Hurricanes. Wildfires. Floods. It seems as if the list of natural disasters that can hit your home is longer today than ever before. The reality is that the likelihood of suffering a natural disaster today is higher than it was just a few years ago. For context, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), global losses from natural disasters in 2019 amounted to about $160 billion. In 2020, that figure was $210 billion.
In this article, we will provide you with the information you need to make better, smarter home finance decisions when it comes to natural disasters, with insights from Mr. Cooper, one of the largest mortgage servicers in the United States and leading mortgage lender. Mr. Cooper helps customers across the nation with buying, selling, and refinancing homes. If you are a homeowner or are thinking about buying a home, it is important to prepare for a natural disaster and to understand how insurance can help you.
Most home insurance policies only cover specific natural disasters. Here we talk about what you can do to prepare for a natural disaster and minimize your losses – both covered as well as uncovered losses – should you suffer one.
Preparing for a Natural Disaster
If you don’t prepare for a natural disaster before it happens, you are already too late. You must be proactive by following the steps below to keep your home and family safe before a natural disaster occurs.
Reinforce Your Doors and Windows
High-speed winds in a hurricane or tornado can rip your doors off their hinges and send debris flying throughout your home. Wind-resistant doors and windows and stormproof shutters can help keep things intact during a serious storm. Boarding up doors and windows is a good temporary fix if you are unable to install long-term solutions.
Familiarize Yourself with Your Home’s Utility Lines
If a storm is expected, you may have to quickly shut off your water, gas, and electricity connections. This can help prevent flooding and fire. Switch these connections off before a disaster occurs, and if you need to evacuate your home, disconnect them before leaving.
Sandbags can be used to divert water from entryways and flood-prone areas. A wall of sandbags one foot high can provide significant protection from low-level floodwater. This, of course, applies to homes that are in flood-prone areas.
Secure Any Outdoor Fixtures and Furniture
Tie down everything on your porch or patio. Move loose items such as grills and umbrellas inside if you can. Small items can cause damage to you and others if they are flung into the air or get caught in the flow of a flood or storm.
Trim Large Trees
Trees can cause significant amounts of damage during a storm. Heavy branches can easily fall onto your home with storm-force winds. Uncut trees and shrubbery can also pose fire hazards, which is important to avoid in dry, fire-prone localities.
Create a Survival Kit
Natural disasters are, for the most part, unexpected, such as earthquakes, or they may come with just a few hours’ notice, as with wildfires and storms. To prepare for a natural disaster, create a disaster survival kit. It should have everything you need to survive for at least 48 hours without basic services such as water, gas, and electricity. Be sure to include blankets, batteries, water, spare clothing, and food for a few days. Solar-powered devices such as lanterns and communication devices such as radios are great to include as well.
Have a Plan
Being proactive is key to minimizing your losses in a natural disaster. Have a plan ready and educate your family about what to do if and when a disaster occurs. Note down evacuation routes and insurance information and have a supplies checklist ready so that you know what to do, where to go, and what to take with you if you need to act during a disaster.
Purchase Insurance Relevant to Your Needs or Expectations
While preparing for disaster survival is critical, it is also important to lay the foundations of longer-term plans so that you can get back on your feet after a given disaster. Depending on where you live and the types of disasters your area is prone to, it may make sense to purchase additional forms of coverage – or higher-coverage policies – for disasters of specific types. For example, wildfire-prone West Coast homeowners may wish to purchase additional coverage for fire damage, while New England and South homeowners may wish to purchase additional coverage for storm damage.
Understanding what you are covered for, and to what limits, is an important part of any home protection plan, so speak to a licensed insurance agent for a better understanding of what your insurance options are, how a disaster will affect you financially, and how to protect your home before, during, and after a disaster.
Knowing what to do before a storm can save lives, minimize your losses, and help you get back on your feet once a disaster has struck. There is no better time to prepare for a disaster than right now, and should a disaster occur, you will be glad that you took additional steps to secure your personal and financial well-being.
Review your current home insurance policy to make sure that everything you need to be covered in the event of a disaster is covered, and create an emergency fund to cover any expenses that your insurance policy does not cover. Make spare copies of important documents such as your insurance policies, property records, birth or adoption certificates, passports, etc. either as hard copies or online in the cloud. Store the originals in a fireproof locker. Have a disaster response and preparedness plan in place and have supplies ready and in easy access should a disaster strike. Finally, make the home improvements and install equipment such as fire extinguishers that can help save you and your property should you be struck by a disaster.
For additional resources on natural disaster assistance and planning visit https://www.mrcooper.com/blog/2021/06/30/natural-disaster-assistance-planning/.