Waiting out a hurricane can be seen as a rite of passage for true Floridians, on par with tolerating the annual pilgrimages of snow birds and spring breakers—or seeing an alligator in your neighbor's pool.
This shouldn't surprise you; 36% of all hurricanes that landed on U.S. soil from 1900 to 2000 hit Florida, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). What is surprising, however, is that on the whole, Floridians aren't all that good at preparing for these storms.
According to a recent survey by Origin Global, more than half of Florida's residents fail to take any of the recommended precautions to protect their homes from hurricane damage, such as installing impact-resistant doors, windows or roof shingles, or even storm shutters.
“Our findings show that, despite the severity of last year’s hurricane season and the susceptibility of Florida to the elements, a surprising number of residents have not protected their homes against damage which could potentially cost them thousands of dollars to repair," said Joe Halsall, a spokesman for Origin Global.
|Recommended safety measure||Residents who take action|
|Provision to secure outside objects||16.4%|
|None of the above||50.2%|
When you live in a state where named tropical storms are just another rainy day, there are certain precautions you should take to protect your home. And while you might want to replace your old patio furniture, there are more responsible ways to dispose of it than by simply allowing it to blow through your neighbor's living room wall.
Of course, failing to prepare for a hurricane can put your personal property at risk. This alone should be enough incentive to take precautions and to make sure you're covered by a flood insurance policy. However, not following the recommended steps presents broader implications for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as a whole, and it means you're probably missing out on some valuable insurance discounts, too.
The side-effects of not preparing for a hurricane
The United States suffered an estimated $265 billion in losses last year from just three hurricanes—Harvey, Maria and Irma—according to the NOAA.
In regions where houses were submerged by rising water, much of these losses were inevitable. However, if your house only experienced moderate flooding that could have been mitigated if proper precautions were taken, protecting your own property wouldn't have been the only benefit.
Overburdening the NFIP
The NFIP has run at a deficit since 2005, and to date it carries $24.6 billion of debt. Deficient premiums are a large part of the reason the program takes in less than it pays out, and despite recently announced rate hikes, it still won't be collecting enough to cover its debt and pay for 2018's anticipated claims.
However, if property owners in Florida aren't doing everything they can to minimize hurricane damage, they're contributing to this burden as well, and they could be drawing funds from people who might need them more.
Missing homeowners insurance discounts
Some people are surprised to learn they need both a flood and homeowners insurance policy. Since flood damage can be so destructive, most homeowners insurance companies exclude floods from their coverage. Additionally, in some hurricane-prone areas, you might need separate windstorm coverage as well. However, homeowners policies still protect your home against some wind damage in addition to a host of other perils. Because of this, insurance companies my offer you a discount for windproofing your home.
For example, Esurance offers premium discounts to policyholders who install an impact-resistant roof or storm shutters on their homes. Over time these discounts, combined with a reduced need for repairs after storms, could pay for the cost of the installations.
Make sure you're protected
Review your neighborhood's history of flood damage, and inspect your house for possible defects, such as cracks in the foundation, that could lead to flooding. Next, consider saving for impact-resistant upgrades to your home, such as storm shutters.
The most important thing, however, is making sure you understand how you're insured well before a storm is expected. Review your homeowners policy to determine exactly what coverage you have and whether you need to add supplementary coverage to insure your property this summer.
The 2018 hurricane season began on June 1. If you don't already carry flood insurance and a homeowners insurance policy, you should compare rates from the best insurers in Florida to find affordable coverage as soon as possible. And even if you don't own your home, consider purchasing renters insurance to cover your personal belongings if they were destroyed in a flood.