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Hurricane preparedness

Flood Myth: Not in my neighborhood

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There are many myths about flood insurance, and the biggest myth is thinking you don’t need it. With a tropical weather system stalled over parts of Florida this week, the ensuing deluge should get you thinking about why you need this important protection.

A standard homeowners insurance policy does not cover flood insurance, and that’s been true for more than four decades. If you live in an area at high risk for flooding, the mortgage lender requires flood insurance. If you live in a low-risk flood zone, the lender does not require it. But that does not mean you don’t need it. Would you be motivated to consider flood insurance if you knew that nearly 25 percent of flood insurance claims are paid to people living in low- to moderate-risk flood zones? Well, now you know.

As of September 2015, there were 1.8 million flood policies in force in Florida. Yet, there are more than 3.1 million single family homes in our state. Many of those Florida flood policies are bought by people living in coastal condos. Do you need flood insurance if you live on the 9th floor of a high rise on the Gulf? Yeah, you do. Because if storm surge beats up the bottom floors of the condo making it uninhabitable, you won’t be able to retrieve your personal possessions as the building is likely to be unstable/condemned. Flood insurance would cover that loss.

Flood insurance statistics show about 68 percent of policies nationally cover single family homes, 21 percent cover condominiums, and 5 percent cover businesses and other non-residential properties. Two- to four-family units and other residential policies accounted for the remainder.

Earlier this summer, there was flooding in parts of Tampa Bay. The National Flood Insurance Program reported just 38 claims. That is not an indication of the minimal amount of flood damage; it is an indication of how few people have flood insurance.

Annual checkup time for trees

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Florida summers means thunderstorms nearly every day. Most trees benefit from the daily drenching, except for the dead ones. They get deader, if that’s really a thing. Dead trees and diseased or damaged tree limbs can cause havoc on your property as summer rains root out (literally AND figuratively) the weak from the strong. Inspect your property and get rid of damage waiting to happen.

Look up. If your home is surrounded by tall pine trees, you might see one that looks more like a telephone pole. That is an obvious sign that it has passed its useful life. A tree without branches is not a tree anymore.

Check hurricane deductible, have a plan to fund it

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Let’s start with the most important tip about deductibles: You should NEVER select a higher deductible than you can afford.

Big deductibles reduce the amount you pay for insurance. But the higher the deductible, the more you pay out of pocket when things go wrong. That means selecting a hefty deductible is only smart in a Perfect World. And, while we all wished we lived on that planet, all kinds of disasters happen – manmade and natural – to mess with it, at least temporarily.

You have two deductibles on your homeowners insurance: one is for hurricanes and the other is for everything else. The “everything else” deductible is for things like a fire, lightning strike or water damage, to name a few. It is usually a flat dollar amount, such as $1,000. The hurricane deductible is, obviously, for hurricanes – and for homes valued over $100,000, it starts at 2 percent of what the home is insured for, which is what it would cost to rebuild it. So, if the house is insured for $250,000, a 2 percent deductible would be $5,000.

In Florida, you can select up to a 10 percent deductible. And, some people decide to do that, which is fine if you have a plan to save that amount of money and keep it secured for when the wind blows.

Here is a handy factsheet on how insurance deductibles work in Florida. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation explains when hurricane deductibles go into effect and how long they last. Regulators also require this notice on the declarations page of every homeowners policy, in boldface type of at least 18 points:

“THIS POLICY CONTAINS A SEPARATE DEDUCTIBLE FOR HURRICANE LOSSES, WHICH MAY RESULT IN HIGH OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSES TO YOU.”

Now is the time to verify that the deductible amount you chose makes sense for your circumstances.

Florida Alert: 5 days into hurricane season, 3 named storms already

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Today is Day 5 of the 2016 hurricane season, and Florida is on alert for a tropical system. It’s the third named storm of the year, and did I mention we are only 5 days into hurricane season? Pay attention please. There has never been 3 storms named this early in the season, which began June 1 and continues through November 30. Keep track of things locally, through the national Weather Prediction Center or through state weather status updates from the Division of Emergency Management.

Complacency is the biggest threat to storm preparation. Maybe you don’t scare easily. Maybe you were well prepared every year since the

Make today an action day: America’s PrepareAthon!

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Twice a year, FEMA promotes a grass-roots campaign to get communities to up their preparedness against natural disasters. Today, April 30 is the springtime event for America’s PrepareAthon! The title of the event includes the exclamation point (!), so that’s how important it is! And !!

No joke. Preparing for emergencies takes a community, and it starts with you. First step is to Know Your Hazards. There are six of them listed. One is winter storms, and as a Floridian, you can strike that off the list. But that leaves a handful — hurricanes top the list, of course.

Why spend a lovely, calm spring Saturday preparing for a dreaded summer hurricane? That is a rhetorical question. Here are 10 Ways to Participate. Among the tips is to document your personal property and to know what your home insurance covers. You can do those two important steps right now. Today. It’s America’s PrepareAthon! Award yourself an exclamation point.

Dare to Prepare: September is National Preparedness Month

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Are you prepared to deal with a flood? How about a power outage? What’s your plan if there’s a hurricane coming? (Planning a hurricane party is not the correct answer.) If you have never planned for disaster, this is your time. September is National Preparedness Month, and the theme is designed to motivate. “Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.”