Archive for August, 2011

The old adage “the calm after the storm” does NOT ALWAYS apply after a hurricane has caused significant damage.  

Understanding that we are all focused on making advance preparations for Hurricane Irene’s arrival, several I spoke with yesterday asked me what they should be doing AFTER the hurricane passes.   While many of these suggestions are common sense, I offer them as a reminder, and encourage you to know in advance what to do after the storm has passed.  

• If you have evacuated, wait until authorities tell you it’s safe before returning home.

• Be alert for tornadoes.

• Stay away from flood waters.

• Use a flashlight. Do not light matches or turn on electrical switches.

• Sniff for gas leaks. If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open windows and evacuate. If you have any concerns, have the gas system checked by a professional.

• Do not touch wires or outlets.

• Check for frayed cords and for cracked or broken prongs and plugs.

• Turn off the main electrical circuit switch. Be careful to stand on a dry surface and do not touch the metal handle of the switch box. Use a piece of heavy rubber, plastic or a piece of dry wood to open the metal door and throw the switch. Share your concerns with a licensed electrician.

• Watch for holes in the floor, loose boards or hanging plaster.

• If your home has been flooded, check for snakes and other animals that may have entered the property.

• Before you start cleaning up debris, prepare an inventory of all damaged or destroyed personal property. If you can, videotape or photograph the damage.

• Make temporary repairs to prevent further damage.

• Clean up any flammable or poisonous materials that may have been spilled.

• Dispose of all spoiled food immediately. If you have insurance coverage for spoiled food, document your losses.

• Hold off on permanent repairs until you’ve received approval for reimbursement.

• Save remnants of damaged or destroyed property for your insurance company adjuster, and do not sign agreements with contractors or anyone else until you have a chance to meet with your insurance adjuster.

• Keep a written record of everyone you talk to about your insurance claim, including the date of the conversation and a summary of what was said.

• Keep all receipts.

• Your pre-disaster home inventory will be of great assistance to you at this point. After you’ve examined everything and determined the extent of damage, call your insurance agent “as soon as possible” to file a claim.


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A colleague just shared with me that she felt ill-prepared for a hurricane, and sought some advice.  Offering such advice can be problematic, as I never know quite where to start. For example, I sure don’t want to be the guy who reminds others to have the obvious items —- bottled water, batteries, flashlights, etc.  Turns out my friend was not even sure she had any flashlights in her house.  I told her she might want to get one or two, and reminded her most require batteries.

This column is focused on the less obvious risk management lessons that I have learned from those in FL who have offered their valuable lessons having endured numerous hurricanes.  For example:

  • Wind will enter a home through the most vulnerable area, and that area is often the large exterior door of an attached garage.  Once winds enter a garage, they cause an “uplift” on the ceiling, creating pressure that removes the roof of the garage that often enable winds to enter the interior of the home. 
  • Since it is hard to know whether the door is inherently strong enough to resist hurricane force winds, steps should be taken to fortify it.
  • Consider parking the cars inside the garage so that the rear bumper abuts the garage door. Many in FL fortify their garage door with ply wood, 2 x 4 reinforcements, etc. to prevent the door from collapsing and wind from entering.
  • If you do not already own one, it may be a bit late to buy a generator locally.  Meanwhile, it may not be too late: all who use Amazon should be aware that the best way to assure fastest delivery is to select Amazon as the seller, and not one of the other resellers who market on their site. Many generators can be purchased from Amazon with a one day delivery option.  
  • For those with generators, it’s a good idea to test it to ensure it is operational, and to make sure there is ample fuel.
  • A comedian once observed that the danger in hurricanes is not THAT the wind is blowing, rather the danger arises from WHAT the wind is blowing. Please be sure to bring inside all that is outside that can be hurled through your windows!  Do not forget easily overlooked items like gas grills, portable propane tanks, and picnic tables.
  • Expect power surges before an outage, and unplug vulnerable electronic equipment.
  • For a much more complete list of suggestions, your tax dollars are hard at work providing this information: http://www.ready.gov/america/beinformed/hurricanes.html

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