Hurricanes - Sinkholes - Fires

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Prepare a Personal Evacuation Plan

Identify ahead of time where you could go if you are told to evacuate. Choose several places--a friend's home in another town, a motel, or a shelter.
Keep handy the telephone numbers of these places as well as a road map of your locality. You may need to take alternative or unfamiliar routes if major roads are closed or clogged.
Listen to local radio or TV stations for evacuation instructions. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
Take these items with you when evacuating:

Prescription medications and medical supplies;
Bedding and clothing, including sleeping bags and pillows
Bottled water, battery-operated radio and extra batteries, first aid kit, flashlight
Car keys and maps
Documents, including driver’s license, Social Security card, proof of residence, insurance policies, wills, deeds, birth and marriage certificates, tax records, etc
Money, credit cards and your check book Address book


Assemble a Disaster Supplies Kit Including the Following Items:

First aid kit and essential medications.
Canned food and can opener.
At least three gallons of water per person.
Protective clothing, rainwear, and bedding or sleeping bags.
Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.
Special items for infants, elderly, or disabled family members.
Written instructions on how to turn off electricity, gas and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you'll need a professional to turn them back on.)

Prepare for High Winds

Install hurricane shutters or purchase precut 1/2" outdoor plywood boards for each window of your home. Install anchors for the plywood and predrill holes in the plywood so that you can put it up quickly.
Make trees more wind resistant by removing diseased and damaged limbs, then strategically removing branches so that wind can blow through.

Know What to Do When a Hurricane WATCH Is Issued

Listen to local radio or TV stations for up-to-date storm information.
Prepare to bring inside any lawn furniture, outdoor decorations or ornaments, trash cans, hanging plants, and anything else that can be picked up by the wind.
Prepare to cover all windows of your home. If shutters have not been installed, use precut plywood as described above. Note: Tape does not prevent windows from breaking, so taping windows is not recommended. Fill your car's gas tank.
Recheck manufactured home tie-downs.
Check batteries and stock up on canned food, first aid supplies, drinking water, and medications.

Know What to Do When a Hurricane WARNING Is Issued

Listen to the advice of local officials, and leave if they tell you to do so.
Complete preparation activities.
If you are not advised to evacuate, stay indoors, away from windows.
Be aware that the calm "eye" is deceptive; the storm is not over. The worst part of the storm will happen once the eye passes over and the winds blow from the opposite direction. Trees, shrubs, buildings, and other objects damaged by the first winds can be broken or destroyed by the second winds.
Be alert for tornadoes. Tornadoes can happen during a hurricane and after it passes over. Remain indoors, in the center of your home, in a closet or bathroom without windows.
Stay away from flood waters. If you come upon a flooded road, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car and climb to higher ground.

Know What to Do After a Hurricane Is Over

Keep listening to local radio or TV stations for instructions.
If you evacuated, return home when local officials tell you it is safe to do so.
Inspect your home for damage.
Use flashlights in the dark; do not use candles.
Be careful of downed or damaged electrical wires, especially if your house is wet.

Power Outage Safety:

Only use a flashlight for emergency lighting. Never use candles!
Turn off electrical equipment you were using when the power went out.
Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer.
Do not run a generator inside a home or garage.
If you use a generator, connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator. Do not connect a generator to a home's electrical system. Sudden power outages can be frustrating and troublesome, especially when they are prolonged. Perishable foods should not be held above 40 degrees for more than 2 hours. If a power outage is 2 hours or less, you need not be concerned, but how do you save your food when the refrigerator is out for longer times? Being prepared can help. By planning ahead, you can save your perishables. Listen to local radio and television for updated information.

Food Safety:

Sudden power outages can be frustrating and troublesome, especially when they are prolonged. Perishable foods should not be held above 40 degrees for more than 2 hours. If a power outage is 2 hours or less, you need not be concerned, but how do you save your food when the refrigerator is out for longer times? Being prepared can help. By planning ahead, you can save your perishables.


What do I need?

One or more coolers. Inexpensive styrofoam coolers can do an excellent job as well.
Shelf-stable foods, such as canned goods and powdered or boxed milk. These can be eaten cold or heated on the grill.
A digital quick-response thermometer. A digital thermometer should be a necessity in your kitchen anyway. With these thermometers you can quickly check the internal temperatures of food for doneness and safety.

What to do...

