Sunday, June 25, 2017 01:55

How to Prepare for a Hurricane–After You Buy All of the Water, Batteries, and Gas in the Store

How to Prepare for a Hurricane–After You Buy All of the Water, Batteries, and Gas in the Store.  Though it looks like the worst of Hurricane Irene will miss Florida, there are still a few months left of hurricane season.  Unfortunately, many of us don’t prepare until a hurricane is barreling towards the state. Then, even when we do get ready for the storm, the preparations wisely focus on personal and property safety.  The usual list of advice includes: stocking up on water, batteries, and non-perishable foods; putting up shutters; and filling the car with gas.

While such preparations certainly are the most critical, if you have time (and ideally before the start of hurricane season) there are some other steps you can take to protect the legal and financial security of your family in the face of a potential threat.

1. Review Your Insurance Policies.  Make sure to read the terms of coverage as well as the dates of coverage to make sure there is no lapse.  Also, while many people have home insurance covered by escrow payments as part of a mortgage, it is quite common that flood or other optional insurance policies are not included.  Even if you pay for your own policy, floods (rising water damage) are not generally covered under standard homeowner policies. Though some may be required to have flood insurance, if you don’t, make sure to research it.  In particular, if you live in an area that is not high-risk, coverage can be very affordable and can give you peace of mind during stormy times. Also, don’t forget to have important phone numbers and contact information for your agent(s).

Flood Maps can be found HERE

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Insurance Information can be found HERE

2. Have Copies of All Important Documents. Make sure to have copies of all important legal or financial documents (not to mention personal documents or files such as photographs and letters).  Such documents may be critical to life immediately after the disaster. You can keep your documents (or stored computer data on a DVD or USB memory stick) in a safety deposit box, but remember that if a disaster area is sufficiently large or damaged, you may not get access to the bank for some time.  One other option is to scan them and either email to yourself or store online in data (cloud) storage.  However, make sure to properly secure any data you store online.

3. Home Inventory.  As part of insurance and copies of documents, it is important to document the items you own for keepsake and insurance purposes.  Anything you can do to prove to an insurance company will help you in justifying your claim—including photographs of items and sales receipts.

4. Plan Multiple Evacuation Routes. If it gets bad, your primary route may be congested, blocked, diverted, shut-down, or otherwise unavailable.  If possible, make sure to have more than one way out of “dodge.”

5. Don’t forget about pets. Many hurricane shelters do not allow pets, so make sure to make plans for these members of your family.

6. Watch Out for Price Gouging.  Under Florida Statute 501.160: during a state of emergency, it is unlawful to sell, lease, offer to sell, or offer for lease essential commodities, dwelling units, or self-storage facilities for an amount that grossly exceeds the average price for that commodity during the 30 days before the declaration of the state of emergency, unless the seller can justifying the price by showing increases in its prices or market trends. Examples of necessary commodities are food, ice, gas, and lumber.

The law only covers essentials and gouging is determined by comparing the reported price of the commodity or service during the state of emergency to the average price charged over the 30-day period prior to the declared state of emergency. If there is a “gross disparity” between the prior price and the current charge, it is considered price gouging.

If you suspect price gouging, there may not be much you can do in the immediacy of a hurricane or natural disaster.  However, you may still want to  obtain as much information as possible in the form of estimates, invoices, receipts or bills to report the violator to the authorities. When comparing products, note as much information as possible, including the product name, size or quantity, manufacturer, item number and unit price. For lumber products, note the grade, thickness and quality. If it is a service such as storage or towing, note the per-mile (or other distance) charge, removal charges, per-day storage charges and other charges such as security, clean up or other “add-ons.” Report this information to the Attorney General’s Price Gouging Hotline at 1-866-966-7226. You may also report violations online at http://myfloridalegal.com or mail documents to the following address:

Office of the Attorney General
The Capitol, PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050

Please remember to include your name, the name of the company or individual, and a complaint number, if you received one.

UPDATE: This is a link to a great article that covers the basics of preparation, and also has some good technical information on backing up and protecting your data.

If you need assistance reviewing your insurance policies, updating or securing your important documents, or you are the victim of price gouging, please contact The Gordon Law Firm in Oldsmar, Florida.  The Gordon Law Firm serves all of Pinellas County including Clearwater and St. Petersburg, Pasco County, Tampa, and the entire Tampa Bay area.  The Gordon Law Firm can help you understand your rights and seek justice or represent your needs to the authorities regarding those who may have taken advantage of you in a time of need.

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