Tag Archives: homeowner’s insurance

A week of hurricane preparation: Crucial steps to take

Hurricanes are a risk that all southern and eastern coastal communities are in danger of. The storms can form and can strengthen rapidly leaving little time for proper preparation. This list details things you can do within a week to help get your family and your home ready for the impact.

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INSURANCE:

  • Pull out your insurance documents. Make note of your coverage limits and your deductibles. Consider how much you’d need to cover the cost to replace your home’s structure, your personal belongings and your automobile. Call your agent(s) to confirm that you understand everything correctly.
  • Make a video inventory of your entire house including inside drawers, closets, etc. For higher priced and valuable items make sure to get the make/model, serial number and any other information that would be required to prove the value. Upload the video(s) to the cloud.

Extra Tip: Anyone with a child renting their own place should make sure that they have an active renter’s insurance policy and that they follow these same steps.
EVACUATION:

  • Much like an emergency kit but not in place of, pack everyone in your household a bag or suitcase with everything they would need for 2-3 days such as outfits, chargers, weather gear, etc. Critical medicine, food and water should be in every bag in case one gets lost. Don’t forget to pack one for your animals!
  • Make sure everyone has a phone list of emergency contacts (at least each other, a local contact and a contact that is out of the area). These should be programmed into phones and a printed copy should be in every bag with instructions on where to go if you get split up. You should have a safe place planned locally and another safe place to meet should you have to evacuate.

Extra Tip: When cell service is bad a text message may go through when a phone call won’t. Plan basic, short text messages to be shared among your emergency contacts such as “Safe. At Mimi’s”.
PROPERTY:

  • Take any movable items outside your home and move them inside. For items that are too heavy or large to move in, use cables or chains to secure them down so they can’t be blown around.
  • Consider purchasing a heavy-duty gasoline container to be filled and stored it in a cool, well-ventilated area. You don’t want to wait for an evacuation order to start running vehicles and gas cans to the station. Not only could the station run out of fuel before you get there, waiting would take precious time from other preparations and delay your departure.
  • Prepare to board up. Measure all window and glass door openings (include the framing). Purchase plywood pieces and pre-cut them to fit your measurements. Some lumber stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s may even have a panel saw and can cut them for you. Grab a box of screws and a drill if you don’t have one.

Extra Tip: Consider purchasing a generator. If you do purchase one, first test all your carbon monoxide detectors, then pick a safe place that you’ll be able to run it. The running place should be outside in a well ventilated are (no garages or basements!), that is dry and where you can quickly connect to it. Watch this video by Lowe’s for some other important generator tips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaLamTvTQc0
Questions? Concerns? Recommendations? Give us a call or send us an e-mail. We’re happy to help!

It’s Personal…

What’s More Personal Than a Person’s Home?

HomeWe all hope that we’ll never need the services of a professional restoration company. The reality is that you or someone you know will have a situation that requires them. Why should Whalen Restoration Services be the first choice for Cape Cod, MA property owners? Most people want to work with an established company that has a great reputation. They want the company to be licensed and insured, the workers to be experienced and trained, and the best tools available to be used with up-to-date techniques. There isn’t a restoration company that won’t claim to have all of these positive attributes. Our special difference: Whether the project involves a residential property or a commercial property, our President, Bill Whalen, is tuned in to the needs of the owner.

Bill ensures that all of us at Whalen Restoration Services realize that there is nothing more personal than someone’s home. If put in the same situation we would want to be back in our own homes as soon as possible, and we work diligently to be sure that our clients are. Business owners have additional concerns, specifically the expense of being unable to operate the business while the restoration is ongoing. We helped one restaurant owner who had a fire just before a major holiday, and another restaurant owner whose building was hit by a car at the height of the summer season. Anyone who is familiar with Cape Cod knows that being closed during those times would be devastating for business! We also saved business for a hotel where, had we not responded in the fashion that we did, a wedding would have been forfeited. Our timely restorations also saved the insurance companies significantly in all of these cases. Bill’s empathy and understanding for the business owner contributes immensely to the successful completion of their restoration projects.

