Hurricane season is upon us: tropical depression Claudette recently brought heavy rains down South, while currently Hurricane Bill appears on track for Bermuda.
Of course physical safety is also paramount: Emergency management officials recommend fortifying a home in advance of the hurricane season, but a Mason-Dixon poll in May found 83% of residents in coastal states had not taken any steps in the last year to make their homes safer. Sixty-six percent of respondents had not put together a recommended hurricane survival kit.
“Many residents still believe it won’t happen to them,’’ says Jack Beven, senior hurricane forecaster at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. “Unfortunately, these devastating storms could happen to anyone and the only way to keep yourself and your family safe is to be prepared.’’
Does the Recession Put More at Risk?
But besides complacency, another issue may be at work this year. Homeowners and business are on a tight budget this year because of the economy. Consequently, they may abandon plans to fortify their homes warns the Institute for Business & Home Safety.
“It's a double-edged sword for financially strapped home and business owners this year,” says IBHS President Julie Rochman. “They don't have funds for protective measures – but they're also ill-equipped to handle the financial impact of a storm.”
IBHS, which is funded by the insurance industry, also says the number of foreclosed homes – and unoccupied homes whose owners have moved away before their property sells – can mean an increased potential for flying debris. Any building that is unsecured for a severe storm, in disrepair or unfinished and left open to the elements also means more potential windborne missiles threatening that neighborhood, the organization says.
What You Need to Know
Robert Hunter, Insurance Director of the Consumer Federation of America, says property owners who fortify their structure can usually receive discounts from their insurers. He suggests that insurers and customers should communicate to better understand potential discounts. “People need to know how much they can save if they take a specific course of action,’’ he says.