Protecting your home and car during a hurricane

Because Branch has our members’ backs, we want to help you prepare for natural disasters, keep you and your stuff safe, and minimize your risk of having to file a claim. Hurricanes and tropical storms are on the rise, and can be especially daunting, so it’s more important than ever to understand the risks and find ways to prepare.

Hurricane season is traditionally from April 15 (in the Pacific) or  June 1 (in the Atlantic and Caribbean) through November 30. A recent climate study suggests that hurricanes are expected to not only increase in frequency, but they’re also likely to be much more severe. They’re costly too. In fact, the range of costs to repair a home after a storm runs from $350 to nearly $50,000, and given how devastating hurricanes can be, repair costs are likely to be on the higher end of that range.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a tropical storm.

Frequently asked questions about hurricanes

  • How do I know if a hurricane is coming? 
    Your local government and weather officials will provide a warning or watch 36–48 hours prior.

  • How can a hurricane damage my home? 
    A mild hurricane will damage your home like rain or a windstorm will, while a more severe one can damage and even destroy the foundation of your home, making it uninhabitable.

  • How can I prevent a hurricane from damaging my home? 
    Insulating your home, sealing gaps and cracks, installing storm shutters, and roof clips can help defend against the wind and rain that comes with hurricanes.

  • Does home insurance cover hurricane-related damage? 
    Your insurance may cover damage caused by wind and rain. Flood damage typically isn’t covered by home insurance and requires a flood insurance policy.

  • Does my auto insurance cover storm-related damage to my car? 
    Comprehensive auto insurance will cover damage related to hurricanes. Standard collision coverage won’t.

What should I do to prepare for a hurricane?

Note: A hurricane watch is different from a hurricane warning. A watch is often sent out 48 hours in advance and is a sign that hurricane conditions are possible in your area. A hurricane warning is often given 36 hours in advance and is a sign that hurricane conditions are expected.

  1. Stock up: Have a supply of emergency-use food, water, medicine and first aid supplies, and power sources readily available. Keep any pet needs in mind, too.

  2. Secure your valuables: In worst-case scenarios, your home can be extremely damaged, causing loss or irreversible damage to certain possessions. Ensure important documents and assets are kept somewhere safe—place these items in watertight, sealable bags to prevent moisture and water from reaching them, and keep them in watertight containers. When in doubt, a waterproof document safe is the most foolproof option. Keeping documents dry and in an accessible container can help you recover faster after a storm. 

  3. Prep your car: If you are able, move your car into a garage. It’s a good idea to keep up with the maintenance of your vehicle, especially ahead of storm seasons or summer heat, in the event you need to leave in a hurry. Make sure your car is filled with gas and has an emergency kit stored inside so you can evacuate quickly if needed. Your car’s emergency kit should include jumper cables, flares, blankets, and sand (can be used to add traction when driving in hazardous conditions).

  4. Protect your home: Clear or secure any yard objects that may fly toward your home or windows. Install storm shutters on your windows, roof clips on your home, and garage door braces. Anchor your fuel tanks, and disconnect as many appliances and fixtures as possible. If there’s enough time, install surge protection on your electrical panels to further protect your home.

  5. Secure your interior: It’s a good idea to be aware of and prepare for the worst possibilities, including flooding in your home or winds damaging your structural foundation. Rearrange furniture and items to keep them above a certain height, board up your doors, and move any furniture or items that could fall and harm you or anyone in your household. 

  6. Prepare for evacuation: Pay attention to local alerts and guidelines, and have an evacuation kit or bag ready. If you have to evacuate, take only the most essential supplies and know what routes are available, as some roads may be flooded. If you’re being asked to evacuate, flooding is much more likely. Help prevent damage to your appliances by unplugging your devices, and shutting off power, gas, and water to help make recovery easier and smoother.

What should I do after a hurricane?

If you’re still at home… Check that your carbon monoxide detector is working in case any equipment is damaged and leaking CO2. Avoid using any wet electrical devices and opt for flashlights over candles to prevent fire risk. Stay inside until the storm has completely passed. Be wary of using tap water, as the water may not be clean to drink.

If you were forced to evacuate… Stay on top of alerts so you know when it’s safe to return to your home. Avoid downed power lines and similar hazards like damaged property and broken gas lines. Do not drive through standing water that’s above the center of your car’s wheels, so as to avoid flooding and damaging the engine bay.  When you do return to your home, board up any broken windows, dispose of furniture that has been overly saturated (like rugs and bedding), and dry up the rest of your furniture and walls to minimize water damage and prevent mold from building up.

If your home is uninhabitable… If it seems like there’s no chance of returning to your home or, in the worst-case scenario, your home has been extremely damaged, reach out to your insurance company to find accommodations. If any emergencies have been declared by the local government or the president, look for existing resources in the response, like FEMA. You may also be able to pause or delay mortgage payments due to the hurricane, so reach out to your mortgage provider to explore your options.

Filing insurance claims after a hurricane

Whether you stayed indoors, are returning to your home, or are looking for other accommodations, make sure you’re documenting your efforts, the resources spent including time and money, and taking photos of all the damage your home sustained along with any damaged furniture, goods, or items.

Keep in mind your homeowners policy will cover wind and rain damage, but will not cover flooding without an additional policy. As you begin the repair process, work with your insurance provider to find the right contractors, as scams are known to increase after major natural disasters.

And as a member, we’re always here to answer questions and help in any way that we can.