Hurricane Season: Evacuation

When a catastrophic weather event hits the Florida coast, it’s all hands on deck as communities pull together to weather the storm and recover from the aftermath. Being prepared can make all of the difference in your experience of such an event. This blog series from The Wurzel Agency has been geared toward helping you think ahead and being ready for any eventuality, and today we’re looking at what you need to know, and pack in case of an evacuation order.

When Should You Evacuate?

While clearing out of coastal areas in the days leading up to the projected landfall of a big storm is mostly voluntary, an evacuation may be ordered by governing authorities as the storm nears the coastline and gathers force. In most cases, evacuation orders will be very specific, and pinpoint the region most likely to be severely affected by the oncoming storm. Stay tuned in to television reports, radio, and social media for your area so you know when an evacuation has been advised and you can take action accordingly. Sign up for emergency weather warnings to get the latest on storm-related activity.

Evacuation Preparedness

Know your evacuation routes, and have a designated place to meet up if separated from your family. Also designate an out-of-town family member to coordinate with if local phone systems become overloaded. In many cases, using text messages or a third-party messaging system like Facebook or WhatsApp can allow you to communicate when phone service is spotty.

Evacuation Kit Checklist

Having the right gear ready to go can make all the difference during an evacuation. Prepare:

  • Water and non-perishable food for each person in your group, in an easy to transport crate – a gallon per person or pet per day of water is advisable
  • A waterproof container with copies of all important personal and property related documents (see our blog on important homeowner documents)
  • Medications and medical equipment, if needed, also in a waterproof container – include vitamins and over the counter meds as well as prescriptions
  • A few spare changes of clothing for each person, including extra socks and shoes – preferably in a small “go-bag” for each person
  • Two weeks’ worth of cash or more (ATMs quickly ruin out of funds in emergency situations and are inoperable in power outages)
  • A radio, flashlights, batteries and rechargeable power packs, tire inflator, car battery jumper, extra gas can full of fuel, plastic ponchos, and pillows / blankets in case you must sleep in your car

During Evacuation

Evacuate sooner rather than later, if possible. Follow instructions from authorities regarding routes and traffic. In many cases, highways may have traffic reversed heading out of the soon-to-be-affected area. Keep a radio tuned to a channel delivering authoritative messages and information. Don’t attempt to drive through rising water. Don’t attempt to return to your home until you receive an all-clear from authorities.

The information in this blog series has been designed to help you prepare for a catastrophic weather event. It is not intended to replace instructions or information from your local authorities, whose recommendations in times of catastrophe should take precedence. By thinking ahead, you can help decrease your risk and losses during Florida hurricane season.  

Hurricane Season: A Home Inventory

A hurricane or flooding can cause massive personal property losses if your home is affected. Could you provide a list of everything damaged, destroyed, or missing if asked? This blog series from The Wurzel Agency is dedicated to providing clear, actionable tips you can use to prepare yourself for storm season, and this week the topic is creating a comprehensive home inventory.

A Home Inventory is More Than Just a List

It’s easy to say “make a list of everything you own”, and you can even find a lengthy checklist of items that should be included in your home inventory here. The important thing isn’t just what you include on the list, however – it’s how you create the list, where you keep it, and the ways you can access it when needed. The checklist is a good starting point, though, and you can print out a copy to get you started.

Choose a Storage System

While a paper copy of your home inventory is step one, you can do so much more with a digital file. Choose an online storage system to use as a repository for information about your home and its contents, and ensure privacy settings are on so you aren’t advertising your belongings. You can use a secure folder in Google Drive, DropBox, or another cloud storage provider.

Start with Electronics

Anything of significant value should be documented in multiple ways, especially electronics that can depreciate quickly in value and be expensive to replace. Take pictures of the item from several angles, including an image of the serial number tag, and save them with the name of the item and the angle: “Sony-Blue-Ray-Player-front-view” for example. Then take a picture of the receipt, with the date of purchase and purchase price clearly noted, and save that image as well. If you don’t have the receipt, note the date of purchase and what you paid, and look for a comparable item online to capture an image with the current price.

Estimate Bulk Item Value

Your wardrobe can be difficult to put a value on. If you have forty t-shirts and twenty pairs of jeans; a dozen pairs of sneakers and ten different pairs of ballet flats; a collection of handbags and a wealth of scarves, it’s ok to figure out what your average purchase price is for each type of item and then multiply by the number of similar items you own. You should itemize more costly items, like a formal dress, a pricey designer bag, or a pair of high end heels. You can use a similar approach for kitchen items like glassware and dishware. You can also take photos of these items in groups and attach a replacement cost amount to the set as a whole.

