Nature is powerful: No matter where you live on the planet, there is always a danger of some sort. Earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, droughts, mudslides, tsunamis and - hurricanes. June 1st was the start of the Hurricane Season for the East Coast of the U.S.
In the Lowcountry we must be prepared for the eventuality of a hurricane. Although none have had a direct hit on Charleston since Hurricane Hugo did in 1989, we need to be prepared for this potentially devastating event. From a personal point of view, hurricanes are predictable, pepole can evacuate and get out of the way. From a real estate perspective there are a few things that property owners should plan for in advance:
- Check your homeowners insurance policy. Make sure it that your policy includes wind & hail coverage, and that it is current (most people get their annual insurance premiums paid for by their lender).
- Buy flood insurance if you don't have it. Your hazard (homeowners) insurance policy does not cover damage to your home if the water rises from below (including sewer backup). The federal flood insurance program is very reasonable priced unless you live in a higher risk flood zone (My home is only 14 feet above mean high tide level, and I pay only $388/yr). However, be aware that this basic flood policy only covers the first $250,000 in property damage. If you need additional coverage you will need to purchase excess flood insurance (you can purchase both from most insurance carriers).
- Prepare an "evacuation package" of documents including copies of your insurance policies, so in the event of a disaster, you can initiate claims fast. Copy all important documents, family pictures and irreplaceable personal files onto a flash drive or DVD-ROM. Place this media, along with birth certificates, passports and all other important personal documents into a pouch or briefcase you can pick up on short notice.
- Make sure you have the tools, elements and plan to protect your home prior to a hurricane. Plywood boards or shutters for the windows; nails or screws and tools to attach them to the windows; and a neighbor or friend to team up with you to help you do it.
- Clean all gutters and debris from your roof. Trim tree limbs that are too close to the house.
- If you can afford it, buy an electric generator and store it in a high, dry place in your home.
It is always best to evacuate if advised to do so by the authorities - property can always be rebuilt or repaired, lives cannot. But adequate preparation will certainly make your life much easier after the incident.