Many of us here at Whalen Restoration Services have homes and families of our own, so we completely understand that it is personal to have us in yours. This business is even family owned and operated. These are huge reasons why we’re committed to restoring every residential and commercial property to its pre-loss condition in a timely fashion with quality and courtesy.

Want to learn more about Bill and our office staff? Read on!

Protecting your home from flooding

From August of 2017 to spring of 2018 we saw more groundwater damage on the Cape than ever before. Most of the homes and businesses were unprepared for the events that happened making property losses devastating to owners. Now that it has happened it is very real to the local owners that even if their basements never flooded before it doesn’t mean they won’t, and severe damage can happen within a matter of minutes. We hope the information below helps more people prepare for that possibility, minimize damage and protect their belongings.

Flood facts to keep in mind:

  • Groundwater can cover a variety of actual sources like rain, storm/ocean surge or high water tables.
  • Damage caused by groundwater is often not covered by a typical homeowners insurance policy.
  • Flood policies often exclude personal items stored in the basement. If you have a flood policy make sure to double check the exclusions and have them clarified by your agent.
  • If your basement floods because the water tables are very high you may not be able to do much about the water until the levels have subsided. If you pump the water out into your yard it will probably seep right back in unless the pumping is continuous.
  • You do have options! Just because you take on groundwater under severe conditions doesn’t mean you have to sell and move on. You may have to invest in waterproofing solutions but it can be maintained.

Recommendations for properties in flood-prone areas

  • Raise basement appliances and contents up off the ground. Put them up on blocks, shelves or pallets. You could even install a false floor over the slab to allow for water to drain below to a sump pump.
  • Install a sump pump! Some basements may need more than one. Regardless of how many you install make sure you set up a battery back-up or generator. Last year some owners had pumps but they needed electricity to run and the storms knocked out the power for days so the areas flooded. Odds are that when the flooding is bad so isn’t the weather and power outages will be likely.
  • Properly grade your landscaping. You’re bound to see problems if you have a yard that directs water towards your basement. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that the soil around the foundation slopes 4-6 inches for a distance of 3′ from the foundation walls.
  • Check your downspouts. Just like with the landscaping you want to make sure your down spouts are directing the water away from the house. Water should be directed at least 3′ from the foundation.
  • Install an interior drainage system to give the water a place to go. There are several different kinds to suit different types of foundations.
  • Seal your basement walls. This and many of the other options listed here can be taken care of by basement waterproofing professionals. Do your research, read reviews and get quotes from a few places before deciding on the company to help you with your unique waterproofing needs.
  • Make sure you dehumidify. This is important whether you sustain flooding or not, but certainly a necessity if you do. Anything that gets wet needs to be properly dried to avoid mold growth.
  • For more severe cases like properties that take on storm surges that cause feet of water to quickly collect you may want to look into more drastic measures such as raising the entire house.

Flooding on Cape Cod

We’ve seen many storms and some pretty nasty winters the last few years here on Cape Cod, but last week was certainly something different for the area. While locals braced themselves for a storm after sustaining a long cold snap they didn’t quite expect to be facing such a major flood situation.

Provincetown’s high tide just after noon measured a whole 4’ higher than the previous tide, hitting a total height of over 10’ and turning Commercial Street into a river. Not only did the tides raise, the groundwater level rose so places like dirt crawlspaces flooded and all of the melting snow didn’t drain completely into the ground. Some areas reported surges that exceeded those of the historic Blizzard of ’78!

Eastham, MA Storm Surge Flooding

Not only were areas of the Cape being devastated with storm surge and groundwater damage, the warmer temperatures thawed homes with frozen pipes causing water damage in other areas.  We can’t stress enough the importance of winterizing your home if you’re going to be away for an extended period of time. Even if it’s just a short while, make sure someone checks in on it, that your water is off and that your heat is on. Open your cabinets under sinks to allow for the warm air to flow to the plumbing. If you’re away often, purchase a water detector for damage prone areas like the basement to alert you as soon as water is detected, and Wi-Fi enabled thermostats so you can monitor the temperature in the house.  These things help you act fast when disaster strikes so you can minimize the amount of damage you sustain.

