With the hurricane season well underway here in the Caribbean, a few thoughts at preventative care and 1st-line reaction seem timely.
Homeowners should begin their disaster preparations by developing a plan. A good plan includes not only an emergency preparedness kit, with important papers, food and water, and extra blankets and flashlights, but also a well-thought out plan for how family members will evacuate and communicate – making sure that everyone in the family is familiar with the plan and knows what to do and where to go in case of an emergency.
Homeowners who live in high-risk areas should have a ‘go-bag’ ready in case they need to leave quickly; including a change of clothing, insurance policy and agent contact information, and toiletries as well as money, an evacuation route and a place to stay. If you rent your property, it is only common sense and considerate to leave a hurricane preparedness information packet for your guests.
It’s smart to catalog all of your possessions using a digital camcorder or camera and move expensive items to a higher location such as a second floor or attic. This is also true if you are an absentee owner and leave your own possessions in an empty or rental property.
Make sure your home is properly insured against natural disasters, since many plans don’t cover earthquakes, hurricanes and floods – especially in high risk areas – and consider supplemental disaster insurance policies that cover losses from specific catastrophes that traditional policies don’t cover. Homeowners should first review their existing policy to determine what’s covered since supplemental plans can cost a few hundred dollars to several thousand each year depending on the type of disaster and the home’s location, size and type, and then determine their area’s disaster risk. If you are a condo owner, then be sure you know what the association policy covers and what is left to you.
In the event of a hurricane, reinforce doors and windows against strong winds. Hurricane film is an inexpensive, clear plastic film that keeps glass shards from becoming dangerous missiles and can be left in place year-round, however it can’t prevent heavy winds from blowing in the entire window frame. Another less expensive alternative is plywood; its downside is that it’s temporary and is often put up at the last minute when a hurricane is approaching. An easier but more expensive alternative is roll-up or accordion-style storm shutters that are permanently attached to a house. The most expensive option may be high-impact windows, made of two panes of tempered glass separated by a plastic film. They are always in place and since they look like standard windows, they don’t affect a home’s appearance. Many homes in the Caribbean do have hurricane shutters. Know what you have available.
Preventative maintenance can also lessen property damage. Leaky roofs and foundation cracks can let water into a home more readily and weaken the structure, so it’s important to make repairs quickly. It’s also good to clear gutters and drains, invest in a battery-powered sump pump, and prevent sewage backup by installing a check valve, which allows waste to only flow one way. It’s also smart to catalog all of your possessions using a digital camcorder or camera and move expensive items to a higher location such as a second floor or attic.
If flood waters do make their way into a home, be proactive within the first 24 hours. Before entering the home, check for any visible structural damage. Turn off all water and electrical sources, even if the power isn’t currently operational. Before making repairs or removing any water, fully document the damage by taking photos or video and notify your insurer as soon as possible. Wear waders or waterproof boots and rubber gloves because water could be contaminated by sewage or household chemicals. After the insurer has approved removing the water, use a sump pump or wet vac, open doors and windows, and remove wet contents, including carpeting and bedding, to mitigate mold damage.
For more information, visit www.houselogic.com.