How to prepare for a hurricane in NJ

New Jersey’s no stranger to hurricanes. Hurricane Sandy alone cost the state more than $1 billion in damage in the year 2012. So it’s understandable that when a hurricane warning pops up on the news, you might feel the urge to panic. However, turning that fear into motivation to take essential precautions before the storm hits can make all the difference. To begin with, you’ll want to double-check your insurance coverage.

Though no one wants to deal with a natural disaster, luckily there are plenty of action steps you can take to help cushion the blow. Take this checklist into consideration well before disaster strikes to ensure the safety of your home and belongings, not to mention seriously reduce your panic level.

What to Do before a Hurricane in New Jersey, Part I: Check Your Insurance Coverage

From the time when you see the hurricane warning on the news until the moment the storm hits, you’ll want to use every minute wisely. Start by checking and re-checking your coverage with the help of your New Jersey independent insurance agent to ensure your estate and assets are protected. Unfortunately, in most cases hurricanes require both homeowners insurance and flood insurance to fully cover all aspects of storm damage.

The following insurance policies help protect against hurricane damage:

  • Homeowners insurance: Homeowners policies include built-in coverage for “windstorm damage” which covers damage to your home caused by high winds, including hurricane winds. Thing is, hurricanes also tend to bring a lot of rain with them, which can lead to flooding. Flood damage is not a covered peril under homeowners insurance, which is why you’ll also need ...
  • Flood insurance: If you live in an area deemed to be at high-risk for flooding, your mortgage lender may have already required you to purchase flood insurance. However, if you don’t have flood coverage and hurricane season is approaching, it’s best to get a policy — fast. Policies typically take 30 days after the date of purchase for coverage to kick in. Flood insurance covers damages to your home and personal property due to flood waters, and is only available through the National Flood Insurance Program which is a part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • Windstorm insurance: Certain states that are prone to windstorms require homeowners to purchase an additional windstorm insurance policy to protect against all storms with high winds including hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, etc. Windstorm insurance covers damage due to high winds beyond the limit available in a standard homeowners policy.

Review the following aspects of your coverage along with your independent insurance agent:

  • Your policy limits: Hurricane damage can cost upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars to homeowners. In 2017, the average flood insurance claim reported by FEMA was almost $92,000. Review your homeowners, windstorm, and flood insurance policies to ensure your coverage limits are high enough. Purchase additional coverage if necessary.
  • Your deductible: If you live in a state at high-risk for hurricanes, you’ll likely be required to meet a deductible before your homeowners policy will start reimbursing for damage. Hurricane deductibles are typically 2% to 5% of a home’s total insured value. So if your home is insured for $300,000, your deductible may be $6,000-$15,000. While you may easily exceed your deductible after a hurricane, you also need to consider if you can afford to pay that amount out of pocket. It may be possible to get a policy with a lower deductible.

Taking time to extensively review your coverage before a natural disaster strikes is the best way to reduce your stress level and ensure that your assets are protected.

What to Do before a Hurricane in New Jersey, Part II: Prepare Your Home and Belongings for Impact

After you’ve carefully reviewed your insurance coverage, it’s time to get to work preparing your home and belongings for when the storm hits. Aside from just your house or apartment, you’ll want to make sure your car is protected too.

Take the following action steps to prepare your estate before the storm hits:

  • Prepare your house for a hurricane: When the storm’s on its way, it’s time to literally secure your house. Bring outdoor furniture and other loose objects inside, secure windows, shutters, and doors, and set your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings. Protect your roof by clearing drains and gutters to keep water moving and to prevent leaks and collapses, and replace any loose/missing shingles. Trim potentially hazardous tree/shrub branches to help protect your roof against further unnecessary damage. If you’re especially worried about your roof, schedule an inspection well before storm season and make any suggested repairs. Finally, have an emergency supply kit ready in your safe room.
  • Prepare your apartment for a hurricane: If you live in an apartment, you’ll still need to take the same action steps to protect your home from impact. Bring any outdoor furniture or other belongings such as planters inside. Install shutters or panels on any sliding glass doors or windows. Renters may need to double-check with their landlord about any potential restrictions for making these modifications. Prepare an emergency supply kit to use during the hurricane. Finally, determine the safest room in your apartment for you to safely wait out the storm. You may want to take shelter in an interior bedroom/bathroom or a hallway, or even make arrangements to stay in an apartment on a lower level.
  • Prepare your car for a hurricane: Aside from your home, you’ll also want to be sure your car is prepped when disaster strikes. Make sure to have a full tank of gas waiting in case of emergency evacuation, have an emergency kit ready in your car if you have to leave quickly, and bring the car into a garage or carport if possible.
  • Prepare for insurance claims following the hurricane: In order to itemize your possessions for an insurance claim, you’ll first need to have a record of your stuff and its value. Thanks to the Insurance Information Institute (III), you can easily create a home inventory list using their app called “Know Your Stuff,” which is free and user-friendly. If technology isn’t your thing, you can also use a home inventory worksheet provided by your insurance company. Knowing what stuff you have and what it’s worth before disaster strikes will greatly help prepare you when the time comes to file an insurance claim.

