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Protecting Your Home From Lighting.

Lightning strikes can be a threat to both property and public safety, causing nearly $1 billion in property damage in the United States each year and claiming dozens of lives.

Lightning strikes homes

Although summer is the most likely time for lightning, it can strike anytime there is a thunderstorm. Lightning generates intense heat that can surge through electronic circuits, burn through plumbing and set structures ablaze, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

In 2014, lightning strikes cost $739 million in homeowners’ insurance losses, up 9.7 percent from 2013. The average lightning property damage claim by homeowners was $7,400 in 2014, up 26 percent from 2013. Florida saw the most homeowner insurance lightning claims in 2014, followed by Georgia and Texas, according to III.

To help prevent lightning from damaging your property, consider using a lightning protection system. These systems are designed to redirect lightning from high points on structures and guide the electrical currents safely to the ground along metal conductors.

You should consider a lightning protection system if:

  • Your home or structure already has experienced a lightning strike.
  • You live in an area that often has thunderstorms.
  • Your structure is located on higher ground or projects above surrounding properties.
  • Your structure contains sensitive electrical equipment. According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, most homes today have from $5,000 to as much as $500,000 worth of electrical and electronic equipment inside.

Lightning protection systems should be installed by certified specialists who work within the guidelines of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 780 “Standard for Lightning Protection Systems” and the NFPA 70 “National Electric Code.” UL offers a Master Label® certificate as evidence that a lightning protection system is installed in compliance with applicable nationally recognized standards.

The Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) recommends that the contractor you hire is listed with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and holds certification with LPI. You can view a list of certified contractors at the LPI website. There is also an online directory for UL Listed lightning protection system installers.

In addition to a lightning protection system, there are other ways to further improve your protection. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) recommends having a licensed electrician inspect your telephone, power, electrical and cable/satellite television connections, and ensure your power line connection and power distribution panel are grounded correctly.

Tips for Staying Safe During a Thunderstorm

Since most lightning strikes occur during a thunderstorm, you should take the recommended steps to keep safe. Until the storm has passed, stay away from windows and doors and avoid handling faucets or other plumbing, and do not touch electrical appliances or equipment.

If your home is struck by lightning and you have corrugated stainless steel natural gas tubing present (CSST), there is the potential for the lightning strike to produce gas leaks in the CSST. If there is no smoke, fire or imminent danger from the lightning strike, you should shut off the gas supply and contact the gas company to have them check the piping for leaks.

If someone is struck or otherwise injured by lightning, seek medical help immediately.

If your structure is struck by lightning, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration advises the following recommended steps:

  • Evacuate if you see fire or smoke and telephone 911.
  • Ask firefighters to use thermal imaging equipment to check for hot spots inside walls.
  • Make sure your smoke detectors are working.
  • Have a licensed electrician check your structure’s wiring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “Protecting Your Home From Lighting” Web blog post. Prepare & Prevent. Travelers Insurance. 17 August 2017. 

Prepare For The Storm.

Trim trees. Flying branches and falling trees are some of the most common — and expensive — causes of damage during hurricane season. And you may get stuck with a big chunk of the bill. Your homeowners insurance policy will generally cover damage to your home caused by trees, but it usually pays no more than $500 to $1,000 for tree removal, even though it can cost a few thousand dollars to clean up a fallen tree (see When a Tree Falls in Your Neighbor’s Yard for more information about insurance and fallen trees). Bob Welther, assistant vice-president of the risk consulting group for insurer ACE Private Risk Services, recommends having an arborist come out each spring to inspect the trees near your home to identify any branches that could come crashing down.

Clean gutters and waterproof your house. Remove leaves and other debris from your gutters, which can clog them and send water pouring down the side of your house or under the roof. And check for cracks that could let water into your house. Welther recommends that you inspect your roof and make sure none of the shingles or tiles are damaged and that the vents are all sealed so wind-driven rain won’t enter your house.

Get a backup sump pump. Last week’s rains reminded people how important it can be to have a good sump pump, especially if you have a finished basement. If your sump pump stops working or gets overloaded, the water could pour into your house — and the damage may not be covered by insurance (see below). Have a battery backup for your sump pump, in case the electricity goes out. Even better, says Welther, is to add a battery-powered sump pump as a second pump, which gives you twice the capacity.