Complicating matters even further were the power outages. Most heating systems rely on electricity to work so when the storm knocked out power to areas it also knocked out the heat. Later that night temperatures dropped to a deep freeze.  It was a recipe for disaster. Pipes were even freezing in homes that were primary to the residents and the heat was on. It was really that cold, and the wind was that strong that it froze pipes in their exterior walls and ceilings.

Although there are a lot of areas where homeowners are required to purchase flood insurance because of their location on FEMA’s flood maps those policies don’t cover damaged contents. Think of all of the things that people keep in their basements; seasonal clothes, pantry items, extra furniture, etc. Finished basements could be entire bedrooms, offices and TV rooms. Flood insurance at least covers damage to burners and electrical equipment, but the cost to not only replace but dispose of all of the contents can be in the thousands.

“25% of homes with flood claims each year are in low risk zones.”

It has been a real eye opener. As restoration efforts continue and our crews remain available round-the-clock for emergency services we hope that everyone really takes a look at the measures they have in place for such disasters to protect themselves, their business and their homes from future events. It’s obvious the weather patterns continue to change, and the storms seem to be getting stronger, so please, stay safe out there and make sure you prepare for all of the possibilities.

Why We Are Still Talking About Hurricane Sandy

It was last fall that Hurricane Sandy battered the east coast, but we are still seeing pictures today of the damage inflicted and reading about Sandy Relief Fund donations. Pictures portray areas that have hardly been touched since the super storm hit. Community assistance and volunteers are still widely needed and funding is still an issue. Why are we still buzzing about Sandy? Thank Katrina.

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Much of the hundreds of millions of federal dollars provided to the residents of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina cannot be accounted for. Funds were provided for the homeowner’s to elevate their homes above floodwater threat levels with a deadline of 3 years to complete the elevation. Here we are years later seeing the level of homes unchanged. The mass search of receipts to prove where exactly the funds were spent is a headache of a mess. Trying to collect the funds back from non-compliant homeowners is going to be difficult if not near impossible.

By the time Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey, those with the power to grant the funds learned from what happened in Louisiana.  Planning to release the finds in installments was part of the process of avoiding the mess. This plan involves more support including but not limited to production management, inspections, confirmation of work completion, and then collection. Where more support is required, more funds are required to cover that support. More time is required for the communication between each support system. An estimated 26,000 homeowners will benefit from federal programs upon approval, but these limited funds are approved for specific repairs and it is necessary to ensure that they are used properly.

Even in some of the average covered losses I see within the year, this installment process is present. The urgency to repair after a widespread catastrophe cannot compare, but the steps on how to collect can. If the funds are approved and released upon an agreed scope of repairs, you would divide the services by the payments required to complete them. Once one percentage of the project is complete, application for the payment is submitted. The work is inspected to confirm completion, and then funds are released. In doing this, someone, contractor or homeowner, is covering the cost and then maybe being reimbursed by the insurance company. Although this is a longer process, it protects policy holders from the dangers of fraud. In a large catastrophe situation, it protects disaster relief depletion due to those who don’t intend to spend the small amount of available funds as instructed.

Of course, there are other reasons we are still seeing incomplete restorations. These are not limited to insufficient insurance coverage, funding, and property view debates. There were homeowner’s blindsided to find that their basic insurance didn’t cover flood loss. Neighbors are arguing about view obstruction from house elevation. Many owners have now come to find that they need to completely tear down their homes and rebuild from scratch.  Any unattended homes by now that still had water damage would be ridden with mold.

We also still get to witness the beauty within all the devastation. Even back after Hurricane Katrina hit, the growth in the presence of community is grand. With each large disaster, there are still thousands of people willing to help. Disaster relief committees learn from the last catastrophe to more effectively restore from the current. All the talk we still hear and pictures we still see about Hurricane Sandy are a great reminder that homeowners and renters not only need to learn from what happened, but also apply it. This 2013 hurricane season starts on a canvas perfect for another large storm. Plan ahead, review your coverage, and be aware of your risk.

 

For specifics on New Jersey’s recovery from Superstorm Sandy (also a great resource for victims) visit http://www.fema.gov/news-release/2013/07/15/new-jersey-recovery-superstorm-sandy-numbers

For great resources to plan and prepare for any disaster, visit: http://www.fema.gov/plan-prepare-mitigate