List Home Appliances

Your appliances can be among the most vulnerable in case of a severe flood or hurricane, since they can’t be easily shifted out of harm’s way and are prone to corrosion. Get pictures of serial and model numbers, and of the condition of each appliance as well as its Energy Star rating, if available. Don’t forget your water heater, microwave, and stovetop.  

Keep your Inventory Updated and Available  

Get in the habit of adding an item to your home inventory immediately on purchase, and email yourself a link and login to your updated folder each time. If you need to access the inventory or send a copy to an insurance adjuster, you’ll be able to simply open your email from your phone or other device, and forward the information.

If you have to evacuate your home, knowing that you have fully documented its contents can give you peace of mind in the event of damage done by storm or losses from theft. Tomorrow we’ll help you lay out your evacuation plan and make a checklist of everything you’ll need if you have to leave your home due to a severe weather event.

Hurricane Season: Important Documents

If this hurricane season brings big storms to Florida, the best thing you can do now is prepare so you’re ready in case you are affected by a severe weather event.  This blog series from The Wurzel Agency continues with a look at the paperwork you should have on hand in the event that your home and/or family experience a hurricane or flood event.

Homeowner Documents

All paperwork regarding the ownership of your home should be gathered together in one place, including:

  • Deed to your home (or applicable mortgage paperwork)
  • Home warranty papers, if applicable
  • Property tax records

Making an extra copy of at least the cover pages with important account, deed, or tax numbers and laminating them can ensure you have some reference point in case of flooding or other water damage.

Insurance Documents

All paperwork concerning the insurance you carry on your home and property should also be collected:

  • Your homeowners insurance policy (HO3) and any additional insurance such as endorsements
  • Your flood insurance policy (HO3 policies do NOT cover flood, this is a separate policy)
  • Any other insurance coverage papers, such as life, health, and auto insurance

If you don’t have flood insurance, now is the time to buy it – before hurricane season starts. Even though certain areas are listed as “high risk” for flood, the truth is that ALL of Florida is a flood zone; one out of five flood damage claims is in a “low risk” zone, and a third of federal disaster relief goes to homes in low risk areas.

Personal Documents

Every person in your home should have a swipe file with copies of all ID, health insurance cards, health history, prescription lists, and so on. It is important to have an updated home, work, and school address and phone number list, as well as an emergency contact list for both people in the area and those well outside the area. Include a copy of your evacuation routes and numbers for agencies in the area that could provide help in case of a disaster.

Home Inventory  

A comprehensive home inventory can be invaluable in the case of a loss, by proving the ownership, value, and replacement costs of your personal property and other household items. Next week we’ll cover how to create a complete, detailed home inventory that includes every item in your home that is covered by your homeowners insurance policy, which can be accessed easily in case you ever need to file a claim.

These tips can help you protect your home and personal property from damage if there is a severe weather event or flooding. Tomorrow we’ll look at having a home inventory and how to safely store it in one place for reference, just in case you experience a hurricane.

Hurricane Season: Inside Prep

As Florida hurricane season begins, you can move forward with hurricane prep to help protect your home and property from the effects of severe weather events. This blog series from The Wurzel Agency continues with more helpful tips for storm preparation and loss prevention.

Doors and Windows

Check seals around doors and windows (use a hair dryer to check for small gaps by blowing hot air around the seal and asking someone standing on the other side to feel for hot air movement). You can adjust the door threshold for a tighter seal, and add new weather stripping if needed. Use a weather and water-resistant urethane-based outdoor caulk on the frames outside, and an indoor caulk to close any tiny cracks or gaps on the inside.

Make sure window glass is secure, and have tape ready in advance of a weather event. A heavy duty window film can also be used to help hold window glass together in case of breakage. Install deadbolts on doors to increase their resistance against being blown open, and check your garage door as well to see if it needs repairs or reinforcing.

Power Safety

Know where all of your breaker boxes are as well as the main cutoff for the house. If flooding occurs, you’ll need to be able to safely power down your home. Consider having a generator and fuel to get you through a prolonged power outage. Prior to a big storm making landfall, turn refrigerators and freezers to their maximum cold settings to extend the length of time they can keep food cold in the event of an outage.

If a storm is about to hit, turn off gas-powered appliances and unplug electric ones. Elevate appliances or move them up onto a stair landing if there is a flood risk, to reduce the risk of corrosion. Make sure all of their doors are closed so pets can’t become trapped inside.

Keeping Things Dry

Keep your most valuable belongings on the second floor if you have a multi-story home. Expensive furniture, rugs, and other prized possessions can be moved up out of potential flood heights. Shelving on lower floors can provide protection for other items, and waterproof containers can help protect important papers or other valuables.