Secure your yard. The grading of your yard can determine whether storm water runs away from your home or into it. Damage from water that seeps through your walls or floors may not be covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Also, secure lawn furniture and other outdoor items before a storm arrives, so strong winds don’t turn them into projectiles.

Consider installing storm shutters. Storm shutters can do a lot to protect your home from hurricanes and other big storms. You’ll need time to buy them and have them installed, so don’t wait until the last minute. Contact your homeowners insurer first to see what kind of shutters you would need to qualify for a discount on your premiums. Also see Protect Your Home in a FLASH, from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, for other home improvements that can protect your home from hurricanes, and you can get other ideas by entering your zip code at DisasterSafety.org for a list of common risks in your area and advice to help you protect your home.

Prepare a disaster kit. Put together an emergency kit that can help if you lose electricity during a storm. It should consist of a battery-operated radio (and extra batteries), flashlights and a landline phone that isn’t cordless (so you don’t depend on power from your electric utility). Keep some extra cash in case ATMs are on the blink for a while, and keep a phone charger in your car. The Red Cross also recommends stocking a three-day supply of food and water for everyone in your house, a first-aid kit and a seven-day supply of medications. See 7 Must-Haves for Your Emergency Kit and the Red Cross Store for pre-made emergency kits. Also see FEMA’s fact sheet on building a disaster-supplies kit.

Prepare a “go kit.” Put together a box or file that you can grab quickly if evacuated, including your insurance policies, contact information for your insurance company, agent and other emergency contacts, your home inventory, extra keys, powers of attorney, and other important financial and personal records, says Welther.

Consider a generator. Keeping the electricity running during a power outage can also help protect your home — by powering your alarm system, sump pump and air conditioning. You may even get a 5% discount on your homeowners insurance if you install an automatic standby generator, which runs on natural gas or propane and turns on automatically after detecting a power outage. See The Costs, Benefits of a Generator for more information.

Get coverage for sewage backups. It isn’t unusual for heavy rains to overburden the storm water system or for your sump pump to stop working during storm season, causing water or sewage to back up into your house. The damage can be smelly and expensive, especially if you have a finished basement. Sewage-backup coverage isn’t included in most homeowners policies, but you can generally buy a rider that costs about $50 to $75 to provide $10,000 to $20,000 of sewage-backup coverage (ACE and some other high-end insurers do cover sewage backup with their standard policies). Ask your agent or insurer whether you’re covered.

 

Make sure you have the right amount of insurance. Let your insurance company know about any home improvements that affect the cost to rebuild your home. Some insurers send an appraiser to your house to help estimate the replacement cost of your home; other agents or insurers will accept detailed information about the upgrades over the phone. You can also get an estimate of rebuilding costs at AccuCoverage.com (the service costs $7.95). See Check Up on Your Home Insurance for more information. You can also get advice from the Insurance Information Institute, at www.iii.org.

 

 

 

KIMBERLY LANKFORD. 12 Ways To Prepare For Storm Season. Web blog post. Insurance. Kiplinger. 5 May 2014. 15 August 2017

Is Mold Covered In Homeowners Insurance.

Like any other organism, mold needs food and water. It loves to eat wood, and that’s one reason why homes and other structures sustain mold damage. When it begins depleting its food source, damage occurs. Mold is easily identified by how it looks and its odor.

Any type of water damage can result in mold. How the water gets into your home determines whether your homeowners insurance will cover the mold damage and remediation. All homeowners policies declare their covered perils along with their exclusions from coverage. An occurrence that’s typically covered in the context of water damage is a pipe burst. That’s because the actual pipe burst is the cause of the claim as opposed to the mold itself. If a mold claim arises from Florida weather activity like a hurricane or flood, it’s not likely to be covered without special coverage. You’ll want to review your policy or talk to us to learn whether you have flood coverage.

