Florida is on a hot streak. And I’m not just talking about our summer temperatures slowly creeping up. I’m talking about hurricanes. The Sunshine State has now gone a record nine years without a land-falling hurricane of Category 3 or higher. Knock on wood.
At the outset of the 2015 hurricane season on June 1, it is easy for Floridians to have a small amount of hurricane amnesia and a false sense of security. We are experiencing the calm before the storm, because Florida will get hit again and we will get hit hard. Whether it’s this year, next year or five years from now, it is just a matter of time, and Floridians need to be prepared.
Forecasters are predicting another fairly calm hurricane season in 2015 with an estimated seven named storms, including three hurricanes and one major hurricane. The key word in that sentence is “predicting” because that is what they are — predictions — we never know for certain what Mother Nature has in store for us. And as many long-time Florida residents can attest to, it only takes one major storm to cause catastrophic damage to homes, communities and families.
Floridians should use this time wisely and prepare now for hurricane season. Start by speaking with your insurance agent to make sure you have the right amount of coverage for your property and organize all of your important insurance documents in one place. Ask if you should consider purchasing flood insurance, as most homeowners’ policies do not cover flooding, and it must be purchased as a separate policy.
You should also create or update your family’s personal emergency plan and include information about where to go and what to do if you are forced to evacuate. Last, but not least, have a plan for how to best prepare your property and have the materials and tools needed to do so readily available.
Make sure you have some cash on hand and at least a half tank of gas in your car in case an approaching storm makes a quick turn, knocking out power or forcing evacuations sooner than anticipated. Stay informed by purchasing a weather radio so you can track a storm’s progress even if power goes out. These tips can help prepare you physically and financially for a major storm event.
Just as residents make preparations for hurricane season, so does the insurance industry. Thankfully, the Florida property insurance market is moving in the right direction. Consumers are finding it easier to purchase insurance in the private market, and insurance rates are stabilizing after years of inflation.
The state-created Citizens Property Insurance has made significant progress in reducing their number of policy holders and achieving financial stability. Citizens has reduced their policy count from 1.5 million to about 600,000 and has come back from a deficit of $1.8 billion in 2005 to a surplus of $7.4 billion at the end of 2014. The so-called “hurricane tax” has been lifted from home and auto insurance bills and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund is the strongest it has ever been.
In the event Florida is hit by a hurricane and homeowners experience damage to their property, it is critical to contact your insurance agent first and do not fall victim to individuals preying on families who have suffered a loss. Unscrupulous third party companies often times will try to convince homeowners to sign over their insurance benefits in order to proceed with the repair work.
Legislation addressing “Assignment of Benefits” abuse died this past session, but it will remain a high priority for the insurance industry in 2016 as our focus continues to be on protecting policyholders from fraudsters.
As the 2015 hurricane season quickly approaches, we urge you to get ready now. Don’t wait until a major hurricane is lingering off Florida’s coast before you take action to protect your property and your family. The insurance industry stands ready to help you before, during and after a catastrophic event so that you and your loved ones can return to normal life as quickly as possible.
Logan McFaddin is the regional manager of state government relations for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, a national trade association comprised of more than 1,000 member companies.