It sounds like Hurricane Sandy is on track to be a massive
storm. What can I still do to prepare for it? And what should I
do right away if I end up having storm damage?
SEE OUR SLIDE SHOW:
7 Must-Haves for Your Emergency Kit
Start with the basics.
You probably already know to stock up on groceries and water, fully
charge your cell phone and other electronics, and make sure that
your car has a full tank of gas. You'll also want to have a
battery-operated radio, flashlights and a phone that isn't
dependent on electricity in case the power is knocked out for a
while. If you bank online, pay your bills now so they aren't
delayed if the power goes out. Check out
FEMA's fact sheet
on building a disaster-supplies kit.
Update your home inventory.
People who have made insurance claims after weather disasters say
that having an up-to-date home inventory is key. That way, you can
file a claim on losses right away rather than having to try to
remember everything you lost. If you have a smart phone, take
photos or videos of everything -- including your valuables and the
architectural details of your home -- and e-mail it to yourself so
that you can access it from anywhere. Several insurance companies
have apps that make it easy to maintain your inventory and file
claims online. Or you can use the
Insurance Information Institute's home inventory
from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Create an emergency kit and emergency file.
Store cash, insurance policies, your home inventory (if it's on
paper), tax records, other important papers and key contact
information in a portable file that you can take with you if you
are evacuated. Better yet, store key financial records online so
that they are accessible wherever you are (hard copies are handy as
a backup in case you don't have online access immediately.)
Protect your home.
Trim shrubs and low-hanging tree branches -- trees tend to cause
some of the biggest damage during a hurricane, and often such
damage isn't covered by insurance. (See our story:
When Your Tree Falls in Your Neighbor's Yard
.) Clean your gutters of leaves and other debris so that they can
handle heavy rains, and bring outdoor furniture and other loose
items from your yard inside or secure them so that they don't
become projectiles in high winds. If you have time and are facing a
direct hit, get plywood or storm shutters or other items to protect
your home. Go to
FEMA's hurricane preparation page
and see our story
How to Prepare for a Hurricane
for more information.
Cover your bases on insurance.
Wind damage and wind-driven rain that comes into your home through
the roof, windows, doors or holes in the walls is generally covered
by homeowners insurance. But water from the bottom up -- such as
from the overflow of a body of water -- is not covered (for that,
you'd need to by separate flood insurance). It's too late to buy a
flood policy before next week's storm, but you may still be able to
make changes to your homeowners insurance policy against other
types of storm damage -- such as sewage backups, which are common
after sewers overflow or a sump pump stops working during heavy
rains. See our story
Protect Your Home and Finances Against Floods
for more information about flood insurance, sewage backups and
other assistance you may qualify for if you have flood damage but
no flood coverage.
Have an evacuation and communication plan ready.
Find out now where to go if you are ordered to evacuate. Your local
office of emergency management can keep you informed about
evacuation orders, disaster assistance centers and local storm
reports. You can also get disaster updates from the
Federal Emergency Management Agency
site has a lot of helpful resources for preparing for an emergency
and is featuring hurricane safety tips and Hurricane Sandy updates
If you are evacuated, ask a family member or friend in another
area to let others know your whereabouts and status. Have contact
information for your insurance company and agent easily accessible
in case you need to file a claim from a distance. And keep receipts
for food and lodging, which may be reimbursed by your insurer even
if you don't end up having damage. See the Insurance Information
Preparing an Effective Evacuation Plan
for more information.
Be prepared in case your home is damaged.
Find out the procedures the insurer recommends for filing a claim.
Some insurers now have apps that make it easy to take pictures of
damage and send the files, claim report and home inventory directly
to the insurance company. Many insurers also send mobile claims
units to disaster areas so that you can file a claim and ask
questions in person. See
How to Get Insurance Companies to Pay Your
for more information about claims and
8 Steps to Help Get Your Hurricane Claim Paid
. Also, check out
Make Your Insurer Pay
for advice from victims of Hurricane Katrina. Go to
for more information about federal, state and other assistance
available in your area.