Most homeowners insurers do provide mold coverage within their covered risks, but the policy limits are relatively low unless an additional premium is paid. If you do have some mold damage, you’ll want to do whatever you can to mitigate your damages. You should also make periodic checks for possible water leaks in these common problem spots:

·         The HVAC system lines and drains

·         Hoses for appliances

·         Tub, shower and sink seals

·         Any visible pipes

·         Weatherproofing of windows and doors

·         Wet spots in the attic and missing roofing material

·         Landscaping around your home

If you don’t have mold damage coverage, it’s recommended that you get it, particularly because mold thrives in Florida’s warm and humid climate. An average mold claim ranges between $15,000 and $30,000. Mold coverage is available as optional coverage with most homeowners insurers.

Take a look at this water guide (to learn a little more about homeowners insurance mold coverage. Much is going to depend on how the mold got there and the specific wording of your homeowners insurance policy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prepared Insurance. Does my homeowners insurance policy cover mold damage? Web blog post. Living Prepared. Prepared Insurance. 27 May 2016. 10 Aug 2017

 

How Hurricane Shutters Protect A Home.

Hurricanes are capable of producing winds of 100 miles per hour and more. This poses problems for a home in a number of ways. Many of the items within your yard become projectiles toward your windows. Without any kind of protection, tree limbs and more can break through the glass and enter your home. This is why having hurricane shutters installed is very important.

Image result for hurricane shutters

(Photo: Majors Home Improvement)

Hurricane shutters are installed on the outside of a home. There are various models, such as roll-down and accordion shutters. Both are economic and are out of the way until you need them. The moment you hear about a hurricane, or simply a storm with high winds, you open the shutters so that they cover your windows.

The shutters then provide protection over them. They are capable of withstanding impact at high speeds, which is what will keep branches and other items from crashing into your window.

Hurricane shutters provide protection over your windows during harsh weather.

Why You Need the Protection

The reality is that you never know when a hurricane is going to hit, especially in South Florida. While you can track hurricanes, one year could be worse than the previous year. There’s simply no way of knowing that far in advance.

While you could place boards on your windows, they are difficult to do. They also aren’t hurricane grade, so they could end up falling off and then breaking into your window. With the hurricane shutters, they fend off everything that could otherwise break into your home.

Tree limbs, potted plants, neighbors’ gnomes, and all sorts of other things have flown into windows before. Once you have a broken window, you are now susceptible to the wind entering your home, causing damage to a number of items. You also have rain pouring in, creating water damage.

Water damage is what you really have to worry about. Depending on the level of rain from the storm, it could be enough to flood your home. You might also have water damage to drywall, flooring, and a large number of your belongings.

There’s no reason for you to go through all of this. When you hear that a major storm is coming, it’s easier to simply roll down your hurricane shutters on all of your windows and then go inside your home. It ensures your home is the safest place for you to be, and you don’t have to go into a room where there is no windows because you have made them virtually impenetrable.

Hurricane protection is priceless because you need to protect your home as well as your family. Shutters simply provide you with the peace of mind needed when a storm is set to enter your zip code. This is the best feeling to have as opposed to the panic others feel.

 

 

 

 

 

Admin. “How Hurricane Shutters Protect A Home.” Web blog post. Blog, Palm Beach Aluminum. 17 March 2017, 28 July 2017.

 

How to Prepare For A Hurricane.

Your level of preparation before a hurricane can determine how well you weather the storm and how quickly you recover from it. You should start preparing your home, inside and out, long before a storm is in the forecast. In the end, you can never be too prepared when it comes to protecting your loved ones and your property from extreme weather events such as hurricanes.

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(Photo: Online Insurance)

follow the Forecast

You may hear the terms “hurricane watch” and “hurricane warning” in your local forecast. Understanding the difference between them is essential to helping you prepare for a hurricane. As soon as a hurricane watch or warning is forecast for your area, it is important, depending on the type of alert, to immediately begin or complete your preparations.

A watch means hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours. You should begin to stock up on emergency supplies in the event a warning is issued. If you live in a coastal area, you also should be prepared to evacuate.

