My stepson Kevin lives in Portland, OR and was asked by a colleague before Hurricane Ian hit Florida whether his parents were concerned. “My dad lives for these moments,” Kevin told his colleague. He’s not wrong. My husband, Michael, is prepared for nearly every eventuality. Sometimes it drives me crazy. Do we really need three methods of water filtration? How many types of fire starters are enough? Are all those flashlights really necessary? Maybe not, but when a hurricane is headed our way, I am grateful for Michael. He makes me feel secure, and that’s what preparedness is all about.
If you’re a recent Florida transplant or you don’t have a Michael in your lives, here are some takeaways we’ve gathered through the years.
Have an evacuation plan in place. Know where you’re headed, and don’t wait until the last minute. We’ve all seen the news coverage of interstates that look like parking lots because too many people left at once.
If you’re going to cover your windows and place sandbags at doorways, have all those items lined up and ready to deploy. You don’t want to be scrambling for those things at the same time as everyone else.
Maintain Homeowners Insurance
I know it’s expensive and getting costlier. I know you aren’t required to have it if you own your home outright, but we’re talking about most people’s most valuable asset. Michael and I spent the Saturday after Hurricane Ian at a neighbor’s home emptying bedrooms and removing soggy carpet because a tree fell through their roof. They knew their roof needed replacing to reinstate insurance, but they procrastinated. FEMA funds and SBA loans may help fund the repairs, but how much longer might that take than if they had been able to file an insurance claim?
Consider whether you need flood insurance. Flooding is the leading natural disaster in the U.S., according to FEMA.
Have a Plan for Your Pets
I own a horse, and let me tell you this: It was difficult to resign myself to the fact that Baller was better off turned out in a pasture during a hurricane instead of in a barn where a tree could injure, trap or kill him. Turning him out required a plan in case he escaped the pasture.
Baller is microchipped. Additionally, I wrote my information on T-shirt strips and braided them into his mane.
Get a plan in place for your pets should you need to evacuate. It will help reduce chaos in an emergency.
Have a Cash Stash
I get bent out of shape when I encounter businesses that no longer accept cash for payment. In a hurricane’s aftermath, some businesses may only accept cash due to Internet-dependent payment systems. As of this writing, Michael and I are going on five days without Internet. Certainly area businesses have been affected by this. Have cash available to use in the days following a hurricane.
Financial advisors recommend that you keep three to six months of living expenses on-hand as an emergency fund. I treat our emergency fund like a piece of artwork: I enjoy looking at the balance occasionally, but I don’t want to spend that money. I use it when I must, though.
Hurricane deductibles can be 2-10 percent of the amount of insurance covering your home. If you suffer storm damage, there will be out-of-pocket costs. It’s better to pull that from cash than to charge it on a credit card. Cash often gets you a better price on services, too.
A lot of hurricane damage can be reduced or eliminated through preventive maintenance. In the nearly six years we have lived in our home, we have removed three water oaks (terrible trees to have!) and cut all branches near our roof. As a result, the debris left by Hurricane Ian was minimal, damaged nothing, and we removed it in an afternoon.
Replacing a roof is costly, but Florida homeowners know it’s a necessary expense. Create a roof fund and contribute to it monthly. It will help cover repairs along the way, and a new roof when required.
I hope your family made it through this storm safely, and that it served as a valuable reminder to get a plan in place if you didn’t have one already.