Be ready for the storm
By Molly Flurry & Matthew Whittle
Published in News on June 5, 2009 1:46 PM
Before you roll up your sleeves and start any storm proofing projects, be sure to spend some time with your insurance agent.
Having an agent from the company your home is insured by roll up his or her sleeves and reevaluate your policy could save heartache and emotional devastation should an act of weather strike.
Taking stock of just what is and what isn't covered in your policy is something you should do annually, said John Henderson, owner of Crawford Henderson Insurance at 202 N. Spence Street.
Never assume something is covered, Henderson said.
"The homeowners policy is one of the most complex policies in the world. It is extremely detailed and has many intricacies," he said.
As your lifestyle and material possessions change, your policy needs to be updated to reflect those changes and additions.
Make sure the boat you purchased this spring is covered on your homeowner's policy, and if it isn't pursue the appropriate insurance.
Take a look around your home, what is new in the past year, is it covered under your existing policy?
Checking in also gives clients a chance to evaluate deductibles and maybe even save themselves some money, Henderson said.
"What you want to do is to look at the limits on the policy as opposed to the value of the home," he said. "One of the things people mistakenly do sometimes is to compare their insurance with how much their house would sell for or how much money they can borrow. The value on your homeowners policy should be equal to what you need to build a house back to its original condition."
Henderson encourages homeowners to maintain a policy that meets the value of the house.
The cost of an additional $10,000 or $15,000 in insurance to have your home and valuables 100 percent insured is cheap, especially when compared to paying the difference out of pocket when a catastrophe occurs, he said.
Beyond homeowners insurance, consider buying or evaluate your existing flood or wind coverage as well.
And don't forget, the same principles apply to any beach property your family might own.
"We work hard trying to protect our clients" Henderson said. "We try to make sure everyone understands where they are. It's really essential you stay in touch and update information."
Effective storm proofing of your home borrows a page from football: Offense is the best defense.
A little well-timed prevention goes a long way toward reducing weather-related damage.
Outside landscaping can be an easy place to start. Although many tasks are storm-specific, some pruning, raking, planting and picking up will save property owners big bucks when any kind of gale blows through.
Trees, though, are the most important landscape feature to pay attention to, said Wayne County Cooperative Extension horticulture agent Karen (Bussey) Blaedow.
"Trees are the biggest hazard during hurricanes," she said.
She explained that homeowners should look at their trees to see if there are any dead or diseased limbs, and to make sure the tree itself is healthy.
If the tree is dead -- easily determined by whether or not it has leafed out -- she recommends calling a certified arborist to bring it down. Same thing with any dead or weakened or cracked limbs, especially if they are hanging near the house.
"If it's near the house I would probably want to take it down immediately, and you'll want to have somebody who knows what they're doing," Mrs. Blaedow said. "If it's back from your house, I would let nature take its course."
The other threat from trees comes from those with a weak root structure, which can pull out of a saturated ground -- a risk that an arborist can help identify.
"They don't just pull down trees. They'll also come out and evaluate your hazards," she said.
Otherwise, she continued, there's not a whole lot to do to prepare a landscape.
"If you have a plant you're especially fond of, you can put up some sort of windbreaker, but most perennials will come back," she said.
She also recommended people bring yard decorations and potted plants inside, and store pesticides and motor fuel above floodwaters.
The other important thing to keep in mind, she said, is your yard's drainage, though she admitted, "there's not much you can do if your yard has poor drainage."
However, keeping ditches and drainage pipes clean and using mulch to help control erosion can help.
Wind and water are your home's worst enemy during storms.
Simple precautionary tactics can prevent or minimize damage incurred during a storm if you keep the proper supplies on hand and do some preliminary pre-storm work.
"The No. 1 thing is to make sure all your windows and doors are properly installed and operating," said Steve Helderman, manager of Goldsboro Builders Supply Co. "Make sure they shut and seal."
Weather striping on doors and windows can become brittle from sun exposure and years of exposure to the elements.
The striping is your first and best line of defense to keep moisture and wind out of your home, he said.
Talking a walk around the exterior of your home to evaluate, weather stripping or caulking damage or any cracks gives you the opportunity to fill them.
Helderman recommends a pressurized foam project for those larger cracks that are impractical to fill with caulk.
Making sure gutters are clean also is important.
And being prepared ahead of time for damage from sustained high winds by having your particle board sheets to cover large glass doors or windows will keep you from being a part of any pre-storm building-supply frenzy.
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