Hurricane Survival

Prepare for the worst

Avoid complacency and gain peace of mind
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Bermuda has been lucky enough in recent hurricane seasons that those awful storms of the past are starting to feel like a distant memory. The danger is that even though we’re repeatedly warned about the growing threat of storms in the Atlantic, we allow ourselves to drop our guard.

Freisenbruch, the insurance company, stressed the importance of staying alert when it comes to securing your property before a hurricane.

“Always treat each storm as though this is your first time experiencing one,” said Maureen Callender, team leader and senior underwriter of the firm’s Property & Casualty Department.

“Never be too complacent during storm preparation. Ensure you draft an emergency plan to use in advance of a storm and always plan for the worst-case scenario that would expose your property and life.

“Unfortunately, you can never anticipate the potential impact of an impending storm and need to always be prepared.”

Freisenbruch provided the following advice to secure your property before a storm:

  • Check hurricane shutters and windows to ensure they are in a good state. If you don’t have shutters, board up your home using wooden boards
  • Caulk around windows and doors to prevent water leaks
  • Review the state of your roof for cracks or damage
  • Secure or store away outdoor furniture, children’s toys, bicycles or any other items that might become airborne and act as missiles. Strap outdoor sheds to the ground
  • Cut surrounding trees and clear bushes around your home and remove any debris around your yard

It’s sensible to take some of this action periodically – such as checking your roof – and vital you don’t leave any of it until the last minute.

“Storms can be unpredictable and there may be changes in direction or movement that may result in potential impact being felt before the expected date,” Ms Callender said. “Additionally, there may be associated stronger wind activity before a storm.”

Sacha Bearden, owner of the building supplies store Baptiste, offered tips on protecting your windows and doors.

“Windows break because something hits them,” Ms Bearden said. “What do you have lying around your yard that could get picked up by the wind and go through a glass door or a window? It might be plant pots or lawn furniture, or that tree that has some dodgy looking branches on it – just trim it back so that the branches won’t get blown at the window.”

Other tips include:

  • Make sure the latches and sashes on your windows are in good order, and screw in temporary panels to give protection during a storm
  • If you’ve got an old door that doesn’t quite shut, adjust the hinges so it closes up more snugly
  • If you have gaps between your doors/windows and their frames, plug them with self-adhesive weatherstripping.

“There’s so much you can do to make a door or window work better,” Ms Bearden said. “Self-adhesive weatherstripping is such a simple DIY solution to leaky doors or windows.”

Ms Bearden can personally vouch for the difference roll shutters can make to your sense of security, if you can afford them.

“In the past, I would always put plywood or panels on my big sliding doors in my living room and it always required a lot of preparation,” she said.

“A couple of years ago I finally had enough money to get some roll shutters to go on the big sliding doors in my living room and, my, what a difference it made to my sanity!

“To be able to just turn the handle and crank down these roll shutters and sit in my living room and feel safe was such a relief. Best investment ever!”

One common mistake, Ms Bearden said, is putting tape on windows.

“Windows are tempered glass and strong enough to hold back the wind,” she said. “The only time it is going to break is if something hits it. And at that point the tape is not going to do anything. It’s not necessary.”

The storm to cause the most destruction in recent years was Hurricane Humberto, which damaged hundreds of roofs in 2019.

According to Freisenbruch, another regular oversight is failing to get sufficient insurance.

Many people, Ms Callender said, do not consult their insurance provider to ensure their policy is up to date and covers the replacement value of their home.

“While there is no legal requirement for home insurance, if you are looking to obtain a mortgage or are re-mortgaging your home, your lender requires you to have building coverage in place,” she said.

“This is because they are at risk too, as their money is secured against the property. However, it is frequently observed that some homeowners opt out of continuing their home insurance cover once their bank loans have been paid off.”

This is known as self-insurance, where the homeowner maintains a fund to cover possible losses rather than paying for an insurance policy. Ms Callender warned this brings added financial risk and uncertainty surrounding potential loss to the homeowner.

“If you suffer a larger than anticipated loss or a series of smaller losses, the nest egg could be depleted quickly,” she said. “Large or repeat losses are difficult to predict and tough to self-insure against.”

Many homeowners are underinsured, which means they don’t have enough insurance to cover the replacement value of the items they are insuring.

“If you do not have the right level of contents or buildings insurance, you might have to pay more out of pocket when you submit a claim and result in you being unable to claim for your full loss,” Ms Callender said.

“To overcome this predicament, we encourage our clients to have their property valued regularly.”

Freisenbruch’s agents are available by calling 294-4665 to help explain the sums insured, which can increase over time and should represent the full cost to rebuild or replace items in the event of a total loss.

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