Hurricane Irene: Are You Prepared?

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) – In case you hadn’t heard, it looks like the East Coast is poised to withstand the first serious hurricane of the season. Hurricane Irene is expected to hit Florida as a Category 2 hurricane sometime around Friday morning before making its way up the coast, potentially hitting the Northeast at the end of the weekend.

Here’s what you should know as the storm rolls into town.

If you’re on low ground and are concerned about being trapped by Katrina-style flooding, consider putting together a survival kit. As a general rule these should include such items as food and water supplies, a first aid kit and a flashlight. You can purchase a ready-made survival kit for around $100; or you could save some money and put one together yourself following some government-recommended guidelines.  

Chances are, though, that your biggest concern is making sure you’re insured against any damage your property may incur during a storm. When we looked at storm insurance last year, at least one expert told MainStreet that “people are often uninsured or underinsured.” While wind damage is included in most standard homeowner policies, some policies sold in coastal areas – where hurricane damage is a big concern – will deliberately exclude wind coverage from the standard policy. More worryingly, flood damage is a completely different beast: You must purchase it through the government’s National Flood Insurance Program. Unfortunately, there’s usually a 30-day lag before the policy takes effect, so if you don’t have it already, it’s likely too late for this particular storm. Of course, it’s never too early to be prepared.

While it may be too late to buy insurance for this emergency, it’s not too late to make sure that certain hard-to-replace items are kept safe. In particular we’re talking about tax records, which you’ll want to keep safe in case you’re ever audited. The Internal Revenue Service recommends digitally backing up all records – especially business records, if you own a business of your own. And while you’re at it, make sure you take pictures of all valuables in your home; if anything is lost or damaged in the storm, you’ll want to have a record of its condition.

Finally, a less-serious concern: What if you’re traveling to the East Coast this weekend? Even if the hurricane winds up veering out to sea, the coast is still likely to get substantial rain and wind, which could put a damper on your end-of-summer trip to the coast. As such, we hope you have travel insurance, which protects you in case a disaster ruins your vacation. While it won’t put money in your pocket if a beach day gets rained out, it will compensate you if a hurricane delays your flight and takes a chunk out of your vacation.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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