June 1st starts another hurricane season. USA Today quoted the Climate Prediction Center as saying, "there’s no reason to think that break [from hurricanes over the past two years] will continue." In short, they think the probabilities are good (or bad, if you think about it) that a few times this year somebody, somewhere, is going to get whacked along the coastal areas. There are several things people and businesses should do now to prepare and then to remember as the season progresses.
First, buy the proper insurance in case something really bad happens. Many people think I am anti-insurance because I spend so much time filing lawsuits against insurance companies. Not true. If I were not litigating against wrongful claims practices for a living, I’d be selling the product. You need insurance. If you are fortunate enough to be wealthy, you need it even more. You need to spend time with your agent, go over the value of your possessions and the contingencies of what would happen to your life and business in the event of disaster, and insure for it.
For instance, the National Flood Program has raised its limits. We know from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Dennis that "flood" (I almost feel like footnoting that word given all the litigation about the meaning of it) waters can extend seven to fifteen miles inland along some coastal areas. Get coverage for the right amount now if there is even a remote chance of a flood. The more valuable your property, the more you need the coverage and peace of mind. Given the nature of chance, once you buy the coverage, the disaster will never happen to you.
Second, ask your agent about "endorsement" coverages. These coverages fill in the limitations and exclusions which most modern all-risk policies contain. For example, many of our clients purchase "deductible buy down" coverage in order to lower the deductible because most policies now have large percentage deductibles if a hurricane strikes. Agents should bring these to your attention. It is our experience that most do not.
Third, complete the structural "hardening" process you were planning. A new roof, weather stripping, new windows, glass coatings, and such should be completed now. The severity of most hurricane and windstorm losses can be significantly reduced by these improvements. Fourth, have a plan and stick to it. Do not get stuck in a structure on top of a dining room table or crawling into the attic as waters are rising. We had a client in the Pensacola area area film the surge waters, and it was quite disturbing to hear him sob as the water continued to rise several feet in his home.
Finally, do not become complacent in a season where there are multiple warnings and no storm appears. For example, Miami-Dade County refused to close as Hurricane Irene was heading north to strike Naples. This was about the fifth "close call" of the season. I was furious that morning because I had a hearing in downtown Miami and the judge did not cancell the hearing despite the fact it appeared that the hurricane was going further east and into the Everglades–right next to Miami.
I was driving in the outer bands of the hurricane an hour before the hearing, when the judge’s secretary called in a panic and cancelled the hearing because the authorities closed all government buildings. The call was too little and far too late. People rushing home from work were caught in a mess. A powerline blew over at a flooded intersection not far from where I was. Several people were electrocuted. It all could have been avoided, but the "cry wolf" syndrome made the authorities complacent. Will a major hurricane hit this year? I think so, but who really knows? Do what you can and prepare. There is peace of mind by doing so, and chances are nothing bad will happen anyway. But just in case. . . .