This past weekend, Florida dodged another hurricane, when Isaias shifted east at the last minute and left residents of the Sunshine State relieved to avoid the damage it would’ve brought.
The typical jokes were flying around social media, with one meme showing a single palm frond on the ground with the words “Hurricane Isaias, we will rebuild”. But now it’s time to get serious. It has been estimated that 41 percent of all hurricanes that reach the United States make landfall in the peninsula, and Isaias was a stark reminder that Florida residents need to be fully prepared each hurricane season.
Hurricane Isaias, which threatened to make landfall on the east coast of Florida just a few days after becoming a named storm, left very little time for emergency preparedness. With the ongoing pandemic, last-minute residents crowding grocery stores for supplies and filling emergency shelters would undoubtedly lead to an increase in cases of COVID-19. As we begin the month of August which is historically when hurricane season peaks, take this time before the next storm to refill your supply kits.
One of the most important parts of hurricane preparedness that many don’t consider is to review their insurance. “Many homeowners don’t realize their policy may exclude important coverages until it’s too late,” explained Amanda Bryant, the director of operations for Viera Insurance Agency, which provides coverage for homeowners throughout Florida.
Another concern for homeowners is their out of pocket hurricane deductible. “The standard hurricane deductible is two percent of the building coverage on a home insurance policy. For a $200,000 home that’s $4,000 the policyholder is responsible for at the time of a loss,” said Bryant. “We urge all homeowners to review their policies ahead of hurricane season and consider adding additional coverages to protect their property.”
One very important coverage that Floridians often forget is flood insurance. When Hurricane Irma impacted Florida in 2017 it caused approximately $50 billion in damages, with an additional $20 – $30 billion in uninsured flood losses. The following year Hurricane Michael struck the panhandle as a category five storm. It was estimated that 80 percent of flood victims from this storm were also uninsured.
Many homeowners are under the misconception that their home insurance policy will cover flood damage, but this is not the case. Bryant explained, “a standalone flood insurance policy is needed to be covered for flooding and storm surge, two very destructive factors of a hurricane.” For previous storms sandbags have always been made available to residents for use as flood barriers. However, due to COVID-19 and social distancing, many areas were requiring individuals to bring their own tools and fill their own sandbags, which not everyone is capable of doing. This left some property owners even more vulnerable and unprotected from flooding.
Without insurance coverage residents are left to turn to FEMA for financial assistance in the form of a loan that must be repaid with interest. However, this year we are facing extenuating circumstances due to COVID-19 which FEMA is also responding to. Limited personnel and volunteers available also leaves minimal relief for hurricane victims.
Floridians need to take matters into their own hands when it comes to protecting their livelihood this hurricane season. Check your hurricane kits now, have your emergency plans ready, and review your insurance protection. You might not need any of it this season, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Jennifer Scherff is the business development manager of the Viera Insurance Agency.