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The hurricane season is upon us, and since the greater Houston area is especially hurricane-prone, you should prepare your family and your property to minimize damage.
First, develop a family hurricane preparedness plan before an actual storm threatens your area. The Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas offers the following tips when developing a plan:
Discuss the type of hazards that could affect your family.
Know your home’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind.
Determine escape routes from your home and places to meet.
Be sure to have a plan for your pets if you need to evacuate.
Post emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call 911.
Have an out-of-state friend as a family contact, so all your family members have a single point to contact.
Take precaution to reduce damage to your home and property. Strengthen the exterior of your home to prevent damage from wind and debris.
As you prepare for hurricane season, don’t forget your insurance. Be sure your homeowners and flood coverage are both up to date. Review your insurance coverage to make sure it is adequate and familiarize yourself with any windstorm deductibles. Most hurricane damage is covered under a standard homeowner’s policy, but it is very important to insure your home and belongings to their full replacement cost at current value. Flooding is generally not covered under standard homeowner’s policies, so ask your agent about flood insurance.
Contact your insurance agent as soon as possible. Take pictures of damaged property and be sure to keep notes. Get at least three estimates, compare each item, and make sure warranties and guarantees are in writing. Do not be rushed into signing repair contracts.
Know where to turn. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have many resources available to help families prepare for what to do before, during and after disasters happen. Also, create a basic emergency kit using information, as recommended by FEMA at fema.gov. If your home is damaged in a storm, be aware of personal and physical safety measures and comply with the orders of local emergency authorities.
Natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, disasters also bring out scammers who choose to take advantage of the victims. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision. Be sure to check any contractors out with the Better Business Bureau by visiting BBBHouston.org or call 713-868-9500. As part of your preparation, it may be helpful to take some time to research contractors well in advance, so you have several options to consider, if your home sustains damage.
The Better Business Bureau is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. For information or to check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit www.bbbhouston.org, which includes our BBB Accredited Business Directory, or call 713-868-9500. Leah Napoliello is senior director of Investigative Services with the Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas. Send homeowner questions to Leah Napoliello, Better Business Bureau, 1333 West Loop South, Suite 1200, Houston, TX 77027, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Include mailing address and phone number on letters and emails.