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Hurricanes

Will 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew pique interest in peak hurricane season?

Twenty-five years ago this week, Hurricane Andrew sent a blaring wake-up call throughout Florida that reverberated in all coastal states. The call said, loud and clear, that when you ignore the risks from Mother Nature, you lose. Florida learned just how vulnerable it was to catastrophic storms. But not all those schooled by Andrew remember the lessons.

The Tampa Bay Times lists 25 things to remember on the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew. There’s the surprise regarding the storm’s strength, the death toll, the cost of the damage, and the fact that if the storm had veered toward Miami, rather than the less densely populated Homestead, deaths and damage would have been much more severe. Swiss Re said in a report on Andrew that if a similar storm hit today, economic losses would be between $80-100 billion in current US dollars; only $50-60 billion would be covered by insurance. The shortfall would be paid by taxpayers and governments.

Lessons from Andrew still resonate for insurers. For example, the case for more resilient construction was a major lesson. Today, Florida has among the strongest building codes in the nation. The need to more carefully manage risk and to spread risk globally were also well learned.

Yet, not everyone remembers what they learned 25 years ago. Memories fade. This week is a good time for a refresher – because late August is peak hurricane season. Andrew hit on August 24, 1992, in what was supposedly a “less active” season. That storm blew away any notions we held about betting on odds for weaker storm strength in a so-called off year.  Now is a perfect time to look at a hurricane season checklist and be prepared for an eight-week run of increased storm activity in these peak times.

Before high winds blow, know your hurricane deductible amount

This should NOT be a surprise: Your home insurance policy has a separate deductible for hurricane damage. It should be common knowledge because it’s been in Florida statutes on insurance contracts at least since 1997. Yet, when the next hurricane hits, there will be some people shocked to find this out when it has been in plain sight for more than 20 years.

Truthfully, it’s in plain sight if you were actually to READ your insurance policy. You’ll find it in two places. On the front of your policy pages, there is this blaring headline in all capital letters:

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

#1 reason for unpaid hurricane claims? Minor damage

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The 2016 hurricane season is a wrap, and you are probably seeing a few news stories detailing the number of insurance claims from Hurricane Matthew, as well as the  insurance claims from Hurricane Hermine. More than 87 percent of claims from Hermine are closed; almost 78 percent of claims from Matthew are closed. But the news headlines do not focus on that positive note. Instead, they point out that about a third of claims from the storm are unpaid. You have to read down six paragraphs in the newspaper story to find out why. I’ll tell you in the second paragraph below.

There are two primary reasons claims are closed without being paid:

  1. Storm damage was minor and under the amount of the hurricane deductible, or
  2. The damage was not covered by the policy.

Everyone knows headlines don’t tell the whole story. They are designed to attract attention and are not written by the reporter, but by someone looking to grab the reader.  To be truly informed, we have to look beyond the headline, true?

Insurers have encouraged policyholders to report storm damage even if it is minor because Florida has a calendar year hurricane deductible. That means storm damage from more than one storm in a season counts toward the deductible amount.

Damage not covered from the storms would include falling trees that do not damage an insured property, such as your house or fence.

Now you know rest of the story.

Matthew Recovery: 40,000 insurance claims so far

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As of this morning, there have been nearly 40,000 insurance claims filed due to damage from Hurricane Matthew. Those numbers will surely rise in the coming days as people continue to find damage to their property related to the storm that hit Florida a mere four days ago.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation released Matthew claims data on October 12.  About 90% of the claims were for residential property damage. So far, there have been 1,800 flood claims reported by people with flood policies through the National Flood Insurance Program, and 28 claims for private flood insurance, which is coverage outside the government program.

Matthew hits home

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Hurricane Matthew is slowly advancing up the coast, bringing with it winds in excess of 100 mph and the potential for incredibly powerful storm surge. As Floridians, we hang tough, but know when to get out of harm’s way and let emergency responders do their jobs.

To help you prepare and fall back, and then regroup/recover when it’s safe to return to your homes and places of business, we offer the following key preparedness and recovery links.

Keep this list handy. And please stay safe, everyone.

And here are some useful articles and how-to videos from the I.I.I.

Article: Preparing an Effective Evacuation Plan

Article: Including Your Pets in Evacuation and Disaster Planning

Video: Evacuation: How to Get Organized

Video: Evacuation: The 10 Minute Challenge

Video: Hurricane and Disaster Preparedness
Follow us on Twitter @InsuringFLA for the latest updates on Hurricane Matthew and insurance related topics.

 

Massive Matthew: This is not a drill

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Florida Governor Rick Scott issued an executive order yesterday putting the entire state on notice that ill winds are coming. The National Hurricane Center continues to update its advisories, and hurricane watches and warnings are in effect. A warning means take immediate action. This is not a drill.

The hurricane drill may be a distant memory for some. Here’s hoping those who had experience with the storms of 2004 and 2005 provide quick tutorials, and the lessons are put into practice. If you are in an evacuation zone and in an area where a hurricane warning has been issued, get on the road — while you still can. Don’t fight with the authorities over your right to stay. Don’t fight with the wind because it’s stronger than you. The (often) arduous journey of your flight to safety is a better tale to tell than a first-person account of the physical mess Matthew is expected to deliver.

Be safe. Be Ready, Florida.