Prepare for Hurricane Season with a Comprehensive Insurance Check

A man carries a roll of paper towels as he looks over the remains of a home that was damaged from Hurricane Ida.
Buddy Ellison, left, and his father Dan look through debris scattered across their property in Horseshoe Beach, Fla., Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, one day after the passage of Hurricane Idalia. Ellison said five generations of his family has lived in this spot and that while their stilted home remains standing, rebuilding a damaged cottage and their collapsed business, Ed's Baithouse and Marina, on stilts as required would be cost prohibitive. Rebecca Blackwell/AP Photo

For most people, summer brings images of swimming and drinks by the pool. Summer also means the threat of hurricanes in certain parts of the country. So, should you do a hurricane season insurance check?

The season kicks off on June 1 each year, and experts predict this year will be a doozy. While we can’t tell you if this is accurate or not, we can help you get financially prepared.

Hurricanes can cause damage to homes. This is why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommends you call your insurance company before hurricane season starts. You’ll want to understand the coverage you already have and decide if you need additional policies to cover gaps. Be warned, insurance companies will sometimes suspend new policies or changes to existing policies as a hurricane approaches landfall. It’s important to understand your needs before it’s too late.

We’ve gathered the insurance know-how you need to ask the right questions during a hurricane season insurance check. We’ll also help you understand the answers so you know what to do next.

When is Hurricane Season?

In the U.S., hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 3o. This season mostly affects states bordering the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, or Caribbean Sea and often peaks between mid-August and mid-October.

Hurricanes do technically occur in the Pacific Ocean. However, because of the atmospheric conditions of the Pacific Ocean, we rarely feel the effects in the continental U.S.

What to Ask During a Hurricane Season Insurance Check

In a hurricane season insurance check, the first thing to do is to make sure your home insurance policy is still active and the policy term runs through hurricane season. Letting your coverage lapse can be devastating anytime, but especially during hurricane season. Plus, insurance companies will sometimes refuse you coverage if you’ve let your home be uninsured for a given period of time. So first and foremost, check you have insurance!

Next, you’ll want to understand what your current insurance covers and what possible gaps you have. We’ve broken it down into four main questions to ask your insurance provider before hurricane season starts.

1. Am I covered for all wind- and water-related damage?

A hurricane can leave a lot of damage in its wake, and most of it is caused by wind and water. While traditional home insurance policies often cover wind related damage, most have little to no flood protection. That’s why it’s important to understand exactly which of these damages your policy covers and whether or not you need to purchase additional protection.

Wind Damage 

Many home insurance policies provide coverage for wind damage. This means your policy should cover damage like a roof leaking from ripped off shingles or windows shattered by blown debris. While most policies do include this protection, there are some that don’t, so it’s worth asking.

If you’re one of the unlucky people without windstorm coverage, consider adding it. This might look like adding an endorsement through your current insurance company, getting a wind-specific policy on the private market, or, as a last resort, filing for a FAIR (Fair Access to Insurance) plan through your state. FAIR insurance plans are only offered in certain states and are specifically for people who cannot find insurance on the open market because of the risk of natural disaster at their location.

Just remember that most new policies take 30 days to go into effect. So don’t wait too long to sign up if you’ve found your current policy lacking.

Water Damage 

While most home insurance covers water damage if connected to wind-related causes (i.e. your roof leaks because od ripped off shingles), many do NOT cover flood damage. Accordingly, if you live in a floodplain, you’ll want to consider purchasing flood insurance.

You can find flood insurance on the market through a private company or through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by FEMA. National Flood Insurance is only offered in participating communities, but it’s a good place to start to see if your local area is covered.

Again, flood insurance usually has a waiting period of 30 days before it kicks in. You’ll want to get coverage soon in order to be covered for hurricane season.

2. What does my current policy cover if my house sustains damage?

Once you know what kinds of damage your home insurance policy covers, you’ll want to understand what that coverage actually looks like. That means what kind of funds are available to you in the event of damage.

