Prepared? Hurricane Tips for Naples, FL

Protecting your home from hurricanes can mean great savings in the long run

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a slower than average storm season, with at most eleven official storms, six of them hurricanes, only two of them really big ones. Only two monster hurricanes! But as NOAA is quick to point out, it only takes one Andrew (in 1992, another slow year) or Katrina or Charley to destroy what for many is their most valuable asset.

There are a number of ways to harden your home to the crushing effects of a storm, but for some specific ones, the state requires insurance companies to give you a discount on your premium. That could amount to saving hundreds or thousands of dollars every year, including for some fixes you might consider anyway for the sake of safety and security. They could also offset costs and stresses of evacuation if you can ride it out at home, and increase the property value.

Here is list of things you can do to best protect your home from windy, watery attack, and in the process potentially save enough cash on your policy to throw one hell of a hurricane party every year. A disclaimer: The cost estimates can vary widely depending on your home, its location, your insurer, and other factors.
Last week President Barack Obama visited the National Hurricane Center in Miami for his yearly briefing on hurricane season.

Make a plan for your home and yard

Start thinking about what you need to do to secure your home, keep your costs minimal after the storm and potentially lower the cost of your homeowner’s policy. Where are your weaknesses? Will you plan to ride out the storm or evacuate?

“You can’t wait ’til the hurricane is on you,” said Bud Hornbeck, CEO of Lutgert Insurance in Naples. “Look around the property to make sure there’s nothing there you can’t do to make it a safer area. It’s just a matter of proper planning and trying to visualize when the storm hits what I’m going to do.”
Upgrading your roof straps and installing hurricane shutters are ways to save on insurance while protecting your home.
Upgrading your roof straps and installing hurricane shutters are ways to save on insurance while protecting your home.
Get a wind mitigation inspection

This can be an essential part of the plan. It will show you what areas of your home could be improved and where you may be leaving insurance credits on the table. It costs in the neighborhood of $85 to $150. Google it along with the city or county where you live, or ask your insurance agent. The report details specific improvements that can make your home safer and save you money on your insurance premium as required by state statute 627.711. Take the report to your insu
rance agent and he or she can tell you how much you’ll save based on a list of possible improvements.

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“That’s probably the best way to be able to evaluate what your options are,” said Mr. Hornbeck. “It’s very valuable to have that report even if you’re getting some (improvements) and not all of them. (And) at the end of the day, you have a house that’s going to give you the maximum credits on your policy.”

Homes built prior to 2001 especially may be eligible for discounts for upgrades to roofs, garage doors, windows, and other openings. Unless you’re very handy, the ones with the largest discounts (for your roof) need to be done by a contractor. They may cost thousands, but you’ll know beforehand how much money you’ll save and if it’s enough to cover the cost immediately, in two years or 10 years. Even some simple fixes like bracing for a garage door could help lower policy costs and make the difference between coming through a bad storm with minimal damage or facing a disaster. From a real estate standpoint, the improvements also increase value.
High winds pose a danger during a storm, while flooding can wreak havoc after the storm has passed.
High winds pose a danger during a storm, while flooding can wreak havoc after the storm has passed.
Upgrading the roof

The wind mitigation report should be your guide here, including small fixes like replacing loose shingles or any damage that could be worsened by wind.

Some options with insurance discounts include replacing the roof completely, adding a “secondary water paper” barrier to protect your home if the primary covering blows off, and adding new roof clips or straps to hold it down as more tightly, said Lee Scott Crowther, CEO of Crowther Roofing. Here’s how the price might break down.

A new shingle roof on an average house could run in the $14,000 range, or more for metal or tile. Adding new truss strapping or clips might add $2,000 or $3,000 to that if you’re already replacing the roof. It could be significantly more if you only replace the clips. The insurance discounts may also be $2,000 or $3,000 every year, so the savings would add up fast depending on how long you stayed in the home.

“Every insurance company is going to be different but that’s what our customers are telling us,” Mr. Crowther said. “The biggest bang for the buck would be to do all these things together… Quite frankly, the interest cost on the loan to do all that would probably be exceeded by the (savings on) insurance premiums.”

