Hurricane season is upon us, and in the insurance world that spells busy days with claims calls, being with clients in a time of need, and still running your agency with a smile. Hurricanes and tornadoes are powerful and frightening, but you don’t have to be completely at their mercy. There are ways for you to lessen the potential devastation they can cause to you and your family.
For all the destruction hurricanes and tornadoes can cause, a significant amount of damage would be reduced if people took some necessary safety precautions. The following suggestions can help you prepare your home and family:
1. Before A Hurricane
- Have a plan of action – For a hurricane — know evacuation routes, know the safest and strongest areas of your house, and have a plan for contacting family members. (For a tornado — know the safest areas of your house and how to contact family members)
- Leave early - If you have to go, then go! As someone who has lived through multiple hurricanes in South Florida, starting with Hurricane Andrew, if you are going to leave, do it as soon as you can to avoid the insane traffic.
- Keep emergency supplies on hand – Keep extra medical supplies, non-perishable food and bottled water. A powerful storm could interrupt your utilities services for hours, days, or even weeks.
Be sure to keep a portable radio, flashlights and fresh batteries on hand. If you lose electricity, your only contact with the outside world will be your radio.
Keep repair supplies on hand. You’ll need some plywood to protect windows, or at least some tape. Taping windows diagonally helps keep them from shattering, but it’s not as effective as plywood. By having tools, nails, tape, etc., you’ll be prepared to repair any storm damage immediately.
- Take an inventory of your property – Many consumers forget to do this, but remind your clients to take pictures and make detailed descriptions. Keep them up-to-date. By making a detailed, accurate inventory of their property, you will be able to help them recover their losses faster and more completely.
- Keep copies of important documents – Papers like deeds, birth certificates, insurance policies, etc., should be copied, with the originals stored in a safe place such as a waterproof container or a bank safe deposit box.
- Some hurricane precautions – Because of flooding risks from the prolonged, torrential rains associated with hurricanes, be aware of the elevation of your home as well as safety routes out of town, and the locations of the nearest shelters.
Don’t put off any of the above precautions – you won’t have time to do them once a hurricane watch or a warning has been issued. Even though a watch or warning gives you many hours’ or even days’ notice, roads and stores will be packed with people trying to leave the area, or trying to stock up on supplies. Either way, it makes for potentially dangerous traffic jams, and a lot of empty store shelves. Your best bet is to have supplies ready before the trouble arises.
2. During A Hurricane Watch
Once a Watch is issued, you know to be on your guard. There is a chance that a hurricane or a tornado may be coming to your area. Calmly prepare a course of action. Use extra care in the case of a Tornado Watch. If it gets upgraded to a Tornado Warning, you may have only a few minutes before it hits. Here are some suggestions in the event of a Watch:
- Keep informed by official sources – Use the radio and television for reports from authorized sources. Don’t rely on hearsay. Official reports will give you current status of the storm, as well as any other important emergency information.
- Secure any loose outdoor objects – Items such as garbage cans, lawn chairs, etc., can be extremely dangerous, if left outside.
- For a Tornado Watch, avoid cars – Tornadoes are very unpredictable, and powerful enough to lift a car. Tornadoes, as opposed to hurricanes, may rapidly be upgraded from Watch status to Warning status.
- For a Tornado Watch, avoid mobile homes – Because tornadoes can quickly be upgraded from Watches to Warnings, and because tornado winds are powerful enough to carry a mobile home, you should avoid mobile homes if a Watch is issued. If you live in one, check your tie-downs, and head for an approved shelter.
3. A Hurricane Warning
Once a Warning is issued, you must take action. You know that a hurricane will be upon you within 24 hours, or that a tornado or a well-formed funnel cloud has been sighted in your area. Remember, as you read the hints that follow, you will have several hours to take your hurricane precautions; but you will have only a few minutes to take your tornado precautions. Plan accordingly. You may now have time to take some of the precautions listed. Every situation is different, so use your best judgment and work fast.
- Avoid mobile homes
- Avoid cars – Use extreme caution. And stay away from cars when the storm hits. Cars are no match for these powerful winds.
For tornadoes: get out of your car immediately and seek shelter. Don’t try to race it. Tornadoes are fast and very erratic. If you can’t find a place to go, find a low lying area, lie flat, and cover your head. You’re safer out of your car than in it.
- Secure home windows – Use plywood, storm shutters, or tape and placed diagonally.
- Move or moor your boat. – You won’t have time in the case of a tornado, but with a hurricane you will have notice.
- Bring emergency supplies to the safest area of your house. – Have flashlights, medications, radios, food, drink, etc., in your secure areas. The safest parts of the house will be interior hallways, central bathrooms or closets, and basements of reinforced concrete. Basements are especially ideal for tornadoes, but if you have a flooding problem, you may not want to go to the basement for a hurricane, which delivers hours of torrential rains.
- Keep the television or radio on.
4. During The Hurricane Storm
A major windstorm can be very frightening. It can sound like anything from a violent downpour to a runaway freight train. But as scary as it may seem, the key is to remain calm.
- Continue to listen to the radio.
- Stay inside – In the case of a hurricane, don’t be fooled by momentary calm winds. In the eye (center) of the storm, it’s peaceful. But as the hurricane passes by, you’ll suddenly be bombarded by high-speed winds coming from the opposite direction. The eye can last anywhere from a few seconds to a half hour.
- Stay in your safe area – Remain in the basement, interior hallway, interior closet, etc., until you’re sure, by listening to your radio, that the storm is over.
- Try to keep facing toward the wind. – If you know exactly where the windstorm is, and what direction it’s heading, keep yourself as far away from the storm as as you can. Very simply, keep as many walls as possible between you and the storm.
- Stay away from windows and glass doors.
- Once again, remain calm – Your best protection in any emergency is keeping a cool, clear head.
5. The Aftermath
By listening to your portable radio you’ll know when the windstorm is over. If you don’t have a radio, wait at least one half hour to make sure that the storm is over. There is much to do in the aftermath of a tornado or hurricane. Knowing what to do, and when, will save you time, money and help ensure your family’s safety.
- Watch for potential hazards – Weakened roads or bridges, broken or damaged power lines, broken glass, splintered wood and other sharp dangerous objects.
- Be smart and safe with food.
- Be safe about water. – Your best bet is to have several gallons of bottled water on hand. On average, keep three gallons of water per family member. This will hold you for at least three days.