A warning is more serious. Hurricane-force winds (74 mph or higher) are expected to hit your area within 36 hours. You should seek shelter or evacuate, if notified to do so.
General Hurricane Preparation Tips

  • Prepare a survival kit that includes items such as water and non-perishable food for everyone, including your pets; medications; a portable radio; flashlights; batteries; and battery chargers for your cell phones and other portable electronic devices, which can be powered by your car.
  • Plan your evacuation route and leave as soon as an evacuation order is issued. Also, fuel up your car before you leave.
  • Build a content inventory of the items in your home or at your business.
  • Secure all outdoor objects or move them inside. Close your home’s storm shutters and board up windows and glass doors as appropriate.
  • If possible, bring in gas or charcoal grills, but do not use them indoors. Also, do not store propane tanks inside the house or garage. Chain propane tanks in an upright position to a secure object away from your home.
  • Secure your boat or move it to a safer place.
  • Fill your emergency generator fuel tank, if you have one, and have spare fuel on hand. Store generator fuel in an approved container in a garage or shed, away from open flames, heat sources and appliances such as natural gas appliances.

Five Tips to Help Prepare Your Home for a Hurricane

1. Help Avoid Water Damage

Heavy rains have the potential to cause significant water damage. These tips can help you prepare your home.

Closing and locking all windows and doors and removing any window air conditioners.

Removing valuable items from your basement or elevating them off of the floor.

Clearing debris from exterior drains and gutters.

Repairing damaged gutters and downspouts to make sure water can drain away from your foundation.

Checking your sump pump and the battery backup to confirm they are working properly.

2. Monitor Your Trees

In a powerful windstorm, trees can be a hazard. Broken limbs or fallen trees — even uprooted shrubbery — could damage your home and fences, or your neighbor’s property.

Routinely maintain the trees around your home.

Prune tree limbs within 10 feet of your home.

Check for cracking or splitting in trees.

Remove dead limbs and weakened trees.

3. Roofs, Doors, Windows and Skylights

It is important to keep wall openings, such as doors, windows and skylights protected. The roof, doors and windows of your house are especially vulnerable to wind damage. When houses are exposed to hurricane force winds, roofs are most susceptible to damage, followed by walls and openings such as skylights.

4. Secure Outdoor Items

If you live in an area that experiences high winds, outdoor items around your property that are not properly anchored can become airborne and cause damage.

If high winds are expected in your area, move as many outdoor items indoors well before the high winds arrive. As mentioned earlier, do not store propane tanks in your home or garage.

Adequately secure any remaining outdoor items that cannot be safely moved to protected areas.

5. Strengthen Your Exterior Structure

During a windstorm, wind forces are carried from the roof down to the exterior walls and then to the foundation. Homes can be damaged when wind and wind-driven water gets under the building’s exterior walls if proper controls are not in place.

Strengthen exteriors by employing a contractor to:

  • Install hurricane straps to reinforce roof-to-wall and wall-to-foundation connections.
  • Retrofit soffits to help ensure they remain in place in high winds.
  • Properly brace roof trusses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“How to Help Prepare for a Hurricane.” Web blog post. Prepare & prevent, Hurricanes. Travelers. 28 July 2017

 

Flood Damage Prevention

While fire may be a more common concern among homeowners, your home could in fact be as much as ten times more likely to be damaged by water than by fire. Significant sources of water damage to one’s property can come from weather-related moisture or flooding, including flooding from heavy rains, flash floods, dam and levee failures, tidal storm surges and mudflows. In addition, new construction of buildings, roads or bridges can alter the flow of water, increasing the potential for flooding.

Living in a high-risk flood zone can increase the likelihood of experiencing a flood, but being outside a high-risk zone does not mean homeowners are safe; flooding is always a possibility.

flood damage outside a home

(Photo credit: Travelers)

 

Protecting Your Property Before, During and After a Flood

There are a number of things you can do to help minimize or prevent water damage to your property. Follow these tips to help prepare and recover from potentially costly flood damage.

Before the Flood:

Know your properties flood zone risk and evaluate your flood risk with this reference guide from IBHS.

Have your furnace, water heater and other permanent equipment elevated above the expected flood levels of your area.

