Over the years, the Merlin Law Group’s Blog has provided hurricane advice and assistance. I wrote a blog in advance of Hurricane Matthew, Quick Tips and Useful Links – Hurricane Matthew. My colleague, Nicole Vinson, posted a blog, Don’t Ignore Warnings of Tropical Systems.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, it is clear that personal safety and compliance with evacuation is of the utmost importance. The National Hurricane Center warns that Hurricane Irma has the potential to be a catastrophic, life threatening event as areas can be quickly inundated with water.

Hurricane preparation is so important and could make the difference in life and death situations. If your home is in a hurricane evacuation area, evacuation planning is imperative.

Prepare an emergency supply kit including:

A minimum of 5 days of water, non-perishable food, radio, flashlight, batteries, first aid kit, cell phone and laptop/tablet chargers. For additional information regarding supply kits, please go to https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit.

Create a family emergency plan; for advice please go to https://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan.

Obtain contact information for County Law Enforcement agencies, as well as, public safety fire and rescue information, including local hospitals, local American Red Cross, and animal shelters for pets. Additionally, pet owners need a plan for animal care. Animal care advice can be found at https://www.ready.gov/animals.

Prepare for boat and marine safety. Information on this topic can be found at http://disaster.ifas.ufl.edu/pdfs/chap07/dpr-0718-web.pdf.

Tips to prepare your home from a hurricane can be found at https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes.

Advice on preparing your pool for a hurricane can be found at https://www.google.com/amp/www.sun-sentinel.com/news/weather/hurricane/sfl-hc-poolprep-story,amp.html.

Other Important Websites for Information:

Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) hurricane preparedness website:  https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) web page containing contact information for emergency management agencies and offices:  https://www.fema.gov/emergency-management-agencies

Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) evacuation guidelines: https://www.ready.gov/evacuating-yourself-and-your-family

Department of Transportation (DOT) Hurricane Harvey and Irma resources: https://www.transportation.gov/hurricane-harvey

National Hurricane Center – Info on Hurricane Irma: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/graphics_at1.shtml?cone

United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) information:

Center for Disease Control (CDC) hurricane safety information:

United States Food and Drug (FDA) food and water safety information:

Florida Information:

  • •Florida Disaster Shelter Program: http://floridadisaster.org/shelters/
  • •Florida’s 19th District Hurricane Preparedness https://francisrooney.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=228
  • •State of Florida Emergency Information 24-hour hotline (FEIL): 1-800-342-3557
  • •State Volunteer and Donations Hotline: 1-800-FL-HELP1 (1-800-354-3571)
  • •American Red Cross: 1-800-HELP-NOW (1-800-435-7669)
  • •Florida Power and Light: 1-800-4-OUTAGE (1-800-468-8243)
  • •Florida Department of Elder Affairs: 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337)

In advance of the storm, collect all important papers and documents, including banking statements, checkbooks, any other financial information, utility bills, credit cards and cash.

Other important documents that should be collected in advance of the storm:

Birth certificates, passports, any other important papers or legal documents (e.g., deed to your home, marriage certificates, medical insurance cards, car titles). All documents should be stored in a watertight container. For more advice please go to http://www.aarp.org/money/investing/info-08-2012/protect-important-documents-and-valuables.html

The following is a list of suggestions to protect yourself should you have to file a property damage insurance claim after the storm:

Make a copy of all insurance policies, declaration pages, policy numbers and contact information for your homeowner’s, flood and automobile insurance companies, as well as your insurance broker contact information. If you have both homeowners and flood insurance, be aware they may be covered by different insurance companies. Review your insurance policy (ies) and endorsements to determine if it the policy provides for ALE (Additional Living Expenses) in emergency evacuations when you may be prohibited from using your home due to a civil authority order. If possible, contact your insurance broker with any questions ahead of time.

Gather proof of any major improvements to your home or business. If you have enough time, take a home inventory, walk through the house and property with a video camera to record possessions which can facilitate the claim process.

After the storm, do not delay in filing your property damage claim.

Take lots of pictures of damage, the more pictures the better. Don’t throw anything away before checking with your insurance company first. If your local government requires that damaged possessions be removed as a safety precaution, take plenty of photographs. Keep good records, it’s important to document all contact with your insurer, including who you spoke with, when, and what was said. Keep your claim numbers at hand for easy reference. That helps insurers route you quickly to the claims department, which will have the most up-to-date info on your claim. Document any and all involvement by others for example, if someone comes onto your property to fix a broken pipe or help you recover in any way, make sure to keep records of what they did. Save all receipts as your homeowners’ policy may include coverage that provides reimbursement for immediate expenses like emergency repairs, temporary housing and meal. Make sure you sign up for text alerts. Most insurance companies offer them and it’s a great way to keep up with the status of your claim.

Take advantage of emergency services, if needed and available under the terms of your policy. If you need help removing water from your home, covering a damaged roof, or closing off damaged doors and windows, many insurance companies will send a licensed and approved provider to take care of it.

Other essential preparation tips:

Remember to back-up your home and/or business computers. It is a good practice to frequently back up your data files to an external drive or memory stick to prevent loss of data. Back-up to the Cloud also recommended. The Cloud stores data on servers on the Internet, so you can have remote access to files. Several popular cloud backups are Carbonite, Mozy, and Backblaze.

Fully charge all phones, tablets, and laptops. Don’t forget all charging devices, including a charger capable of being used in an automobile.

Print a copy of your important emergency contacts and take them with you in the event you do not have access to them from your phone or computer, you will have them available if you have to use a landline. Tell neighbors or a family member where you are going and exchange contact information.

After the Storm:

Do not return to your home unless the proper authorities have stated that it is safe to return.

Price Gouging: It is illegal in the state of Florida, to report, Contact 866-9-NO-SCAM

Hiring Contractors: Follow the suggested steps to ensure the contractors you use are legitimate and licensed. (850) 487-1395 http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/

Public adjusters can be hired to assist with your claim. The National Association of Public Adjusters (NAPIA) has information about public adjusters and how to find a licensed one in your area. http://www.napia.com/

Again, most importantly, leave immediately when you are asked to evacuate! Everything, except the human lives, can be rebuilt.

Keep your claim numbers at hand for easy reference. That helps insurers route you quickly to the claims department, which will have the most up-to-date info on your claim.