Do not open the refrigerator or freezer. Tell your little ones not to open the door. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold enough for a couple of hours at least. A freezer that is half full will hold for up to 24 hours and a full freezer for 48 hours.
If it looks like the power outage will be for more than 2-4 hours, pack refrigerated milk, dairy products, meats, fish, poultry, eggs, gravy, stuffing and left-overs into your cooler surrounded by ice.
If it looks like the power outage will be prolonged, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items


Q & A’S regarding Food:

What should be discarded after a power outage? As soon as the power returns, check temperatures. If the food in the freezer has ice crystals and is not above 40 degrees you can refreeze. Perishable foods in the refrigerator should not be above 40 degrees F. for more than two hours.

What if I go to bed and the power is still not on? Before you go to bed, pack your perishables into your coolers if you haven't already done so and put in as much ice as you can. Also, when you go to bed, leave a bedroom light switched on. When the power goes back on, it will wake you, so you can check the condition of your foods in the freezer.

What if the power goes out while I’m at work or out of the house and it has been more than a few hours before I get home? Try to determine how long the power has been out. Check the internal temperature of the food in your refrigerator with your quick-response thermometer. A liquid such as milk or juice is easy to check. Spot check other items like steaks or left-overs also. If the internal temperature is above 40 degrees, it is best to throw it out.

What if the power goes out and comes back on while I am out? If your freezer is fairly full and you know it was not longer than 24 hours, the food should be OK. There will be loss of quality with refreezing, but the food will be safe. If the refrigerator was out for more than 2-4 hours, you are best to discard the perishables.

Water Treatment:

Filter the water using a piece of cloth or coffee filter to remove solid particles.
Bring it to a rolling boil for about one full minute.
Let it cool at least 30 minutes. Water must be cool or the chlorine treatment described below will be useless.
Add 16 drop of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water, or 8 drops per 2-liter bottle of water. Stir to mix. Sodium hypochlorite of the concentration of 5.25% to 6% should be the only active ingredient in the bleach. There should not be any added soap or fragrances. A major bleach manufacturer has also added Sodium Hydroxide as an active ingredient, which they state does not pose a health risk for water treatment.
Let stand 30 minutes.
If it smells of chlorine. You can use it. If it does not smell of chlorine, add 16 more drop of chlorine bleach per gallon of water (or 8 drops per 2-liter bottle of water), let stand 30 minutes, and smell it again. If it smells of chlorine, you can use it. If it does not smell of chlorine, discard it and find another source of water.


1. Contact the insurance company:

Call your insurance company as soon as possible and let the company know about the severity of the damage. Insurance cases are sometimes prioritized. If your home has severe damage, you may get more attention than a home that has only minor damage.
Make sure you give the insurance company all of your contact information. Make it as easy as possible for the company to contact you.
If you can't live in your house and you have to stay at a motel or you need to bunk with some friends, you have the right to some cash. Insurance companies will reimburse you for additional cost of living expenses. This reimbursement will even cover restaurant meals within reason. Keep track of mileage and all extra expenses.

2. Make necessary repairs:

Make temporary repairs and do not compromise your safety or health. Err on the side of safety.

3. Document, document, document:

It's up to you to substantiate your loss. Think about photographing or video tape the damage. Make an inventory of damaged items. Keep any records and a list of people you speak to. Florida Public Adjusting will provide you with a master inventory packet to assist you, along with other valuable information, upon request.
The better organized you are, the better.

4. Watch out for scammers:

If your home was destroyed by a hurricane, wildfire or other disaster, be cautious. There are dishonest service providers that prey on disaster victims.
Don't be rushed into signing a contract with any roofing or building company, although do try to prevent more water from entering your house or building. Investigate the track record of any roofer, contractor or public adjuster that you consider hiring. Never give anyone a deposit until you have done your homework.
While public adjusters will almost always negotiate a much higher settlement than you can yourself, many lack experience as obtaining a license is a very simple task. Many public adjusters come from out of state and are not able to handle a claim effectively. After all, it is not uncommon to need several if not more inspections if the claim is going to be settled for the maximum amount you are entitled to. A Florida based company is absolutely essential.

5. Protect your settlement:

If you're not happy with how the claim is settled, go back to the adjuster and document your side to the head of the claims department. If you're still not satisfied, you can hire a good public adjuster. Mediations and the appraisal process can be extremely dangerous without professional representation.
A public insurance adjuster documents the damages and will organize your claim. A public adjustor then meets with your insurance company to maximize the return on your policy. You typically pay them a percentage of your claim. Florida Public Adjusting has public adjusters serving consumers Statewide. Many claims are battles, but do not give up. We almost never loose. Be sure and read the important information at INSURANCE LAW on this web site.