In our Weather Watchers series, we provide advice to help you properly prepare for – and deal with – all different kinds of severe weather events.
“I can’t wait for the next big storm to strike!” … said literally no one ever.
Let’s face it – severe weather sucks. It can happen anytime, anywhere, without any notice. And even if you do get a heads up, storms and the like are predictably unpredictable and can wreak havoc on you, your home and your car.
While there’s no way to be severe-weather proof, you can prepare yourself ahead of time so when the next big weather event occurs, you can minimize the impact as much as possible.
Here are six tips for riding out the next extreme weather event.
- Familiarize yourself with your locale’s local weather
It may seem like a no-brainer, but if you aren’t already aware of the types of severe storms that hit in your ‘hood, it’s time to do some research. Conducting simple Google searches, such as “common weather events in [x] area”, visiting local weather sites and even just asking around should get you up to speed quickly.
- Stay alert with weather alerts
The next step to mastering weather preparedness is understanding which types of alerts and warning systems are available in your region. There are a few main alerts and systems used by public safety officials to notify people about imminent severe weather. They include:
- Wireless Emergency Alerts: sent by state and local officials as a special text message with a unique sound and vibration
- Emergency Alert System: a national public warning system that allows the President to address Americans on TV during any type of national emergency
- NOAA Weather Radio: a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting weather information such as official warnings, watches and forecasts
In addition, consider downloading apps such as The Weather Channel, AccuWeather and Dark Sky for real-time updates. Adjust your settings to get notifications when bad weather is about to hit, so you can seek shelter or do any last-minute home prep.
- Check your stuff before weather wrecks your stuff
Don’t wait until a storm hits – and your mind is in a million places – to assess your assets. Instead, create an inventory of all of your possessions ahead of time to make the insurance claim process easier and more efficient, should you end up needing to file. The Insurance Information Institute (III) provides the following tips to get started:
- Pick an easy spot within your house to begin
- List recent purchases
- Include basic information
- Count clothing by general category
- Record serial numbers
- Check coverage on big ticket items
- Don’t forget off-site items
- Keep proof of value
Check out additional advice from the III for making a home inventory.
- Give your family the 411
Ideally, you’d be with your family when bad weather happens, but it’s not always realistic. So, make sure you’re on the same page with family members when it comes to a severe weather game plan. This includes how you’ll communicate with each other during a weather event. Consider creating a group text ahead of time so you can contact all family members in one fell swoop.
From there, think through such factors as how you’ll receive official alerts and warnings, available shelter options and what an evacuation route would be, if needed. Next, consider any specific needs your family or household has, and tailor your plan. For instance, if a family member requires medical prescriptions or equipment, make sure that information is recorded in your plan so it can be communicated to those in your network who may help during an emergency.
Check out Ready.gov’s downloadable Family Emergency Plan for a great starting point.
- Ensure you’re properly insured
Unfortunately, no matter how much you prepare for bad weather, you can’t really stop a storm from inflicting damage on your home or car. That’s why it’s important to have proper insurance – and get that insurance in place BEFORE dangerous events. Many insurance companies place restrictions on purchasing new insurance a certain number of days prior to the start of a storm. So, if you live in a high-risk area, or you’re entering a common storm or natural disaster season, make sure you get your insurance in place well ahead of time.
When it comes to your car, you likely have liability and collision insurance, but in order to be properly covered for weather-related damage, you also need comprehensive insurance. This is optional coverage for weather-related damage and will raise your premium by about $31 every six months.
In terms of homeowners insurance, most policies cover average weather-related issues, from wind-driven rain to the collapse of a structure. Hazard insurance is something that most plans include, and it refers to the part of your policy that protects the structure of your home from natural disasters. Some insurance companies may assign additional deductibles for wind and hail damage, plus a deductible for other covered perils, in order to keep your homeowners policy affordable.
Wildfires are usually covered by insurance as well, the exception being if you live in a high-risk area susceptible to these fires. So, make sure to check your homeowners insurance policy.
What else may not be covered? Issues such as interior water damage from a storm – when there’s no damage to the roof or walls – isn’t covered under standard policies. Damage from floods or earth movement won’t be covered either; for that type of destruction, you’ll need to purchase a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program or a private insurer, plus additional coverage for your personal possessions.
- Try not to stress
OK, before you roll your eyes at this one, just remember there’s no point in panicking about a storm that hasn’t even happened yet and/or may never happen. Plus, by following the above tips for general preparedness, you should feel confident knowing you’re in the best place you can be when and if that severe weather comes rolling in.