Inspect sump pumps and drains regularly to ensure proper operation.

If you own a generator, have a licensed electrician provide a transfer switch to your sump pump so you can operate it in the event of flooding.

To help prevent sewage backup, have a licensed plumber install an interior or exterior backflow prevention valve.

Keep sandbags on hand to help divert unusually high water away from your foundation.

In snowy climates, flag drains to avoid plowing snow on top of them.

Learn the flood alert signals of your community.

Collect emergency building materials if you live in a frequently flooded area. These may include plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, nails, shovels and sandbags.

Plan and practice an evacuation route. Designate a place for family members to meet in the event they become separated.

Review with all family members how to shut off utilities in an emergency.

Plan a survival kit with important documents, including insurance documents, medications and critical items in the event you need to leave your home.

During the Flood:

Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest storm information. If advised to evacuate, shut off all utilities and evacuate immediately.

Move to high ground, avoid rising waters and do not walk or drive through any floodwaters.

Stay away from downed power lines and electrical wires.

After the Flood:

Listen to the radio and do not return home until authorities indicate it is safe to do so.

Once allowed back into your home, inspect it for damage. If your property has been damaged, promptly report the loss.

Be watchful of snakes that may have found their way into your home.

Throw away all food that has come in contact with floodwaters.

Remove standing water as quickly as possible, including from your basement. If your basement is flooded, pump out about 1/3 of the water per day to avoid structural damage.

Properly dry or remove soaked carpets, padding and upholstery within 24-48 hours after a flood to prevent mold growth. Discard anything that cannot be properly dried.

Wash and disinfect all areas that have been flooded. This includes walls, floors, closets and shelves, as well as heating and air-conditioning systems. Do not energize electrical or electronic equipment that may have suffered water damage without first having a qualified electrician inspect and/or test it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Flood Damage Prevention”. Web blog post. Prepare & Prevent, Flooding. Travelers. 28 July 2017.

 

How Flood Zones And Evacutaion Zones Differ.

Flood zones, evacuation zones, and storm surge are different. They measure different conditions that may not occur at the same time, are determined by different methods, and have different purposes. A home may be located in a non-evacuation zone, yet still be located in a flood zone because of a nearby stream or pond. Residents are advised to check all of them to learn what your flood risk is.

Image result for flood zone sign
(photo credit: Structural Solutions of NJ)
 

Definitions:

Flood zones are areas mapped by FEMA for use in the National Flood Insurance Program. Each flood zone designation, represented by a letter or letters, tells homeowners what the risk is for flooding at their property over a period of years, regardless of the cause. High risk areas, referred to as Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) are shown on the map as zones labeled with the letters A or V. By law, all homes in high-risk zones carrying a mortgage must be covered by flood insurance.

Visit the Pinellas County Flood Map Service Center to find out what your risk is.

Evacuation zones are based on hurricane storm surge zones determined by the National Hurricane Center using ground elevation and the area’s vulnerability to storm surge from a hurricane. The evacuation zones are marked from A through E, plus non-evacuation zones. Visit the Know your Zone Evacuation Level Lookup to find out what zone you are in.

 Storm Surge flooding occurs when an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm is pushed toward the shore by strong winds. If you are susceptible to storm surge, flood insurance is recommended, even if you are not located in a FEMA flood zone.

Current Water Levels in a nearby waterbody can help you predict when flooding might occur during a rain or tropical event.

 

Understand flood insurance

Much of Pinellas County is prone to flooding, so you should get flood insurance for your home, business, or rental. Regular homeowner’s or tenant’s insurance do not cover losses due to flooding. Flood insurance covers you for damage to your home, business and contents due to surface accumulation of water from inland or tidal flooding and erosion due to flooding. Don’t assume that you’re safe from flooding just because you live on an upper level in a condo building. If a severe flood wipes out the ground floor of your building, all of the other units in the building (including your own) may become uninhabitable as well.

If you are looking at buying a property, it is a good idea to check out the possible flood hazards before you buy. Most homeowners insurances do not cover flood damage. Talk to your insurance provider about your policy and consider if you need additional coverage.

