What to Do After a Florida Hurricane

You might be tempted to think the worst is over after a hurricane has passed, but it can actually be more dangerous in the hours, days, and weeks following a big storm.

Flooding and storm surges are typically the biggest worries for Florida homeowners. Floodwaters remaining after a hurricane has passed may:

• be contaminated (with sewage, bacteria, chemicals)

• hide hazardous material (broken glass, live electrical lines)

• pose an ongoing drowning risk

• exacerbate the growth of mold and mildew

• cause structural damage to your home

Besides flooding and storm surges, the biggest threats to life and property in the aftermath of a hurricane include falling tree limbs and debris, power outages, leaking roofs, accidents, and overexertion. The good news is there are actions you can take to protect your life and property after a hurricane.

In the Immediate Aftermath

After staying put for the duration of the storm, you will probably be itching to go outside and assess the damage around your home and neighborhood. Before heading out, however, make sure you follow some important safety guidelines, including the following:  

Stay inside until it's safe. Wait until you've gotten the all-clear from authorities and the winds have calmed down. If you evacuated, don't return until the appropriate authorities say it is OK to do so.

Get important supplies together. Know where your batteries, radio, and other supplies are. You may need to put these items to use in the dark if the power is out.

Stay informed. Tune into local news stations for any important information about conditions outside and where to turn to for assistance.

Rule out gas/propane leaks. Stop using candles, lighters, or matches in the home until you're sure there isn't a gas or propane leak. A hissing sound near appliances or the smell of rotten eggs may indicate a leak. Leave the house immediately if necessary and call 911 or the utility company.  

Do not use tap water. Low water pressure and electrical outages can cause insufficiently treated water to be distributed to households. Be prepared to use bottled or boiled water until you know it’s safe.

Inform loved ones. Let friends or family members know about your condition and location.

Cleanup & Debris Removal

Once you've determined you and your family are safe, keep the following in mind as you begin any type of clean up or repairs after a hurricane.

Assess your area. Make note of what may need to be moved, cleaned up, or repaired – only if it is safe to do so. Keep an eye out for potential hazards.

Avoid standing water. Floodwaters may continue to rise after a hurricane has passed. Don't walk or drive through standing water; you run the risk of electrocution, falling, or other injuries. As little as 12" of water can float a car. The water may hide a number of hazards, including dangerous wildlife, unexpected potholes, bacteria, and sewage.

Prevent further damage. Take reasonable steps to prevent additional damage to your property, such as covering broken windows, placing a tarp over a damaged roof, or removing moldy items. Keep receipts for any temporary repairs you make – these costs may be reimbursable under your policy.

Mold & mildew mitigation. Water-damaged homes are at risk of mold and mildew growth, which can develop just 24-48 hours after the water exposure. Clean and disinfect what can be cleaned. Use fans, if possible, to dry wet areas. Remove soaked items unable to be completely cleaned or dried, such as rugs, carpets, couches, pillows, and mattresses.

Know your limits! Doing too much at once can lead to heart attacks, heatstroke, and other life-threatening medical problems. Stay hydrated and wear protective clothing, including a hat, goggles, gloves, and sunscreen when outdoors.

Use equipment wisely. Understand generator safety to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock, and fire. Do not use generators, grills, or any gasoline-powered tools in the home or garage. Wear safety gear and only use power tools if you can safely operate them.

Toss suspect perishables. Even with a full freezer and the door kept closed, food will remain frozen for just 2 days. For food in the refrigerator, it's just 4 hours – or less. Don't take chances: throw out anything you think might make you sick.

Be patient. Commit to remaining safe until things stabilize. It can take a while for emergency responders to clear roadways – a few days for major thoroughfares, and even longer for side streets. If you need to seek shelter elsewhere because your home is not safe to stay in, do so.

Seek Assistance

If you've sustained damage covered by your homeowners policy, you can seek assistance in the following ways:

Contact your insurance company. If you are a policyholder with Florida Peninsula Insurance, you can call your agent report your claim online or call (866) 549-9672 to report your damage and begin the claim process. Depending on the severity of the hurricane, we may mobilize teams or claim centers near you.

Contact FEMA. If the area is declared a federal disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can provide various types of assistance to affected individuals and communities. To apply for FEMA disaster assistance, begin by checking your eligibility then apply online or call (800) 621-3362.

Document your damage. Create an inventory of the damage you sustained. Take photos and videos (before and after cleanup), and keep track of other important information, including receipts. The better organized you are, the more streamlined the claims process should be.

Meet with the adjuster. An adjuster will likely be assigned to inspect the damage and assess your claim. Plan to be there during the inspection, and provide any documentation, photos, and information needed to evaluate your claim.

Beware of scams. Choose to work with state-licensed contractors and be wary of anyone promising easy loans or requiring upfront payment for work. Get at least 3 written estimates.

Stay Safe After a Hurricane

Do your best to remain healthy and safe following a hurricane. Emergency responders may not be able to immediately get to you due to downed debris on roadways. Remember you have made it safely through a storm and help will soon arrive.  

At Florida Peninsula Insurance, we're here to keep you informed and prepared for the next big storm. As one of Florida's largest homeowners insurance companies, we offer multi-peril policies covering homes, condos, as well as content insurance for renters.

Call your agent for more information. If you’d like to obtain a homeowners policy with us to ensure your family and home are protected, you can get a quote now or call Florida Peninsula Insurance at (877) 229-2244.

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