Hurricane season can be concerning for homeowners and travellers alike. If you’re in Canada during a hurricane, you want to ensure your family, home and all property stay safe. Do you have the right home insurance coverage? Will it protect you in a hurricane, storm or severe flood? If you’re travelling or abroad, you might also have concerns. Hurricane season is June to November. That’s a large window that can disrupt your travel plans if you don’t plan in advance of your trip.
You might worry about flight cancellations or property damage if you’re staying at a hotel or private rental. And, what if you’re away when a hurricane occurs back in Canada? Do you have the proper insurance in place? Depending on where you live, some regions won’t let you purchase hurricane insurance after a hurricane or tropical storm watch is issued. Hence, you need to prepare in advance.
Use these hurricane season preparedness tips so you won’t be left in the dark.
When is Hurricane Season?
Hurricane season is typically June through November. If you’re travelling overseas, you should check the forecasts before making hotel and flight reservations. Areas that might be affected by hurricanes include the U.S. gulf coasts, Mexico, Central America and Canada’s Atlantic Coast. Not every area is affected by storms but the weather can be unpredictable.
Hurricanes at a category one or two aren’t severe. But, for hurricanes that reach category four or five, these can be catastrophic and sometimes fatal. Hence, it’s best to monitor the weather during these travel months and travel only with travel insurance to safeguard your trip.
Travel insurance comes in many forms, including:
- Flight delay and cancellation coverage
- Trip interruption and cancellation coverage
- Lost and damaged baggage coverage
- Medical coverage if you need to visit a doctor, dentist or go to the ER
Will My Home Insurance Cover All My Hurricane Damage?
In Canada and some parts of the U.S., once the government issues a warning or travel advisory it's usually too late to purchase travel insurance. Hence, you need to prepare for hurricane season early. Start with your home insurance policy. Standard home insurance policies may cover damage caused by rain, hail, and wind. If you live near a flood zone, you might need additional coverage specifically for floods. Flooding is considered rising water that comes up over land like from a river or lake.
How Do I Know What Insurance Will Replace?
Talk to your home insurance representative about your particular policy. Ask if you are covered for the replacement value or actual value.
- Take an inventory of the belongings you own for insurance purposes. Take photos and videos and include serial numbers from the electronics you own.
- If you live in an area that floods a lot, move collections, photo albums and electronics from the basement to a higher floor.
- If you get a lot of rain damage from leaks in your roof, make the necessary repairs and don’t store expensive personal property or keepsakes in the attic.
Will My Home Insurance Cover Damage to My Car?
No, if a hurricane destroys or damages your car, you have to file a claim with your car insurance provider. Here’s an example.
A tree falls onto your home and car. You would file a claim with your home insurance provider for the damage to your home. Then, file a separate claim with your auto insurer for the damage to your vehicle.
- Carry comprehensive coverage on your vehicles. This ensures you have coverage from a storm or hurricane.
- If you have more than one vehicle, consider a multi-vehicle policy.
- You might also want to bundle home and auto insurance for discounted premiums.
Will My Home Be Covered by Insurance If I Leave Before a Storm?
Your home or flood insurance and windstorm coverage are in place during a storm whether you’re home or evacuated. However, you should check your policy. Some policies might have specific timelines for how long a homeowner can be away before their policies are considered void. You’ll also want to prepare your home to prevent it from becoming vandalized or damaged by the storm. And, make sure you have copies of your insurance documents online.
To safeguard your property:
- Use shutters to protect your windows or add plywood over them
- Move any lawn furniture and movable outdoor fixtures like plants inside
- Bring in all garbage cans and grills
- Unplug all your appliances and turn off the water valve and electricity
- With evacuations, let neighbours know where to find you
If you have to stay with friends or relatives or in a shelter during a hurricane, your expenses are not covered by home insurance. However, If you return home and your home is unlivable, home insurance will cover living expenses.
What Should I Do After the Hurricane? How Do I File Insurance Claims?
After authorities state it’s safe to return home, you can assess your home and property for any damages. Take pictures and video to substantiate your insurance claims. You will need to take steps to reduce damage or your insurance might not cover the additional costs. Let’s look at an example.
You have windows that were shattered and a hole in your roof. Instead of making repairs, you leave the window and your property is then vandalised. Rainwater comes into your roof and you now have a mold issue. Your insurer can deny the additional damage costs.
- Put plywood or tarps over any broken windows and put a tarp over the roof until it can be repaired.
- Keep track of the repairs you made and save any receipts you have.
- Contact your insurer as soon as you return to the property to file your claim.
- Get an inventory of all the property you have that’s damaged for insurance purposes. You can use your images and video before versus your images and video now.
- Keep an account of the insurance representatives you speak with, dates and times.
- Note who is repairing your home and get their contact information in case you need it in the future.
- For repairs, get bids in writing and only use licensed contractors.
- Don’t make major repairs or discard damaged personal belongings until your insurer inspects the property.
- If you have to stay elsewhere while repairs are being made, save your hotel and food receipts. You may be reimbursed for these by your insurer.
- Talk to your insurer. If you think your settlement isn’t fair, you can ask for more claim damage money but you might need to speak with an attorney or contact a public adjuster. Contact your insurance regulator if you need to file a complaint or have concerns.
Travel Tips for Hurricane Season
If you are planning on travelling during hurricane season, here are a few tips:
- Check the country’s travel advisories before you make reservations and before you leave
- Purchase travel insurance to cover flight and hotel cancellations.
- Give friends and family your itinerary (but not on social media - sometimes thieves prey on homes when people are away).
- Fill in the emergency contact section in your passport. Give a copy of your insurance and travel documents to a trusted friend or family member.
- Sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad site for emergency services while travelling.
- Reference hurricane preparedness tips in the country you’re visiting.
- Get up-to-date forecast information for your area and where you’re travelling to before you leave.
- Prepare an emergency kit with blankets, warm clothing, a portable radio, and batteries. It should also have a flashlight, food and water and any medications for you and your pets.
- Decide where to shelter your pets in a location away from potentially affected areas
- If you’re affected by a hurricane, turn on a radio for announcements. Local authorities may also be in the area making announcements. If you have to evacuate, listen for instructions from local authorities. Take your emergency kit with you and make sure it includes any medications you need.
- Call the nearest embassy or consulate or contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Canada. It’s available 24-hours for Canadians in need of emergency assistance at (800) 387-3124 or (613) 996-8885 (calls can be collect where service is available). You can also email them at [email protected].
Safeguard Your Travel with the Best Travel Insurance
No one can predict how hurricane season can affect an area. But, you can protect your trip and safeguard your home. Contact your insurer to verify that you're carrying the right home insurance coverage. And, confirm if you need to purchase flood insurance. If you're heading abroad, purchase travel insurance for flights, hotels and medical care.
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