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Archive for January, 2009

Hurricane-Proof Your Home

 
As we edge closer to another hurricane season in the New York/Long Island area, preparing your house for disaster should be a priority.

 

Whether your home is old or new, it may not be able to withstand hurricane force winds.  To protect your home, the American Red Cross recommends that you focus in on three particular areas of your home: the roof, the windows and the doors (including a garage door if you have one).

 

 

Hurricane Roof Damage

Hurricane Roof Damage

 Window Protection:

 Unprotected windows are very vulnerable to wind damage and damage from wind blown debris therefore it is critical that you protect them. The easiest and most effective way to protect them is with storm shutters. Steel is the best and the most expensive. Aluminum and plywood shutters are also available.    

  

 

These are readily obtainable from many building supply stores, including Home Depot and Lowes.  If you live in a hurricane or storm-prone area, you may want to also think about installing impact resistant windows according to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. These windows are designed to withstand flying debris. Also be aware that taping your windows will not protect them and is not effective.

 

Storm-Proof the Roof:
Another vulnerable area of your home is the roof. During a hurricane, the wind can actually get underneath the roof shingle and peel it off the roof.  The Federal Alliance for Safe Home recommends you go to your local building supply store and get premium flooring adhesive. Apply with a caulking gun to the underside of your roofwhere the roof and the support beams meet. Be sure to look for an adhesive that has been tested and has a strong rating.

 

Hurricane Damage to Garage Door

Hurricane Damage to Garage Door

Even the best methods of roof and window protection is not enough if you don’t also protect your doors (including your garage door). The garage door is potentially the largest and weakest opening of your home to a hurricane. According to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes about 80% of residential hurricane wind damage starts with wind entry through garage doors, making this a critical area to reinforce.  However, many garage doors are made of lightweight materials that make it vulnerable to hurricane damage. A qualified inspector can determine if both the door and the track system can resist high winds and, if necessary, help replace them with a stronger system.  
 
Pay special attention to any sliding glass doors that you may have, as they are more vulnerable to wind damage than most other doors. When building a home or replacing a door, you should consider impact resistant door systems. As a temporary measure, you can cover the entire patio door with plywood.
 
Finally, periodically review your home insurance policy with your agent and make sure you are properly covered BEFORE disaster strikes.
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In New York, particularly on Long Island in Nassau County, Suffolk County, Queens County, Brooklyn County, and Richmond County, homeowners may be faced with the prospect of trying to obtain home insurance (or having existing insurance) for a home that they own which is on or close to the water. In recent years this has become a complicated challenge.

A Flooded House on Long Island
A Flooded House on Long Island

Most insurance companies have restrictions based on the homes’ proximity to the ocean and other tidal waters, therefore, it becomes important know the obstacles you are up against BEFORE you purchase that dream house. The cut-off for most companies is 2500 feet of the ocean or tidal bay, although this may vary.

In recent years, the increased hurricane activity and the over-development along waterfront property has put more homes in harms way of wind and water damage. To limit exposure to these catastrophic storms and hurricanes, many insurance carriers have introduced wind or hurricane deductibles into their policies. This deductible typically can be 2%, 5% or 7% of your dwelling coverage, which can be a hefty amount.  For example, if your dwelling coverage is $250,000, your 5% deductible will be $12,500. You should therefore review your home insurance policy and understand this important deductible language. You must understand:

1. What % deductible your policy carries (2%, 5%, 7%) 

2. What triggers the deductible to apply (a windstorm, a category one or category two hurricane).

Another important consideration when insuring your home near any body of water should be flood insurance, as your home policy will not normally cover damages arising out of a flood. In New York, companies selling the National Flood Insurance policy can help you with this coverage. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has established flood zones for your home’s location and the insurance premium will be based upon that flood zone.  For example, premiums for $250,000 of dwelling coverage will range from $338 annually in the most desirable “X” zone and could be as much as $1,000-2,000 in the more vulnerable “A” zone.   

As insurance companies re-evaluate their risk management in the New York coastal areas it is more important than ever to continually review your home insurance policy and set up a meeting with your agent to make sure you are properly covered. The cost for this “insurance check-up” should be free, and could give you some much needed peace of mind knowing that you are properly covered before disaster strikes.

A Flooded Street in NYC
A Flooded Street in NYC

If you are one of the unfortunate policyholders that have received a non-renewal notice due to your home’s location you should not panic, as you will have a couple of months to secure new coverage. First, try and get a referral from the company that is cancelling you, as they may have a relationship with a local broker that is able to write your insurance. And secondly, make sure you try and stay with a financially secure and reputable company.

 

 

 

 

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