 

Stay Connected

· Sign up for ALERT Pinellas - You will be notified of an emergency with phone and text messages!

· Sign up for E-Lert - Receive a monthly newsletter with the latest emergency education information and receive emergency bulletins and instructions during emergencies via email.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Flood Information.” Web blog post.  Pinellas County Flood Information. Pinellas County Florida. 28 July 2017.

 

Why You Should Alway Hire A Licensed Contractor.

Why Hire a Licensed Person?

-A licensed person has the required education, experience, insurance and qualifications to obtain a license.  They must pass a competency examination before practicing.

-Licensed individuals are screened for prior criminal history.

-The department can discipline and even revoke a license if the person does not live up to professional standards.  This is a not a total safeguard, but is a strong incentive for the licensee to do good work.

-You may be able to sue the licensee in civil court for problems related to the work done.

Image result for contractor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo Credit: Home Advisor)

Dangers of Hiring an Unlicensed Person

  • Poor qualifications.  Unlicensed persons typically do not have the education, insurance, or qualification required of a licensee.
  • Poor quality work.  Unlicensed contractors typically do poor quality work or do not finish the project, leaving the homeowner on the hook to repair or finish the project.
  • Possible criminal background.  Unlicensed persons often have criminal backgrounds that may include fraud, theft, violent crime, sexual offenses, and substance abuse.           
  • Likelihood of being the victim of a scam.  Unlicensed persons often disappear after taking your money, and the department cannot discipline an unlicensed person, help get your money back, or require the person to finish or improve the work done. Scams in the construction industry, especially home improvement, are sadly widespread.  Con artists pose as contractors and often target vulnerable people and take advantage of homeowner’s need for urgent post-hurricane property damage.
  • Limited resources for broken contracts.  When you have a dispute with a licensed contractor, you call the department, which has the authority to discipline and even revoke the license.  This gives the licensee more incentive to play fair.    However, this type of action is not available against unlicensed contractors and homeowners often find the only answer is an expensive, and generally futile, civil suit.
  • No insurance and liability for injuries to others:  You may end up being liable for personal or financial injuries to others.  An unlicensed contractor typically is uninsured and will have no way to pay you back for any property damage.
  • No coverage under homeowner’s policy.  Most homeowner policies require that work must be done by a licensed contractor and provide no coverage for work that is not.
  • Noncompliance with building codes.  Most projects, even small ones, require permits and inspections that unlicensed contractors ignore or are unfamiliar with.  If your project isn’t permitted or doesn’t comply with the building code, you may have to remove or repair the work at your own expense and be subject to fines by local government.
  • Liens being imposed on your property.  You may be subject to liens placed on your property by subcontractors or supplies.  Please see http://www.dbpr.state.fl.us/reg/Liens.html for more information about Florida lien law.
  • No coverage under homeowner’s policy.  Most homeowner policies require that work must be done by a licensed contractor and provide no coverage for work that is not.
  • Noncompliance with building codes.  Most projects, even small ones, require permits and inspections that unlicensed contractors ignore or are unfamiliar with.  If your project isn’t permitted or doesn’t comply with the building code you may have to remove or repair the work at your own expense and be subject to fines by local government.

 

Red flags that you may be dealing with an unlicensed contractor.

  • No license number in advertisement or posting. Licensed contractors are required to list their license number in all advertisements. Rule of thumb: Do not do hire anyone that does not have a license listed in their advertisement, which can be verified.
  • Advertisement or invoice lists only a name and telephone number.   A legitimate business provides sufficient contact and licensure information on an invoice.
  • A claim to be “licensed and insured” but cannot produce a DBPR issued license.  This type of claim often merely means that the person has a driver’s license and automobile insurance.
  • Want all or most of the money up front or will only accept cash. Never pay cash for your home repairs or improvements.
  • Want check written to them individually or to “cash.” Be cautious of writing checks payable to individuals when a company has contracted to do the work.  Include a note on check or money order about what the payment is for.
  • Unmarked vehicle and/or out-of-state license plate.  Contractors licensed by the department are required to display their license number on the vehicle.
  • Blank or generic invoice.  Contractors licensed by the department are required to display their license number on an invoice.
  • Oral agreement only.  The best business practice is to put everything in writing, including a detailed description of the work to be completed, an anticipated completion date and the total cost.
  • Ask you to pull the permit.  Pulling an Owner-Builder permit is risky business. Licensed contractors must pull the permit themselves.
  • Unsolicited phone calls or visits.  Some reputable contractors do business this way, but it is generally a tactic of the unlicensed.  Be very wary of anyone who offers a bargain price, saying they are doing a job in the neighborhood and have leftover materials.
  • High pressure sales pitches or scare tactics.  Don’t be pushed into hiring anyone, even during a state of emergency!  Dishonest people will prey on your fears.

