So far, life as a homeowner has been smooth sailing—right up until you see the hurricane warning on the news. Step One: Don’t panic. Well, maybe panic just enough to get motivated, because there are several essential precautions to take to ensure the safety of your family and your home before the storm hits.
For starters, knowing exactly what kind of insurance coverage you’ve got to protect your home is crucial.
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News of impending natural disasters can be ridiculously stressful, but it can help a metric ton to have a checklist ready to go before the storm ever touches down. That’s why we’ve compiled this handy little guide about what to do before, during, and after a hurricane to ensure that your assets are in order as much as possible.
We’ll start from the beginning, with making sure you’ve got adequate coverage.
Before the Hurricane: Check Your Coverage
Before the storm hits, you’ll need to make sure your home has adequate coverage for hurricanes. Unfortunately, one single policy typically won’t be extensive enough to cover all aspects of potential hurricane damage to your home.
In most cases, you’ll need at least a homeowners insurance policy combined with a flood insurance policy to fully protect yourself. We’ll take a closer look at how each type of insurance protects the home against hurricanes.
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 heavy winds, including hurricane winds. Thing is, hurricanes also tend to bring a lot of rain with them, which can easily lead to flooding. Flood damage is not a covered peril under homeowners insurance, which is why you’ll need more than one type of policy.
- 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. Flood insurance covers damage to your home and personal property due to flood waters, whereas homeowners insurance does not. Flood insurance is only available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), 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 heavy winds, including hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, etc. Windstorm insurance covers damage due to heavy winds beyond the limit available in a standard homeowners policy.
Work with your independent insurance agent to review your insurance coverage to be sure of the following:
- You have adequate coverage: Hurricanes have two main components that can damage your home: wind and water. You’ll need to make sure you’ve got adequate insurance to protect your home from both components, which often means having at least a homeowners policy and a flood insurance policy.
- Your policy limits are high enough: In 2017, the average flood insurance claim reported by FEMA was almost $92,000. Combined with damage due to heavy winds, hurricanes can cause hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to homes. Review your homeowners, windstorm, and flood insurance policies to ensure that your coverage limits are high enough. You can always purchase additional coverage.
- Your deductible will be exceeded: States that are considered high-risk for hurricanes typically require homeowners to meet a mandatory hurricane deductible before a homeowners policy will start reimbursing for damage. This deductible is typically 2%-5% of your home’s total insured value. So if your home is insured for $300,000, your deductible may be $6,000-$15,000. Hurricane damage will probably easily exceed this amount, but that’s still a lot of money to pay out of pocket. Your agent may be able to help you get a policy with a lower deductible.
- Your coverage is effective: Unless you’re a brand-new homeowner, your homeowners policy is most likely already in effect. Otherwise, it may take 30-90 days for your coverage to begin. Flood insurance policies usually take 30 days for coverage to kick in after purchase. If you have to purchase additional insurance to prepare for a hurricane, make sure to review the policy’s effective date to ensure that you’ll be covered. Your agent can help you locate this information, if you’re unable to.
Becoming familiar with your insurance coverage before a storm hits is the most proactive way to prepare your estate for the disaster. If you’re confused by any aspect of your coverage, your agent can help you fill in the gaps.
Before the Hurricane, Part II: Take Inventory and Secure Your Belongings
Once you’ve you got your insurance figured out, there’s still more prep work to be done before the hurricane hits. You’ll want to have a sense of your personal inventory and do your best to secure your home and belongings from potential damage.
Take the following action steps before the hurricane hits to help secure yourself, your family, and your belongings:
- Create a personal inventory: 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 for when the time comes to file an insurance claim.
- Literally secure your belongings: During those precious hours before the storm hits, do everything you can to secure your home and belongings. Bring outdoor furniture and other loose objects inside, secure windows, shutters, and doors, clear drains and gutters, trim potentially hazardous tree or shrub branches, set your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest settings, turn on your radio and/or TV, and have a stash of extra batteries ready.
- Grab supplies: Along with your news sources, you’ll want to gather (non-perishable) food, water, and other emergency supplies to keep with you in your safe room during the storm. Extra batteries, a first aid kit, prescription medication, flashlights, and a basic toolbox are all recommended supplies to have on hand during hurricanes.
For more specific information about how to prepare your home and how to ensure your personal safety during a hurricane, check out FEMA's list of safety tips.
During the Hurricane: Stay Safe by Staying Informed
Once the storm hits, you’ve passed the preparation stage and it’s time to stay connected to live updates on the storm’s strength and location, as well as your local government’s specific orders. You’ll also need to find the most secure area for you and your family to wait out the storm.
