Summer is typically seen as the season of relaxation with time to grill and time to chill. Unfortunately, not every day can be lazy and hazy since severe summer storms can cause massive damage to your home.
That’s why we reached out to Jon Zabek, Executive Vice President, Membership Expansion and Chief Data Scientist for Franklin Mutual Insurance. Jon has more than 15 years of experience in the insurance field and shared with us storm preparedness tips homeowners need to protect their families, home, and belongings this summer!
Q: What are the most frequent claims you see regarding storm damage and homes?
JZ: Tree and limb damage to property, gutter damage, wind damage to roof or siding, water damage due to sump pump failure or water backup in sewers.
It’s important to review if there is flood potential, to have a flood policy, as flooding is not covered by a standard homeowners policy.
Q: While storms can happen anytime of the year, is there a specific season or timeframe where homeowners should be more alert for storms and potential damage?
JZ: Hurricane season is officially June 1st through November 30th. In recent years, we have seen increased storm activity during this season. Not only major hurricanes with wind activity but other storm events have had significant amounts of precipitation in short periods of time.
Some of the steps we’ll discuss are relevant for storms outside of this time period as well. There have been winter storms that have also contributed to lengthy periods of time of power outages, heavy snow contributing to trees falling, as well as soggy ground at the end of the winter causing trees to be uprooted. A general storm preparedness plan helps in many situations.
Q: What are some tips homeowners should know regarding thunderstorm and summer storm preparedness?
JZ: Here are a few tips from trusted resources to help homeowners prepare for an upcoming storm:
- Clean your home’s drains and gutters. If you’re in an area prone to hurricanes, consider installing hurricane shutters.
- Bring in outside furniture and any loose objects around your property.
- Trim surrounding trees and branches that could fall upon your home and damage it.
- Move your car to a safe location, either inside a garage and against the garage doors or on higher ground that won’t flood.
- Identify a “shelter room” that has no windows and is ideally on the first floor of your home.
- When a storm is in the forecast, power up your cell phone and all backup charging devices.
- Contact your insurance agent to make sure your policies are up to date. Ensure any personal documents are updated as well and keep all your documents in a digital space, such as FMI HomeAssist or vipHomeLink.
Maintaining your home always comes with some danger, so we recommend you contact an expert tradesperson to complete any tasks outside of your capacity.
If you needed to evacuate, always take caution when returning home. Ready.gov has an informative guide with tips to help you stay safe once you return home.
Q: Should homeowners wait until a storm is forecasted, or should they tackle these items on a routine basis?
JZ: If you do not currently have a plan or haven’t taken steps to secure or protect your home, it’s a great time to review the recommendations in this article and tackle them while you can. Some of these items may take days to complete or are reliant on others to assist or supplies being available. In a catastrophe scenario, it may be difficult to complete these items.
Q: Are there certain home improvements you suggest homeowners complete?
JZ: Your roof should be checked every year (or after major events such as hailstorms) for signs of damage. Fix any cracked, broken or displaced tiles. Buildup of dirt should be removed as it can block the drainage channels on the underside of tiles. Damaged roof sheeting may need to be patched or replaced. Check inside your roof space. Light shining through may indicate that your roof or sarking (waterproof insulation membrane) is damaged.
Working on a roof can be dangerous, so we recommend you contact an expert tradesperson if in doubt about your capacity to check or maintain your roof. Have your roof inspected by an expert tradesperson every 5-7 years. They can identify and remedy issues such as re-pointing, re-bedding and replacing the ridge or hip caps.
Protect windows, doors and skylights with appropriate shutters or impact-resistant glass. You can nail pieces of plywood to window frames as last-minute protection.
Q: Are there any smart home devices you recommend homeowners install that can help reduce the impact of storm damage?
JZ: Smart home devices are becoming widely available and give you additional safety and security during an event. Water sensors can alert you in the event water is coming in through your basement. In this case, you may be able to check that any drainage pipes or gutters are blocked, and if safe to do so, unblock those to reduce any further damage. Also, this may indicate that a sump pump may be failing. If possible, check to make sure the breakers haven’t been triggered.
Smart plugs are a simple way to automate the wired devices in your home. To set it up, all you have to do is plug it into an outlet and then connect it to your Wi-Fi network by following the directions in the compatible app on your phone or tablet. Then, you simply plug a wired appliance, like a lamp or a fan, into your smart plug and you’ll now be able to control them on your phone from wherever you are. In the case of a storm, you may be able to turn off items even if you are not in your home at that time or the items are in an inaccessible location. Some smart plugs have built in surge protection to also protect you from lightning damage.
Q: How can homeowners prepare for severe thunderstorms and hurricanes from an insurance standpoint?
JZ: Your home and belongings are some of the most important possessions you have. In the event of a storm or hurricane, stress levels and the amount of time you have may impact how prepared you can be. It is important to review your insurance policies ahead of time to make sure you have proper coverage to protect your home and belongings.
With the historic levels of inflation that we are seeing, it is important to review with your agent if you have proper coverage. A proper analysis may not be possible to complete within a short window of time or more importantly finding out after the event. Going through proper planning can help limit damage that may occur as well as have proper plans for you and your loved ones to stay safe during the event.
Q: Are there certain endorsements or separate policies you suggest homeowners should consider prior to storm season?
JZ: Review and consult with your agent that you have proper Coverage A (the limit that is payable to replace or repair your home structure) and Coverage C (the limit that is payable for personal property damage). There are also other endorsements to protect valuable items such as jewelry or art that you would need to provide an appraised value for ahead of time.
Be prepared for every season
When you download the vipHomeLink home management app, you’ll join a neighborhood of homeowners who enjoy a simplified homeownership experience. You can organize, maintain, and improve your home right from the palm of your hand! You’ll receive reminders when it’s time to complete certain tasks or schedule home maintenance services, saving you from costly repairs.
Join the neighborhood today! Download the vipHomeLink app now from Google Play and the App Store!
Any offers that appear on the vipHomeLink site, in our content, vipTIPs or other recommendations are for the convenience and benefit of our members. vipHomeLink may receive compensation from any purchases that are made by our members. If you elect to use or purchase products or services from third parties, you are subject to the third parties’ policies with respect to your information and to their terms and conditions. vipHomeLink does not warrant or guarantee any third-party products or services advertised on or linked from our site.