 

Choosing a Licensed Contractor

  • Before you hire a contractor, ask to see a DBPR issued license.
  • Ask to see multiple forms of identification, such as a driver’s license, all contact information and keep copies for your own file.
  • Ask for references. A legitimate contractor will be happy to provide you with the names and contact information of recent customers.
  • Get a written estimate from several licensed contractors. Make sure the estimate includes the work the contractor will do, the materials involved, the completion date, and total cost.
  • Beware of contractors who claim to be the fastest or the cheapest. Hiring them could result in poor workmanship, inferior materials or unfinished jobs.
  • Get a payment schedule in writing.  Many contractors ask for a 10% down payment and then periodic payments during the project.  Document what must be accomplished before further payments are made and conditions that must be met before any final payment.  A contractor that receives more than 10% down must apply for needed permits necessary within 30 days after the date payment is made and start work within 90 days after the date all necessary permits are issued, unless you agree to another arrangement in writing.  It is a criminal offense for a contractor when a contractor does not follow this law.
  • Check with your local building department about any permit requirements.
  • Contact your insurance agent first to verify your insurance covers the repairs before you sign a contract and the process for filing a claim if needed.  You do not have to tell the contractor how much your insurance company will pay for repairs, but if you do, get the contractor’s estimate first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Why Hire A Licensed Person?” Web blog post. Consumer Tips. Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation. 25 July 2017

Hurricane: During the Storm

If a watch is issued

  • Fill your vehicles with gas.
  • Get extra cash.
  • Fill prescriptions.
  • For mobile homes, secure tie-downs and prepare to evacuate when ordered.
  • Bring in loose objects from outside.

If a warning is issued

  • Secure all windows with shutters or plywood.
  • Place valuables and important papers in a waterproof container and store them on the highest floor of your home.

If you are advised or ordered to evacuate

  • Follow all directions and orders from local officials, and leave immediately when instructed to do so.
  • Bring emergency supplies, including a first aid kit, medicines, food, water, formula and diapers, toiletries, cell phones, radios, and batteries.
  • Bring extra cash and copies of important papers such as insurance policies.
  • Bring blankets, sleeping bags, books, and games.
  • Unplug appliances, turn off utilities such as electricity and the main water valve.
  • Lock the windows and doors of your home.

If you are not told to evacuate

  • Stay at home! Leave the roads available for those who must evacuate.
  • Clean your bathtub with bleach and fill it with water for washing and flushing (not drinking).
  • Set your refrigerator to maximum cold and keep it closed.
  • Turn off your utilities if told to do so by local officials.

During the storm

  • Go to an interior room and stay away from windows and doors, even though they’re covered.
  • During very strong winds, lie under something sturdy.
  • Do not go outside, including during passage of the eye of the hurricane.

Know your terms

The National Hurricane Center issues coastal watches and warnings for tropical storms and hurricanes. Local National Weather Service forecast offices issue tropical storm and hurricane watches and warnings for inland areas, using the same wind criteria and lead times described below.

