5 Ways To Disaster Proof Your Home
U.S. weather has changed. It's far more extreme, and more costly, than anyone ever conceived. Devastating tornadoes, derechos, floods, blizzards and wild fires caused tens of billions of dollars in property losses throughout the nation in 2012. Even "routine" thunderstorms can cause plenty of headaches: Here are five ways to prepare for emergencies:
- Review your homeowners or renters insurance: Insurers are imposing new hurricane deductibles that can leave you on the hook for thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs because they are based on a percentage of the value of your home. Call your insurance agent if you need help understanding your costs. Find out if your policy pays for temporary shelter, replacement clothing, furniture or other items.
- Consider buying flood insurance: Homeowners insurance generally does not cover floods. In general, wind - driven rain and water that comes through your roof, windows, or holes in the walls is covered. Water that comes from the ground up, like a storm surge, is not. To learn more about flood insurance, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency's floodsmart.gov.
- Organize your finances, prescriptions and health records: Make sure your financial documents are up to date, in one place and portable in a hurry. Legal documents can get lost or damaged. Consider keeping them in a small fire - proof portable safe. You may want to consider renting a bank safety deposit box to keep copies of deeds, mortgages, insurance policies, wills and even a copy of your credit report, which lists all your creditors. In like manner, organize your prescription meds and critical supplements in a portable emergency carrying system in case you must evacuate in a hurry.
- Keep your home well maintained and repaired: Scammers and price gougers chase disasters. Just a clogged gutter and drain spout can cause a big flood during a tropical storm. Check any company with whom you are thinking of doing business. Is it local? Be sure to ask for and check the references. Check the trucks and cars for local license plates, addresses and phone numbers. Ask to see the contractor's business license and keep the number. If asked for money up front, or your credit card number in exchange for a "special deal," say no. Pay in installments as work is completed or once the work is done and has been inspected.
- Inspect your trees: Heat, drought, and invasive boring insects are killing off trees that for years were happily adapted to your backyard. A storm with high winds could topple a tree into your car, or bedroom. If a storm causes the tree to fall in your yard and not on your house, many homeowner policies won't cover it and you would foot the removal bill anyway. If you have trees with dead limbs, or have an odd "sickly" shade, call a tree specialist for estimates. Caution: It can cost almost as much to nurse an ailing tree along as it would to remove the worrisome tree — especially if the recommendation is an expensive spray for damaging insects. Play it safe. Cut your losses and the tree. Replace it with newer varieties better adapted to your changing climate.