Hurricane shutters and impact glass

Hurricane shutters and impactresistant glass may be expensive, but you might consider a mix of shutters and properly sized plywood or other approved material to cover all the openings on your house. (Tape does not work). A sales point for the impact glass is that it can also reduce energy costs and make your home more secure against vandalism, said Brian Rist, CEO Storm Smart, which makes and installs hurricane protection products. Discounts on insurance in some cases “pay for the cost of shutters or windows in just a few short years,” he said.

Even if you’re not in a high-risk area, consider buying flood insurance

Flooding and storm surge are often the most costly threats to life and property, and if you live in a high-risk zone, flood insurance is required. Others may assume that because they’re not in the highest risk area (with a one in four chance of flooding in 30 years), it’s not worth buying or they won’t be flooded, even though that is not uncommon. About 20 percent of flood insurance claims come from moderate-to-low risk areas, according to the National Flood Insurance Program. A slow-moving storm that dumps plenty of rain could cause severe water damage to homes in both areas. In the lowest risk areas homeowners can buy fairly cheap “preferred risk” flood insurance policies in the $300 to $400 per year range, said Danny Hinson, who works for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, although better policies can cost at least three times that.

How communities save residents money on homeowners insurance

Mr. Hinson is state coordinator for Florida’s Community Rating System. Counties and cities go above and beyond storm mitigation codes required by the National Flood Insurance Program and by doing so earn their residents automatic discounts on flood insurance. In Florida, 216 total communities participate, with residents saving a combined $180 million annually on federal insurance. All of Lee, Charlotte, and Collier counties and cities are in, and most communities in Palm Beach County. Only a few, Palm Beach Gardens and Mangonia Park, have opted out.

Residents’ discounts are based on how compliant the local government is with the CRS plan. A rating of 1 is the best and 10 is the worst, meaning they don’t participate and get no discount. Communities earn credits for ratings in four categories: public information, regulations, flood damage reduction, and warning and response. But no Florida community (and few in the United States) have earned better than a 5: that may be partly the fault of a federal CRS rating system that needs reform, Mr. Hinson said. For instance, Cape Coral is rated a 5, so residents in higher risk areas save 25 percent on their policy, or on average $234 per year. Those outside high-risk areas saved $138 per year on average. Out of the Cape’s more than 32,500 policies that’s $6.5 million in savings every year. If the city were rated a 4 residents would save $7.8 million.

Read your policy and check with your agent annually

“If you haven’t had that annual conversation with your insurance agent this is the time to do it,” said Lynne McChristian, a representative for the Insurance Information Institute in Tampa. “There’s a lot of trust on the part of insurers you’re going to tell them what you have and it’s properly protected.”

A few terms to look out for. “Replacement Cost” policies offer full protection in a loss. It would replace used, damaged equipment with new equipment, without regard to its age and condition. “Actual Cash Value” policies may cost less but, but by taking into account how used say a couch is, it can reduce the amount you’ll be reimbursed.

Make home improvements part of your overall hurricane plan

Some other details to consider:

Trim trees and shrubs around your home so they are more wind resistant.

Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.

Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else not tied down.

Check out the health of trees in your yard. Reground trees with clay and soil if necessary and cut them away from rooftops. ¦

Average homeowner insurance premiums by county: with and without wind mitigation improvements on the home

The rates shown are the lowest and highest from a list of insurance providers for a home valued at $150,000, built before 2001, with no claimsinthelastthreeyearsanda2percent hurricane deductible.

Lee County:

>> Rates with no wind mitigation ranged from $1,958 to $4,634. With wind mitigation improvements, $1,039 to $2,708.

Collier County:

>> Without wind mitigation improvements, $2,304 to $5,318. With mitigation, $1,127 to $2,785.

Charlotte County:

>> Without wind mitigation, $1,980 to $4,149. With mitigation, $1,025 to $2,384.

Palm Beach County:

>> Without mitigation, $2,713 to $7,855. With, $1,444 to $2,578.

Check your own county and compare a list of insurance providers and their costs with the Rate Comparison Tool at https://choices. Premiums vary depending on individual circumstances. They are based on the most recent filings approved by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.


>> Get your plan started at Florida Division of Emergency Management’s, which in about 10 minutes allows you to plug in information about your home or business. Or check out

The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes website offers a more complete list for protecting homes from hurricanes. At the top of the website, choose “hurricanes.” Under Hurricane Safety, choose Protect Your Home for instructions on how to board up and secure doors, and other tips and instructions.

Learn more about flood insurance policies at