Now that the 2019 hurricane season is officially underway (hello, Dorian), it’s time to make sure you and your family are prepared.
Seasonal forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center have increased the likelihood of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season to forty-five percent from the average of thirty percent.
With flooding, not strong winds, being the major cause of hurricane property damage, it’s surprising that many homeowners who live in or near Eastern and Gulf seacoasts don’t have flood insurance. The tragic consequences of recent hurricanes in Houston, Florida, North Carolina, and New Jersey should be convincing enough for homeowners that live near water to protect themselves against the dreaded worst-case scenario.
Steps You Can Take Now
Be sure you have flood insurance coverage. Even if you live in an area with low or moderate risk, you are much more likely to experience flooding than a fire in your home over the next 30 years, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Your homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood insurance, but you can purchase flood insurance from FEMA or private insurers.
Emergency Management Agencies
Learn about state and local preparedness and response policies. Every state and most counties and municipalities have Emergency Management Agencies with information on preparedness and response policies, such as evacuation. Don’t wait until a hurricane is on the way to learn all that you can to protect your home and business. You can find a list of state EMAs here. Google your county and municipality to check out local emergency plans, including evacuation routes.
Create a communication and evacuation plan for your family. What will you do if a family member is not home when it’s time to evacuate? Where are local shelters located? Will you be prepared if the telephone and local WiFi service are down? Make sure every member of your family knows the plan. Protect keepsakes and valuables. Make sure any photos or videos of your important possessions are in a safe place. These documents will help you file an accurate and comprehensive flood insurance claim. Store vital documents and irreplaceable personal objects (such as photographs) where they won’t get damaged. If major flooding is expected in your area, consider putting them in a flood-proof storage facility. Also, make sure you have a plan in place to keep your pets safe. If you’re evacuating to a hotel, make sure they allow animals prior to your arrival. During emergency evacuations, hotels aren’t required to allow pets even if they don’t typically accommodate already, however, the PETS Act allows FEMA to set up pet-friendly shelters and protections during these emergencies.
Hurricane Preparedness List
Check out this checklist which details steps you should take in the days before a hurricane makes landfall.
Long-term Preparations for Flooding
If you live anywhere near a coast, or even miles inland, you should make preparing for potential flooding a year-round priority.
- Make sure that basements are waterproofed and that your sump pump is working. Then, install a battery-operated backup in case of a power failure. Installing a water alarm will also let you know if the water is accumulating in your basement.
- Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
- Anchor fuel tanks and move furniture, valuables, and vital documents to a safe place.
- Elevate critical utilities. To reduce the risk of damage to your home or business from flooding, you should elevate things such as electrical panels, switches, sockets, wiring, appliances, and heating systems. For protection against shallow flood waters, the washer and dryer can be elevated on masonry or pressure-treated lumber platforms above the projected flood elevation. Another option is to move the washer and dryer to a higher floor. If you live in an area of repetitive flooding, consider elevating the entire structure. By raising your house a foot or two above base flood elevation, you may qualify for lower flood insurance premiums.
Changes to Your Local Flood Hazard Map.
With over 20,000 communities participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), it is a challenge to keep flood hazard maps up to date. Either FEMA or local communities can initiate procedures to update flood hazard maps. Changes in your map could change your local flood risk zones and other features. Changes can take as long as 18 months to complete and provide an opportunity for local input.
To find out whether changes are underway for your local map, contact the local official responsible for liaison with FEMA and the NFIP program, usually your City/County Engineer or the Director of Planning or Zoning Administrator. You can review the status of ongoing map revisions on the FEMA website, or by calling the FEMA Map Information exchange toll free at 1-877-FEMA MAP (1-877-336-2627).
Changes to the National Flood Insurance Program
Currently, Congress is deliberating over several proposed changes to the NFIP that could have a significant impact on homeowners. One of the possible changes is a nationwide flood disclosure requirement that would require sellers to disclose information about a property’s flood history and risk, and whether the property owner should carry flood insurance. Though 22 states require sellers to disclose flood histories, there is no national requirement for sellers to disclose that their home is located in a flood-risk area. Congress is also currently debating whether to set or cap a limit of 9 percent on the amount the government can increase annual premiums for national flood insurance.
At the end of the day, preparation is key to staying safe during hurricane season. Heed all evacuation notifications, and keep an eye out for family, friends, and neighbors who may be at risk or unable to care for themselves during an emergency situation.