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With a series of Hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast and Caribbean this season, Americans are left wondering what they can do to be ready for severe weather if and when it strikes. Let’s face it: it’s too late to prepare when natural disasters are on course to hit, so being proactive in addressing matters of home protection is the best step you can take. Here are some helpful ideas:

Flood Insurance

Since flood insurance is not mandatory for people residing in areas that are not deemed high risk, most homeowners forgo the coverage altogether. In fact, 80% of homeowners affected by Hurricane Harvey did not have any type of flood insurance, as they did not live in or near a flood zone. Since standard home insurance policies do not cover damage caused by rising waters, this statistic is real cause for concern.

The National Flood Insurance Institute states that, “...more than 20 percent of flood claims come from properties outside the high risk flood zone.” Pretty shocking, considering their site also states that, “...floods are the nation’s most common and costly natural disaster ...[causing] millions of dollars in damage every year.”

Most people believe a flood insurance policy would be exponential in price (hence declining the coverage all together), but a policy generated for a low risk flood area is usually only a few hundred dollars per year. You can look into purchasing flood insurance by visiting Fema’s flood insurance website, which can answer some of your specific questions and help you find a local agent.

Personal Property Protection

Even with homeowners and flood insurance, a price tag could never be placed on items of deep sentimental value. While it is important to ensure your possessions are adequately insured by scheduling your personal property, keepsakes and collectibles could never be fully replaced if lost in a flood (regardless of how much money you receive for them).

Consider renting a self-storage unit located in an area that is less at risk. With climate controlled units in various sizes and prices, locating one that would work well for you is simple. Plus, most facilities have 24/7 surveillance, so you can rest assured knowing your belongings are safe.

Evacuation Plans

It is of the utmost importance that you and your family have various evacuation routes and locations planned. Consider sitting down together to map out different places that would be safe to flee to depending upon the type of emergency, as well as back up locations if certain routes are not deemed safe to travel on (or are challenging to get to). A little extra planning can go a long way.

Anyone who says they're not afraid at the time of a hurricane is either a fool or a liar, or a little bit of both.” Anderson Cooper

Hurricane season is not something to be taken lightly, especially if you live on the Eastern Seaboard of Gulf Coast. By mapping out evacuation routes, determining insurance needs and appropriately storing valuable possessions, you can ensure you and your family are adequately prepared if the unexpected does occur.

(For opportunities to donate or be involved in recovery efforts for Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, please visit www.redcross.org.)