Fire, Chemical & Gas Leak Safety

Make sure you have fire extinguishers on each floor, and that everyone knows how to properly use them. Move any chemicals out of the home and garage, and onto high ground so there’s less chance of a contaminating spill if there is flooding. Check batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are working.

These tips can help you protect your home and personal property from damage if there is a severe weather event or flooding. Tomorrow we’ll look at the important documents you should have gathered together and safely stored in one place for reference, just in case you experience a hurricane.

Hurricane Season: Outside Prep

It’s hurricane season in Florida again, and it’s time to talk about hurricane prep. There’s a lot you can do to help prevent damage to your home and loss of property due to storms. This blog series from The Wurzel Agency can help show you how and where to “batten down the hatches” before the next named storm hits the Florida coast.

Your Home

First, check out the exterior of your house. It’s a good idea to get photos of your roof before storm season starts – in the case of a claim, knowing the former condition can help you prove damages done by high winds or hard rain. You may wish to install impact resistant hurricane glass that can resist up to 110 mile per hour winds; if you live within 1 mile of coastline, this may be required by Florida Building Codes.

You may also choose to invest in storm shutters – just make certain your installer follows Florida hurricane shutter installation codes. Clean out gutters and check to see if any outside flashing is in need of repair.

Your Yard

Are there any trees that have fronds or limbs overhanging your roof or perilously close to windows? Now is the perfect time to get an arborist on the scene and trim tree branches that could end up causing a hole and opening your home up to wind-driven rain. Getting this task out of the way early in the season can help you avoid being taken by surprise by an early summer storm.

Remove any debris around your home that could be caught up by winds and thrown about your property. If you leave this task until last, remember that you shouldn’t cut or trim any vegetation during a hurricane watch or warning, so make sure to check your local weather stations to make sure a storm isn’t on the way.

Your Pool

If a hurricane watch or warning is issued, lower the water level in your pool by six inches and add extra chlorine before covering it. Turn off any power to the pool and disconnect the pump. Make sure you have stocked up on the necessary materials to shock your pool after the storm in case of contamination.

Outdoor Items

Consider where you will put any outdoor items in case of a major weather event. Outdoor furniture, bicycles, kids’ toys, potted plants, yard decorations, lawn equipment, tools, and grills should all have a safe storage space where they can quickly be put away in an organized manner before a storm.

Vehicles & Trailers

It’s not unheard of for a secure boat to go through a sliding glass door or side of a house. Cars, trucks, boats, and trailers should be sheltered in a garage or boathouse, safely moored or anchored with sturdy tie-downs, or otherwise secured in the event of high winds.

These tips can help you protect your property from damage from both wind and rain, and from property you own becoming airborne. Tomorrow, we’ll look at protecting your home’s interior and your personal belongings.

Homeowner’s Insurance for First Time Buyers

Owning your home is an important part of a financially stable lifestyle. However, first-time homebuyers often underestimate the importance of a high-quality home insurance policy. How can a customized homeowner’s insurance policy from the Wurzel Agency in Oviedo, FL help you protect your Florida residence? Here are some things you should know about homeowner’s insurance as a first-time buyer.

You Really Do Need Insurance

The state of Florida doesn’t require you to have an active homeowner’s insurance policy. If you’re financing your home, however, your lender probably will need you to carry a comprehensive policy through the life of your loan.

Even if it isn’t required, you really do need an active and adequate insurance policy. Home repairs often cost more than expected. A big event like a storm, fire, or theft could drain your savings and leave you vulnerable to future emergencies. Your homeowner’s insurance policy protects your personal assets and ensures you will always have a comfortable place to call home.

All Contracts Are Not Created Equal

Homeowner’s insurance policies are designed to meet the needs of each individual subscriber. While there are some common elements to each contract, yours can be customized to speak to your specific needs. Your policy could include coverage for:

  • Liability
  • Structural damages
  • The contents of your home
  • Personal belongings
  • Additional structures on your property
  • The surrounding grounds
  • Internal structures like sewage systems and sprinkler systems

The representatives at the Wurzel Agency are always happy to help you find the perfect coverage for your family home.

Opt for a Lower Deductible

Many insurance subscribers choose a high deductible plan. This strategy reduces their monthly payments and helps them keep more of their cash. However, when a disaster occurs, these subscribers often find themselves scrambling for the funds to cover their portion of the repair bill. Choose a lower deductible to ensure you can afford needed repairs when they come up.

Talk to the agents at the Wurzel Agency for more information on homeowner’s policies for first-time buyers in the Oviedo, FL area.