MIAMI — While it’s still too soon to determine the exact path of the next storm moving westward across the Atlantic after Isaac, it’s never too early to prepare.
The Miami-Dade County’s Consumer Protection Section of the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, Business Affairs Division, reminds South Florida residents that hurricane preparedness isn’t just about protecting your family and property against the effects of extreme wind and rain. It’s also about creating a plan ahead of time by organizing the important documents you might need in case of an emergency.
The agency offers these consumer tips:
Check your insurance — Review all current insurance policies before the storm season, especially flood or property insurance. A policy that was written several years ago may not reflect the value of your home today, especially if you've made additions or renovations. Inquire if any home, health, or other insurance policy you may have will pay for temporary shelter, replacement clothing, furniture, or other items if you are affected by a hurricane.
Renters Insurance — If you are a renter, it is a good idea to purchase renters insurance. This may come as a shock, but most landlord tenant leases do not protect your personal property in the event of a hurricane. It is a common misperception among renters that they are covered by their landlord's insurance. Your landlord's insurance is not going to protect your personal property — it only protects the building.
A renters insurance policy can pay if personal property is damaged or stolen. Renters insurance can cover fire and smoke damage, theft, vandalism, damage from windstorms and hail, damage from explosions, water damage from plumbing problems, and many other hazards. It also protects from liability if an accident happens in your home and may pay your temporary living expenses if an emergency forces you to leave your home.
Take an inventory of your property — Take an inventory of personal property such as clothes, jewelry, furniture, computers and audio/video equipment, and document it with photos and/or a video. Keep sales receipts in a safe place along with the model and the serial numbers of the items in your household. This will make filing a post-hurricane/disaster insurance claim much simpler.
Secure your documents — Secure all important documents and valuables in a safe location and store them in waterproof containers, or in a safe deposit box. This includes but is not limited to birth certificates, marriage certificates, social security cards, passports, and automobile and homeowners insurance documents. If evacuation is required, take the items with you.
Flood proof your home — Flood zones are rated on a standard used by most federal and state agencies. How likely is it that a flood will hit your home? Use the online Flood Zone Finder (gisweb.miamidade.gov/floodzone/) to determine the risk level for your home. If you live in a flood zone, find out whether you can do anything to flood proof your home now. Also, purchase flood insurance and visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s floodsmart.gov site to obtain more information. There is a 30-day waiting period before flood insurance goes into effect, so don’t delay.
Flood proof your business — Most standard insurance policies do not cover flood damage and the resulting loss of income. Flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters, condo owners/ renters and commercial owners/renters. Costs vary depending on how much insurance is purchased, what it covers, and the property's flood risk. Coverage for your building and contents is available. Typically, there's a 30-day waiting period from date of purchase before your policy goes into effect. That means now is the best time to buy flood insurance.
For more consumer tips, to check the complaint history of a company, to file a complaint or ask consumer-related questions, visit the department website, miamidade.gov/business, or call 305-375-3677.