All insurance providers use the same terminology to explain different ways you can receive financial help in the event of a disaster. It’s important to understand those terms in order to make smart financial decisions.

Dwelling Coverage 

This is the set amount that insurance will give you to cover repairs and replacements if your home sustains damage. The dwelling coverage limit is the maximum amount of money you can receive if your home is deemed a total loss. This number should be clearly stated in your insurance documents. Do note that this number is based on the amount it will take to rebuild your home, not the market value of the home.

Other Structures Coverage 

Other structures coverage covers things not attached to the house. This might be a detached garage, shed or play structure. Normally this dollar amount is limited to 10% of the total dwelling coverage.

Personal Property Coverage

This covers the physical contents of your home like your furniture, personal belongings, computers, etc. This dollar amount is normally around 50-70% of the dwelling coverage, so if your home is covered at $400,000, you’ll probably receive around $200,000 in personal property coverage.

Additional Living Expenses Coverage

If you incur any increased costs from not being able to live in your home, this will cover it. This might include meals out, hotels, furniture rental, clothes, etc. It’s important to know this coverage amount because there is a limit to this windfall. Additional living expenses coverage is normally capped around 20% of your dwelling coverage, and while it might seem like a ton of money at the start, living outside of your home can get very expensive. Knowing this limit ahead of time can help you plan accordingly.

3. What is my deductible if my house sustains damage?

A deductible for your home insurance policy is the amount you’ll need to pay before insurance will begin to cover costs. Most standard home insurance deductibles are a set dollar amount like $2,000. In that case, when your home is damaged, you’ll be expected to pay up to $2,000 up front before your home insurance kicks in.

In states with high probability of hurricanes or tornadoes, however, you might also have a separate windstorm damage deductible. This deductible is in addition to your other standard deductible and only applies to damages caused by wind. Normally a wind specific deductible is listed as a percentage, ranging from 1% to 5%, instead of a set dollar amount. That means if you need to replace the roof of a home valued at $400,000, you’ll be responsible to pay anywhere from $4,000 to $20,000.

4. What proof is helpful when experiencing a total loss?

The final question we think you should ask during a hurricane season insurance check is all about streamlining the insurance claim process. When recouping your belongings after a total loss situation, the company will ask you to create an inventory of your personal belongings from the home. Creating an inventory of your belongings ahead of time can help eliminate stress after the fact.

Ask your insurance agent what proof is best for this process. They might tell you to take a video of each room, copy purchase receipts or take photos of valuable items. While this won’t bring your stuff back, it might speed up the reimbursement process significantly.

Additional Policies to Consider

Once you’ve done your hurricane season insurance check, it’s time to protect yourself from any gaps. We mentioned additional wind or flood damage insurance, but there are other options that might make you feel more protected.

Guaranteed Replacement Cost Coverage

This is additional coverage that helps if your dwelling coverage doesn’t cover everything. Dwelling coverage covers repairs and replacements up to a certain set amount. While in theory this amount should cover the total replacement of your home, sometimes unexpected costs come up. Then you’re left with the bill. In this case, guaranteed replacement cost coverage could be beneficial. Guaranteed replacement cost coverage will pay for the full cost of replacing the home even if it goes over the original quoted price. This additional coverage is normally extra and often costly but can save you money in the long run if something goes wrong.

Additional Personal Belongings Coverage

Standard home insurance policies cover personal property up to a certain point. This limit is normally set around 50% to 70% of the total dwelling coverage. While this will cover most personal belongings, it might not be enough if you have more expensive purchases in your home like artwork or jewelry. In that case, you might want to consider additional personal belonging coverage. Additional coverage can help ensure you truly have enough to cover your personal belongings come replacement time.

Comprehensive Car Insurance

So far we’ve only talked about house insurances, but even if your car is parked in your garage, none of these products will protect your car in any way. In order to protect your car during hurricane season, you’ll want to make sure you have comprehensive car insurance. Comprehensive car insurance reimburses you for non-traffic related damage to your car such as hurricane damage. This kind of insurance will protect your investment if your car is damaged by falling debris, strong wind or flooding during the storm.

