Preparation Vital as Hurricane Season Arrives
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 1, 2006 Today marks the first day of the hurricane season, and National Guard units along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts are prepared to respond.
"The most important thing we're doing is taking all the lessons learned from the past two hurricane seasons and going over them to make sure we didn't miss anything," said Staff Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa, a Florida Army National Guard spokesman. "The best way to prepare is to go back and look at what we've done right and what we can do a little bit better, so when that Category 4 hurricane does come bearing down on Florida, we're ready for it."
Kielbasa said the Florida National Guard has responded to several major hurricanes over the past couple of years, including sending people to assist in 2005's Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi.
"The missions have included everything from search and rescue to ice and water distribution," Kielbasa said.
Throughout the spring, Florida National Guard soldiers have offered free classes on hurricane preparedness to Florida high schools, he said, and have been working with other state agencies, such as law enforcement and department of health officials, to better coordinate relief efforts.
They recently examined a scenario where a terror attack and a hurricane occurred simultaneously. "Our job was to see what the Florida National Guard leadership and personnel can do to help the state out in that event," Kielbasa said.
Defense Department officials stressed that if servicemembers themselves live in an area affected by a hurricane, they should contact their command to report their status. This will help eliminate undue concern, officials said.
In addition, the USAA, a financial services and insurance organization serving military members and their families, recommends servicemembers living in hurricane zones take a look at their homeowners insurance policies to make sure they contain flood insurance.
Most policies do not cover damage from flood or other surface water. A separate flood insurance policy is required. A separate wind policy might also be necessary, USAA officials said.
"Two active hurricane seasons back to back sure got everyone's attention. USAA wants to see that attention turn into action," said Michael Kelly, USAA executive director of military communications. "Act now by taking steps to protect yourself, your family and your property before a storm hits. Read your insurance policy so you know what it covers, and make sure you have the coverage you need. Thinking ahead is the No. 1 hurricane preparedness tip."
USAA recommends six basic ways to prepare for hurricane season:
- Forecast insurance needs: Any substantial change in the value of a home or possessions, such as a major remodeling project or new appliances, might mean increased policy limits are needed. With recent increases in property values, a home could cost more to rebuild than when it was first insured. It is important to make sure the policy covers the cost to rebuild.
- Seek shelter from the storm: "Additional Living Expense" coverage will take care of temporary living expenses, such as reasonable hotel bills and meals, while a home is being restored.
- Plan for high tide: Get flood insurance. If residence is near a body of water, levee or dam, or the property experiences significant standing water after a rain, talk with an insurance company or agent to find out whether a separate flood insurance policy is needed.
- Think about strong gusts: A windstorm policy might be needed.
- Put possessions on camera: Create a written inventory of personal possessions that includes the cost of major items, such as furniture, clothing, electronics and jewelry. Taking digital pictures or a video of belongings can help make the claims process go more smoothly.
- Fireproof and waterproof paperwork and records: Store important insurance and financial papers, and home inventory, in a secure place, such as a safe-deposit box. It's wise to keep copies in a more accessible location as well. Consider storing copies in a fireproof box, or send a copy to a trusted family member outside of the area.
Hurricane season runs through November.