How to Reduce Property Damage during a Storm
(guest post courtesy Mike Gulla, VP of Underwriting at Hippo Insurance)
While not all high winds amount to hurricanes and tornadoes, on its own, wind can amount to serious headaches and property damage for homeowners. Most homes can withstand gusts up to 40 or 50 miles per hour, but severe weather winds have been known to exceed 100 miles per hour. This has made extreme wind and hail account for the largest share of property damage claims in the U.S, and are the most frequent to occur.
However, some additional foresight by homeowners can mitigate these losses and the headaches that can come with them. Thinking ahead can ensure you and your home are protected. Here, we’re sharing some of the most important measures you can take now to avoid windblown problems later.
Steps to Take Now
Survey your property and identify anything that’s not bolted down. Items like patio furniture and trampolines surprise thousands of homeowners every year by taking flight during storms and drawing a lot more damage than the cost of the item itself. Larger items like these and even tool and storage sheds should be anchored to the ground with cables or chains; smaller items like barbeques, sports equipment and toys should be moved to a secure place indoors.
Check your yard for debris, like brittle tree branches or trees in need of pruning – or even weak trees themselves – to prevent breakage and falling trees that can cause damage to your home or your neighbor’s home. You can typically dispose of yard waste through your local waste management pick-up, but depending on the amount may need to rent a chipper, take it to the dump yourself or even hire a local crew for help (search for local area yard was or junk removal services).
Fact: The National Severe Storms Laboratory reports that branches begin to break and blow away when winds reach approximately 40 miles per hour, while whole trees may be uprooted at around 55 miles per hour.
Check your home’s exterior for areas with “wear and tear”. Detached weather stripping on windows and doors, loose hinges, loose rain gutters, thinner barriers like garage doors, roof tiles and shingles are small fixes that can offer big protection in case of high wind events. These things are best maintained on an ongoing basis for myriad reasons, including the potential savings they can bring on your homeowners’ insurance policy.
Have an emergency kit stocked with three days of supplies – food, water, batteries, cash, medications, flashlight and first aid – is something to always have on hand. In cases of winter winds, having your snow shovel or snow blower at the ready beforehand will prepare you to clear packed snow that is blown against your home, potentially blocking important ventilation areas. Keeping this kit in an easily accessible place means one less thing to stress about when winds begin to blow.
Take inventory of your home and belongings and make sure that your homeowners’ insurance policy provides enough coverage to replace anything lost in a storm. Some collections, valuables, antiques and other things will require official appraisals for coverage, so do your due diligence with your insurance company prior to any concerns.
Make sure your insurance policy is up to the task of covering potentially extensive damage caused by severe wind and storms. Some policies guarantee replacement costs or actual cash value but come with limitations or stipulations that can leave you under-insured. Assess the likelihood of your home’s location to encounter high winds and make sure you have a policy — and/or multiple policies — in place to account for this.
When High Winds are Imminent
The National Weather Service, The Weather Channel mobile app and even your local news stations’ websites and apps are excellent resources for the most up-to-date alerts. In many cases, these sources will also offer specific tips and real-time options for residents in affected areas, ranging anywhere from ways to quickly secure your home to processes for reporting downed power lines and trees.
If there’s an official wind advisory in your area, turn your attention to the interior of your home, moving breakable and valuable items away from windows and smaller items to secure areas. If winds are expected to be strong enough to knock out power temporarily, consider reducing the temperature of your refrigerator or putting refrigerated items in the freezer to help preserve food a bit longer. In these cases, it’s also good to have a battery-powered radio handy so you can continue to monitor updates without the Internet.
Finally, check your homeowners’ insurance policy and have a copy of it in a convenient place.
Pro Tip: Be aware of any specifications your homeowners’ insurance policy makes for storms and wind occurrences. Be sure to secure any applicable items, like cars or outbuildings, in accordance with your policy to avoid any confusion if you need to file a claim.
Assessing the Damage After the Storm
Should you need to file a claim, the first step is to contact your insurance company immediately.
Describe the damage and ensure that you are covered, then have the insurance adjuster assess the damage as soon as possible to determine whether the damage exceeds your deductible. If it does not, you’ll need to decide whether to move forward with the claims process.
If the assessed cost of the damage does exceed your deductible, fill out any claim forms as soon as you receive them to expedite the repairs process. Read carefully the details of your policy in regard to required specifications your insurer may have for rebuilding or repairing. There may be parameters in regard to which contractors, landscapers, architects, debris removal services and other professionals your policy will cover.
Similarly, additional living expenses could be covered under your policy, so make sure you know the details and limitations of these allowances.
Like all weather-related phenomena, severe winds cannot be controlled and can change unpredictably. Preparing for such power and unpredictability can shield you from significant losses.