Take the following action steps during the hurricane:
- Stay connected: Download live weather apps to your phone, grab your TV/radio and extra batteries and tune in to your local station to stay informed. Keeping up with live updates will allow you to follow evacuation instructions if and when they are given, as well as other emergency instructions dictated by your county.
- Get to a secure location: During high winds, find a secure, interior room in your home away from all external doors and windows. Bring the phone/radio/TV as well as your other supplies with you. During a flood, take shelter on the highest floor of the home (don’t go into the attic).
- Evacuate if necessary, otherwise stay put: If evacuation orders are 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.
After the Hurricane: Take Inventory and Get Professional Estimates
Once you’ve survived the storm, it’s time to find out how much of your home survived along with you. Survey your home and belongings for damage or destruction, and then don’t hesitate to reach out to your agent.
They’ll be able to tell you how long you have to file a claim, along with an estimate of how long it’ll take the claim to process. They can also tell you if your insurance policy requires professional estimates for any necessary repairs.
In order to protect your home and belongings from further damage, you may need to make temporary repairs before you hear back from your insurance company. For any repairs you make yourself, be sure to save the receipts to submit along with your property damage claim.
Just keep in mind that this amount will be factored in along with permanent repairs and may cause you to reach your policy’s limit faster. Save larger repairs for after you get the damage assessed.
When filing a claim following a hurricane, your insurance company will 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.
There are some preparatory steps you can take before the adjuster visits to speed the process along. These action steps will also help you get the reimbursement you’re entitled to.
Take the following steps before your insurance adjuster visits your home:
- Prepare your personal inventory list: Once the adjuster arrives, having a premade list of your damaged and destroyed property to give to them will help speed up the process. Don’t clean out or throw away any damaged and destroyed items before the adjuster visits. You can also really help to further document your damaged and destroyed property by taking pictures or videos to include with your inventory list.
- Take inventory of any structural damage: Along with your damaged and destroyed personal property, you’ll also want to know the extent of the damage and destruction to your home’s structure. Be sure to include detached structures like sheds, garages, and pools as well. Your list should include 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 your plumbing and electrical systems inspected. Your policy will probably reimburse you for this process.
- Secure estimates from licensed contractors: Once you’ve identified the damage, you’ll want to get professional estimates for the necessary repairs. Having itemized estimates from licensed contractors to send to your insurance company will speed up the claims and reimbursement process.
- 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.
If your home is temporary uninhabitable while you’re awaiting repairs following the hurricane, your homeowners insurance policy provides loss of use coverage to pay for temporary living expenses.
This coverage includes reimbursement for things like hotel rooms as well as additional living expenses for food, laundry services, increased gas mileage, and more. Loss of use coverage allows homeowners to maintain their normal lifestyle while in a temporary residence.
After the Hurricane, Part II: File Insurance Claims
Depending on what insurance company your homeowners and/or windstorm policy is through, the list of requirements before filing a claim may differ slightly. You may also need to file an auto insurance claim if your vehicle gets damaged by the storm.
Many policies require you to file a claim within one year after the hurricane. We’ve compiled a list of a few of our major insurance carriers and their processes for filing a claim following a natural disaster.
Major Insurance Companies’ Processes for Filing Claims
You can file a claim online or call 1-800-332-3226 as soon as possible. Be ready with the following information before filing:
- What happened?
- Where is the damaged property?
- How extensive is the damage?
- Are temporary repairs needed?
- What is your current contact information and the best time to reach you?
- A convenient time for a damage assessment, either in person or via video chat.
The claims process:
- Contact your agent or the insurance company ASAP. Be prepared to provide as much detail as possible about the damage. If you take photos or videos, they can help illustrate the damage and clarify what happened. They’ll also help move along the claims process. Owner’s manuals, serial numbers, and credit card statements can be used to document your personal belongings.
- Your insurance company may require an insurance adjuster to visit your home to assess the damage in person. Be prepared with your home inventory list of damaged and destroyed items, photos or videos you’ve taken to further document the damage, and other forms requested by your insurance company.
- Provide your insurance company with any receipts for temporary repairs you made to your home while waiting for the insurance adjuster. You may qualify for reimbursement.
- Wait for reimbursement. After the investigation has been completed, reimbursement will be sent out promptly. Your insurance company may pay you directly or send payment to the companies that make the repairs.
If your vehicle is damaged by the hurricane, file a claim the same way you would for a car accident. Call 1-800-PROGRESSIVE to file your claim or file online.
How to report a vehicle insurance claim:
- As soon as possible, report your claim—simply log in or call 1-800-776-4737. Progressive will ask you initial questions and begin resolving your claim immediately.
