Hurricane Sandy Preparation: How To Protect Your Home From Damage in a 'Perfect Storm'

home threatened by a storm
home threatened by a storm

As Hurricane Sandy barrels toward the East Coast, it's raising eyebrows among meteorologists who say it actually has the potential to morph into a "perfect storm."

In the event that Hurricane Sandy does make landfall, homeowners who could be impacted by the storm should make sure their properties are prepared for severe weather conditions by following these tips (which we also offered in advance of Hurricane Isaac).

Bracing for a Hurricane

• Clean out out all your rain gutters and exterior drains to avoid water backups. Water in gutters may not just spill over onto the ground -- it could back up and seep into a home's walls.

• Install a battery backup system for your water pump to guard against flooding and interior damage. Having a backup generator also ensures that necessary equipment can continue to function in the event of a blackout caused by a storm like Hurricane Sandy, said Dale Tomlinson of ACE Private Risk Services.

• Reinforce your windows with shutters, add heavy-duty hinges and deadbolts to doors, and make sure that roof sheathing can withstand strong winds. The risk of structural damage to the home's roof and doors increases substantially if wind bursts into your home.

• Trim trees whose branches could fall and cause damage, and clear potential projectiles from your yard. "Move any outdoor furniture that could become debris that would either float or cause damage," Tomlinson said.

Be Properly Insured

In order to protect your home's value, you should make sure that you have homeowners insurance, flood insurance, and, in some cases, wind insurance.

Homeowners insurance usually covers wind damage and other hurricane-related losses. However, in some coastal areas especially prone to hurricanes, wind coverage may not be covered by your policy, and you may have to purchase wind insurance separately from a different carrier.

Flood insurance, which covers water damage, is available through the government's National Flood Insurance Program. The government insurance, which has a $2,000 deductible for high-risk areas, may cover up to $250,000 in property damage and $100,000 in damage to personal belongings, depending on the plan you choose. To receive coverage for damage beyond those two amounts, you can sign up for a supplementary policy with a private insurance company.

To make sure that you get the most coverage out of your policy, you should be sure to take inventory of your belongings and property before the storm hits your area.

Use Know Your Stuff, a free insurance software provided by the Insurance Information Institute, to learn how to efficiently take inventory and document your belongings. Using the program could help you speed the claims process and maximize your settlement if some of your possessions are damaged.

Filing a Claim

If your home sustains damage and you have insurance to cover it, you should contact your service provider to file a claim. To file a claim, you must provide evidence of the damage to your home and possessions by taking photographs of the property damage and making a list of damaged items with their date of purchase, value and, ideally, receipts.

When you and your insurer agree on the amount of damages, you should receive payment.

See also:
Apartment Emergency Plan: Where to Go When Natural Disaster Strikes
Homeowners Insurance 101: What You Need to Know
Tag Your Home Photos for Better Insurance Claims

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In South Florida, Hurricane Sandy Sends Waves
In South Florida, Hurricane Sandy Sends Waves