The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that the 2022 hurricane season will be “above normal,” with about 14-20 named storms and 6-10 hurricanes (3-5 of these hurricanes could be severe).
If the NOAA predictions hold true, this year will be the seventh consecutive “above-normal” Atlantic hurricane season. Climate experts expect the frequency and severity of hurricanes to continue increasing, including here in the Northeast where sea level rise contributes to strong storm surges that endanger homes.
Consequently, homeowners should expect flooding risks to increase over the next few years. To prepare for these intense hurricane seasons, homeowners should consider the following to protect their property:
- Fortification of the roof and gutters against high winds
- Flood insurance to supplement an existing homeowner’s insurance policy
This article explores ways you can safeguard your home through mitigation efforts. We’ll also discuss the role of flood insurance and how to examine your homeowner’s insurance policy for what hurricane damages it might cover.
How to Protect Your Home
While you can’t completely shield your home from hurricane damage, you can mitigate some of the effects. You can also take steps now that will make recovery easier for you and your family.
Here’s what you can do before the storm:
- Trim trees, shrubs and debris. Trees, shrubs and outdoor furniture become powerful projectiles in high winds. Remove any dead trees or branches, and secure or stow furniture, grills, fire pits, etc.
- Make sure that your roof and gutters are properly maintained or reinforced. Your roof and gutters are your home’s first defense against the storm. Hire a roofer to check for missing shingles or worn-down areas. (Note:Some insurance providers offer discounts if you fortify your roof and gutters against natural disasters.)
- Create a home inventory. If your home is flooded after a hurricane, documenting exactly what was lost will be difficult without a list—also called a home inventory. Learn how to create a home inventory here.
- Place crucial documents and belongings in a fireproof and waterproof box. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a checklist you can use to ensure you safeguard every document you’ll need during recovery.
Will My Homeowners Insurance Cover Hurricane Damages?
Standard homeowners insurance policies generally do not cover damage caused by a hurricane. Some policies may cover damage caused by high winds but exclude flood damage—the leading cause of property loss. Other policies exclude all wind and rain damage caused by a hurricane.
That’s why it’s important to review your policy now. Pay special attention to the storm coverage clause, and look for language that states wind damage is not covered if caused by a hurricane.
For professional help in reviewing your coverage, call your independent insurance partner. The agent can also recommend additional coverage that fills in any gaps left by your homeowner’s insurance.
What Does Flood Insurance Cover?
Flood insurance policies issued by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) typically cover up to $250,000 in damage to the structure of your home and up to $100,000 in damage to contents. After purchasing flood insurance, you usually have to wait 30 days before it takes effect.
Keep in mind that basements—defined as “any area of a building with a floor that is below the ground level on all sides”—receive limited coverage under the NFIP. Only contents that are connected to a power source, such as washers, dryers and freezers, are covered. Finished basements and their contents are not covered, and the Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP) does not cover removal of excluded items, even if removing such contents would facilitate covered repairs (ex. basement carpet).
NFIP policies are issued by the government and provide the same coverage to every policyholder. Private flood insurance policies are also available, and these policies can be customized or used to supplement an NFIP policy.