampa Bay wasn’t nearly as bad as previously forecasted, our neighbors just a few hours south weren’t so lucky.

Now, we rest. But we also know that being in Florida also means that it’s only a matter of time before it happens again. Amidst the mass exodus of residents to northern states, the gasoline shortage, and the exponential power outage, we should take this as an invaluable lesson: Be prepared with plenty of time to spare. Once a hurricane watch is issued, good luck finding essentials to protect your home and gasoline to get out of town.

So what’s a homeowner (or even renters) to do to be ready for the next storm watch?

Stock up on supplies, now.

Everywhere from Walmart to The Home Depot ran out of flashlights, lanterns, and D batteries. This was the case even the Monday before Irma (which hit on Sunday). Not only is it frustrating to realize that yes, you’ll lose power, and you’ll be in the dark, but it’s wasteful to drive around looking for a hidden store with flashlights when there might be another gasoline shortage. Also, buy a small battery operated AM/FM radio and an external battery pack for your cell phones (get a good one. A $10 one from Marshall’s will only go so far). Have a checklist and stick to it.

Water, water, water.

If every time you go to Publix, you grab a couple of bottles (or jugs) of water to store in your garage, you won’t be part of the statewide panic that took hold of us when water bottles were nowhere to be found. Or better yet, just fill up containers at home with filtered water. There’s no reason to be so wasteful with plastic.

Keep track of your important paperwork

We all know where our driver’s license is. But do you know where your Social Security Card, birth certificate, and passport are? Chances are, if you’re reading this right after hurricane Irma, you might remember where you left all of it. But on any given day, most people would have to rack their brains to remember where they can find their credentials. Store them all together in an oversized Ziplock bag, and keep them in your nightstand drawer (or desk drawer, or any drawer where you will remember). Hurricanes have a knack for changing paths at the last minute (remember how Irma was going to slaughter Florida’s east coast, then decided at the 11th hour to hit the west coast instead?) Knowing where your documents are will save you precious time when rushing to secure life and property.

Review your insurance policy.

It’s easy to think that if we have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, we’d be covered if disaster were to happen. But this isn’t always the case. Seldom will a homeowner’s insurance cover a flood (watch out for those storm surges); and renter’s insurance will often leave out things you’ll need the most in your geographical location: sometimes a carrier in California won’t cover earthquakes or forest fires. So call your provider and ask what’s covered in yours, and make sure you know exactly where in your policy you can find that coverage.

Familiarize yourself with FEMA’s process

If you do end up suffering losses to your property, you can read our previous blog about how to file a claim with FEMA. Pay close attention to deadlines, because you don’t want to be out of luck due to a technicality. For example, you only have 60 days to file a claim, and 60 days to file an appeal if you’re not happy with their determination. You don’t want to wait until you’re pissed off, frustrated, or stressed out from the storm to try to figure out what to do. Learn it now.

If you are reading this only for its entertainment value because you know that your home is safe from potential floods, contact National Flood Experts to do a free evaluation of your property. We can determine whether you’re in a high risk flood zone, or whether you can petition FEMA to remove you from an improper designation (this will save you thousands on flood insurance). Contact us and see what we can do for you.

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