If you’re looking for more practical tips to prepare your car for a hurricane, you might want to check out our Essential Hurricane Checklist for Your Car.

What Else Should I Do to Prepare for Hurricane Season?

Obviously, insurance isn’t the only thing homeowners should do to prepare for hurricane season. However, with the 30-day waiting period for new policies, it might still be the first thing you do!

After your insurance is all squared away, here are a few other tips to be prepared before hurricane season begins.

Create an Evacuation Plan

Hurricanes can make landfall fast, and a plan can help your family react quickly. You’ll want to have an idea of where your family will meet, what you need to pack and where you’ll evacuate to. Make sure to also consider alternate routes in case there’s flooding.

If you’re planning to stay at a local evacuation shelter, you also might want to call ahead to understand the shelter’s rules. Some shelters don’t take animals, for example. If you’re wondering how to tackle planning for a hurricane without breaking the bank, check out our tips on evacuation.

Pack an Emergency Kit

A quick grab-and-go emergency kit can save you a lot of time during evacuation. We suggest that you have two kits: one in your car and one in your home. Some things to include in each might be water, blankets, a phone charger, road maps, a change of clothes and flashlights. Preparing a kit ahead of time means you won’t be fighting the crowds at the supermarket the day before a hurricane hits. While packing an emergency kit can sometimes be expensive, we’ve got tips to help if you’re looking for a more affordable option.

Find and Copy Important Documents

Another way to save yourself worry come hurricane season is to have important documents copied and packed in your go bag. The last thing you want is to be scrambling to find these papers as you evacuate. You’ll need documents like your IDs, birth certificates, insurance papers, deeds and medical insurance cards. While you might be tempted to simply have digital copies, hard copies are more reliable backups in case of power or service outages.

Physically Prepare Your Home

Our final tip is our most practical: physically prepare your home for the storm. Here are a few of the things you can inspect and fix right away:

  • Check your roof. Look for any potential problems like bent or missing shingles, loose screws, and/or clogged gutters.
  • Inspect trees around the property. Walk around the outside of your home and look for anything that might fall on your home if knocked over. Trim large tree branches and move other possible risks away from your home
  • Look for projectile risks. Survey anything that the wind could pick up and slam into your home. Secure larger items like trampolines and move smaller items like yard furniture inside.
  • Consider buying shutters for windows. Shutters can protect your windows from shattering, which would allow rain and debris inside.

You can’t stop a hurricane from hitting your area. But these tips and a hurricane season insurance check will help you feel more protected if one does hit this season.

Contributor Whitney Hansen covers banking, credit cards and investing for The Penny Hoarder. She also writes on other personal finance topics.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Does Home Insurance Cover Hurricane Damage?

Yes and no. Standard home insurance normally protects your home from any windstorm damage from a hurricane but rarely covers flood damage. In order to insure your home against flood damage, you’ll need to purchase a separate policy through your insurance company or on the market. If you don’t find options there, you can also insure your home through the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by FEMA.

Can I Just Add Insurance When a Hurricane has been Spotted?

Unfortunately, this is not a reliable option. Most new insurance policies have a 30-day waiting period before going into effect. Some insurance companies even stop giving out new policies if a hurricane is imminent.

What is the Best Way to Prepare Your Home for a Hurricane?

The first thing you can do for your home is make sure it’s insured properly. From there, you’ll want to check your roof for any weakness, remove any possible fall risks like large tree limbs or patio furniture, and seal any possible leaks. You might even consider adding shutters to your windows to protect them against shattering.

Does Hurricane Insurance Cover My Car?

No, home insurance does not cover your car. Instead, you’ll want to make sure you have comprehensive car insurance. Comprehensive car insurance covers your car in any non-traffic related incidents–in this case, a hurricane.