By Paul E. Beers
Hurricane Irma passed through Florida Sunday and Monday, and thankfully it was not as bad as feared. After passing through the Florida Keys, it made landfall at Marco Island and Naples in Southwest Florida as a Category 4 storm, and then stayed over land as it moved north. Once over land, the strength diminished. However, much of the state still experienced hurricane-force winds and gusts. Areas in or near the path of Irma in Florida included Naples, Ft. Myers, Sarasota, Bradenton, St Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater and points north. It looks like building damage will be in play throughout most of the state, including the east coast.
Hurricane building wind damage comes in many forms, from catastrophic items such as roofs being blown off and windows being blown in, to more discrete items like loss of roof coverings, water leakage or damaged (but not destroyed) windows and doors.
If you have damage here is what you need to do:
- Stay safe. Do not go into any unsafe areas. Don’t climb on the roof unless you have a proper ladder, safety lines and the area is secure. Be very careful with broken glass. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unnecessary injuries after every hurricane that could have been avoided.
- Take lots of pictures and video of any damage. This can be very useful later with insurance claims. You can never have too many photos or videos.
- Try to mitigate the damage. Insurance policies require reasonable efforts to prevent further damage. The key thought here is reasonable. If it is dangerous or you are not physically capable, do not attempt repairs yourself. Hire professionals to do it for you.
- Cover roofs with tarps to prevent further water intrusion.
- Board up damaged window openings, and put towels down in water leakage areas.
- Notify your insurance company to start the claims process.
- Seek help from qualified design professionals when needed. Do not rely on advice from Contractors unless you know them well or they have a good reputation.
- For any Contractors you hire, make sure they are licensed and insured. Get a copy of their Contractor’s license and insurance certificate. Make them pull building permits. If they are unwilling to do any of this, do not hire them.
- Keep receipts for everything related to repairs, recovery, temporary housing and any other expenditures you would not have had without the storm damage.
- If you do not think your insurance company is treating you fairly, hire an attorney or public adjuster that specializes in insurance claims. A good resource for this is the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters fapia.net.
Flood damage from rising groundwater is not covered by homeowners or wind insurance policies. You would need to have purchased a separate flood insurance policy for coverage. The same scenario above for wind applies to flood damage. Mitigate your damage and save everything.
Hurricane recovery takes patience. There are typically shortages of materials and labor. Insurance companies are inundated with claims. Getting whole again always seems to take longer than it should. Good luck!