  • Tropical storm watch: Tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible somewhere within the specified coastal area within 48 hours.
  • Tropical storm warning: Tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected somewhere within the specified coastal area within 36 hours.
  • Hurricane watch: Hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or greater) are possible somewhere within the specified coastal area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of winds of tropical storm force.
  • Hurricane warning: Hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or greater) are expected somewhere within the specified coastal area. The hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of winds of tropical storm force.
    In addition, these local National Weather Service offices will issue an Extreme Wind Warning when sustained surface winds of 115 mph or stronger are occurring or are expected to occur in the specified area within one hour, as a result of a hurricane of Category 3, 4, or 5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hurricane: During The Storm. Web blog post. Hurricane Center, Hurricane Safety. The Weather Channel. 8 June 2013, 20 July 2017

 

8 Tips for Traveling During Hurricane Season

Just because hurricane season is in full swing doesn’t mean that you need to shy away from some tropical destinations that are more frequently hit by hurricanes. It does, however, mean that you need to travel a little more wisely, take precautions and use good travel sense.

1. ‘Tis the Season

Officially, hurricane season extends from the beginning of June to the end of November in the Atlantic and from mid-May to the end of November in the Eastern Pacific. Historically, the season ramps up from mid-August until October, with most of the major storms hitting through the month of September.

2. Proactive Travel

Maybe you’re traveling for business, or are taking advantage of discounted travel prices during Hurricane season for a holiday. If you are traveling to a coastal area, or an area that is known to be struck by hurricanes, be proactive. U.S. nationals can subscribe to STEP (Smart Traveler Enrolment Program) which will get you in touch with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to make them aware of your presence in the area. Canadians should register in the Registration of Canadians Abroad. What this will do is provide your family with an avenue through which to contact you in the case of a weather emergency, as well as put you quickly in touch with agency help should you need to evacuate or require other assistance prior to or during a hurricane. Registration in these programs will subscribe you to text and email weather alerts. Getting a Red Cross app on your smartphone will link you into weather alerts as well.

3. Travel Insurance

Admittedly, traveling during hurricane season carries with it certain additional risks, and travel insurance is a good way of mitigating some of the financial risks. Before you go, make sure your insurance covers trip interruption and trip cancellation. Usually, a comprehensive plan is the best way to go, but make sure you read the fine print around weather, acts of nature and catastrophic events. Also, make sure you’ve got medical coverage- either through your health care plan or through additional travel insurance. Don’t wait until you are traveling and the weather forecast is gloomy. You most likely won’t be able to get coverage at that point.

4. The Smart Carry-On

Travel delays are a common headache for any traveler, but if you’re traveling during a season where weather can be more forceful and more unpredictable, the likelihood of flight delays and losing your luggage increases. Reduce this stress by packing a quality carry-on with all of the necessities you might need for a couple of days to enjoy your vacation or to attend your meetings.

5. Consider your Destination

You can score some sweet travel deals during hurricane season, but make an informed decision through a little background research. There are areas that are frequently hit, and those that are vulnerable with a chance of very stormy weather. If you’re heading to the Caribbean, for instance, statistically the islands in the southern part are less affected. Don’t overlook the impact of an indirect hit from a hurricane either. Even if you are inland, you may still be subjected to heavy rain and high winds, which sort of puts a literal damper on your day at the amusement park or golf course.

6. Refunds?

Check with your hotel before you go on what their hurricane policies are. Some offer refunds, but most hotels will offer guests a credit or a discount to come back and stay at a later date. Airlines typically will allow you to change your flight plans without penalty. If you get stuck at an airport between connections, ask hotels for a discount; they will often comply under these circumstances. Cruise ships are a little different, because their itineraries are a little more dynamic and they are often able to steer themselves around storms.

7. Extra packing

In addition to your usual packing, you’d be well-advised to pack a few extra items: a travel first aid kit, a battery operated radio and a flashlight for starters. With your travel documents, compile the necessary numbers and contact info you’ll need to get help and process claims, like agency phone numbers, government contacts and insurance policy numbers.

8. When you Arrive

Make sure you know what their hurricane procedures are, in case any bad weather comes your way. Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes and policies and inquire about any other necessary details from hotel staff that you might need during your stay. Getting caught in a weather emergency can be stressful, but having a detailed plan ahead of time can help reduce the panic.

 

 

 

 

 

Heather Wright. 8 Tips For Traveling During Hurricane Season. Web blog post, Travel Tips. Escape Here. 17 July 2017.