For more specific information about what to include in your emergency kit and other action steps to take before a major storm, check out FEMA's list of safety tips.

What to Do during a Hurricane in New Jersey: Stay Safe and Informed

After the preparation stage has passed and the storm has arrived, it’s time to remain calm. The best way to protect yourself and your family at this point is to stay connected to live updates on the storm and follow your local government’s orders.

Take the following action steps during the hurricane:

  • Take shelter in a secure location: When the storm hits, take shelter in an interior room in your home away from all external doors and windows. Bring your emergency supply kit, extra batteries, and phone/radio/TV with you to stay updated. In the event of flooding, take shelter on the highest level of the house (but don’t go into the attic) or apartment complex.
  • Stay connected: Keep live weather apps on your phone updated and tune in to your local station to stay informed. Following live updates is crucial in order to follow evacuation instructions if and when they are given as well as other emergency instructions dictated by your county.
  • Evacuate if instructed, otherwise stay put: If evacuation is issued, don’t wait — go immediately. However, if you’re trapped by unsafe conditions, remain in the safest interior room. Don’t attempt to swim or drive through flood waters. If you’re on the road, don’t try to drive through puddles — turn around. Also be sure to avoid bridges.

Thanks to all the preparation you completed before the hurricane, remaining safe and calm during the storm should be much easier. You’ll also be better prepared to evaluate any damage following the hurricane.

What to Do after a Hurricane in New Jersey: Assess the Damage

After the storm has passed and you breathe a huge sigh of relief, it’s time to survey your home for potential damage. Once you’ve noted specific damage/destruction of your property, connect with your agent for information on how long you have to file your insurance claims and how long claims typically take to process. Your agent can also tell you if your policy requires professional estimates for any necessary repairs.

Take the following action steps following a hurricane:

  • Step One: Take inventory of any structural damage: Take note of any damaged/destroyed personal property as well as any damage/destruction to your home’s structure and detached structures like sheds, garages, and pools. List minor damage like wall cracks, major destruction like shattered windows or missing sections of the home, and everything in between. You may also want to get a professional inspection of your plumbing and electrical systems which your policy will likely reimburse you for.
  • Step Two: Make temporary repairs: If necessary to prevent further damage to your home or belongings, make temporary repairs before hearing back from your insurance company. Be sure to save any receipts to submit along with your claims. Save larger repairs for after you have the damage professionally assessed since any of your personal repairs will also be factored into your policy’s limit.
  • Step Three: Follow your insurance company’s instructions: When filing a claim after a hurricane, your insurance company will either send you a proof of loss form to complete yourself, or they’ll send an adjuster to your home to assess the damage in person. If an adjuster visits, you’ll want to give them a list of damaged/destroyed property to speed the process along. Don’t clean out or throw away any damaged/destroyed items before the adjuster visits. It can also help to further document your damaged/destroyed property by taking pictures or video to include with your inventory list.
  • Step Four: Get professional estimates: After identifying any damage, you’ll want to get professional estimates for repairs. Having itemized estimates from licensed contractors to send to your insurance company will speed along the claims and reimbursement process.
  • Step Five: Make copies of all important documents: You’ll be giving a lot of important paperwork to your insurance company, but you’ll want to keep copies for yourself, too, for after your claims process. Keep a folder of copies of all receipts, estimates, inventory lists, etc., to help the process run as smoothly as possible.
  • Step Six: File insurance claims: Many policies require you to file a claim within one year of a hurricane, but depending on your specific insurance company, the requirements and process for filing claims may differ slightly. You may also need to file auto insurance claims if your vehicle gets damaged by the storm.

While surviving a hurricane can be a traumatic experience, having an action plan to follow through every phase of the storm can help significantly. If you have any remaining gray areas concerning your insurance coverage, don’t hesitate to reach out to your agent before the storm hits.

Why Work with a New Jersey Independent Insurance Agent?

In order to get the protection you need and deserve, you’ll want to work with a trusted expert. And who could be better for the job than a local agent who shares your area code? Independent insurance agents act as your own personal insurance shoppers, offering you tons more options than one-policy companies. With just one call, they’ll hook you up with multiple quotes.

New Jersey independent insurance agents are armed with knowledge on what coverage is needed in your area, and they’ll get you set up with just enough of it — not too little, not too much. They’ll handle all the heavy lifting, so you can rest assured you’ll be set up with the right coverage at the right price.

They’re not just there at the beginning either. If disaster strikes, your New Jersey agent will be there to help walk you through the claims process and make sure you’re getting the benefits you're entitled to. Now that’s thinking ahead.

Article Reviewed by | Paul Martin

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