- A claims representative will contact you—generally by the end of the business day—to answer your questions and schedule an inspection of your vehicle. Be sure to discuss any questions you have about deductibles, what's covered, and the repairs with your claims rep at this time.
- Progressive will inspect your vehicle's damage and provide an estimate for repairs.
- Progressive will help you arrange vehicle repair service and towing if you need it. You can bring your car to a repair shop in our network, or if you prefer to use your own repair shop, you can do that, too. With either option, Progressive will schedule your appointment when you report your claim.
- If you need a rental car, your claims representative can make arrangements for one. Your rental may be covered depending on your policy coverages and the circumstances of your claim.
- Progressive will periodically check the status of the repair and address any further issues, such as additional damage, payments for additional damage, or changes to the expected completion date, while your vehicle is in the shop.
- When you use one of our network repair shops, Progressive will guarantee your repairs for as long as you own or lease your car.
How to report a home insurance claim:
The home claims process and reimbursement will follow the same process as auto claims. If you have a Progressive Home Advantage policy, you can quickly report a claim by contacting the Progressive Home Advantage partner listed on your policy:
- Homesite Insurance Group — Report a claim online or call 1-866-621-4823
- IDS/Ameriprise — Call 1-888-894-3523
- American Modern — Call 1-800-543-2644, Option #1
- ASI — Report a claim online or call 1-866-274-5677
- Assurant — Call 1-800-358-0600
- First American — Call 1-866-874-1295
- Foremost — Report a claim online or call 1-800-527-3907
- Occidental/SageSure — Call 1-800-780-8423
- QBE — Call 1-800-822-2997
- Tower Group — Call 1-877-365-8693
- All Risks, Ltd. — Call 1-855-344-1040 (Monday - Friday; 8am – 8pm EST)
If your Progressive Home Advantage partner is not listed above, call 1-855-344-1040 (Monday – Friday; 8am – 8pm EST).
If your vehicle is damaged by a hurricane, call 877-SA-CLAIM (877-722-5246) to report a claim to a State Auto representative, contact your independent State Auto agent, or file a claim online.
If your home is damaged by the hurricane, take the following steps:
- Call your insurance agent or company immediately. Your agent will walk you through the claims process, including what to do next and exactly what information you’ll need. They can also tell you how long your claim will take to process and whether you should get estimates for repairs.
- Make temporary repairs. Take steps to protect your home from further damage. Save any receipts to submit to your insurance company along with your claim. You may qualify for reimbursement.
- Get claims forms. Your insurance company will send you required forms to document any property damage. Fill the forms out and send them back to your insurance company ASAP to keep the process running smoothly.
- Prepare a list of damaged and destroyed items. You’ll need to be prepared to prove your losses. Refer to the home inventory list you created before the storm to easily mark which items were damaged or destroyed. Include related receipts along with this report for your insurance company. Hold on to damaged items until after the adjuster visits your home. Take photos or videos of the damage for thorough documentation.
- If you must relocate temporarily, save your receipts. If your home is uninhabitable while you’re awaiting repairs, your homeowners insurance policy may reimburse you under your loss of use coverage. Record all of your expenses and be prepared to give your insurance company any applicable receipts for potential reimbursement.
- Schedule a home visit with an adjuster. Your insurance company may require an in-person visit from an adjuster to assess your home’s damage. Pick a date as soon as possible to schedule their visit. Be prepared with all necessary paperwork and any additional documentation you’ve prepared (such as photos or videos) when they arrive.
- Reimbursement will be sent out. In most cases you will be promptly reimbursed for covered damages by your insurance company. At this point you may contact your insurance company or independent insurance agent with any further questions or concerns.
How to Find the Best Homeowners, Flood, and Windstorm Insurance
In order to get the protection you need (and deserve), you’ll want to work with a trusted expert. Independent insurance agents will not only know where to find the best coverage and price, but also help to make sense of the fine print.
Consider your unique needs, then connect with an agent to help you take it from there. Have a list of your specific concerns and desires handy before you reach out, to help the process run even more smoothly.
Compare Homeowners, Flood, and Windstorm Insurance Quotes with an Independent Insurance Agent
We all know how valuable your time is, so why spend it doing all the hard work yourself? From homeowners, flood, and windstorm insurance to special add-on policies, our expert independent insurance agents will help you determine which types of coverage make the most sense for you and your home.
Our independent insurance agents stay on top of the insurance industry and all the latest discounts so you don’t have to. That means they’ll help find the right coverage at the right price for you.
They’re not just there at the beginning, either. If disaster strikes, your agent will be there to help walk you through the claims process and make sure you are getting the benefits you're entitled to. Now that’s thinking ahead.
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