Don't become complacent!
Today marks the official start of Bermuda’s hurricane season, when all residents should start to be on guard for potential tropical storms and hurricanes. As reported by The Royal Gazette, the Weather Channel has forecast lower activity than the previous two years and slightly below the yearly average for the Atlantic region.
However, complacency is never our recommended course of action. Argus fully advocates planning ahead in order to lighten the emotional and financial toll that a hurricane can take on you, your family and friends, and even your pets.
Here at Argus, we have a hurricane plan that we update annually. It maps out how we respond to a hurricane before, during and after. This plan helps us to ensure that we are ready to support our clients in the event of a hurricane in a timely and efficient manner.
We urge residents to put their plans in place now so that they are ready to protect each other and their belongings should the worst happen.
We know from experience that storm activity typically peaks around the end of August or the beginning of September, but it is wise to begin your preparations early so as to avoid the inevitable queues and product shortages at hardware and grocery stores.
You can put together your hurricane season shopping list and start gathering supplies now rather than waiting until a hurricane has been confirmed to be heading our way. Store them separately from your regular groceries so that your emergency rations are not accidentally depleted by your family. Whatever you don’t use by the end of the hurricane season, you can use from December 1 onwards or save for the following year if they are non-perishable items. Here is a checklist of what to include:
· Large trash bags
· Sturdy working gloves
· Drinking water
· A manual can opener
· Canned and non-perishable foods
· Pet food
· Fire extinguisher
· Portable radio
· Flashlights with spare bulbs
· A cooler
· First aid kit
You should also make sure that you have back-up supplies of prescription drugs that you, your family or your pets take. For additional information visit www.argus.bm and review our Hurricane Checklist.
At the beginning of hurricane season you can also get your action plan on paper and keep it somewhere handy so it can be seen by your family, for example on the fridge or by the front door. Your action plan should identify someone as the single point of contact who will control the flow of information and instructions and keep things clear and orderly on the inside while the storm rages on the outside. Think about the information cascade, which should incorporate elderly relatives or neighbours.
You should state a meeting point within your plan in case evacuation of your home is necessary. Include on the document important external points of communication in the case of emergency, such as the Emergency Broadcast station on 100.1 FM, and emergency numbers for rescue services (911), Belco (955) and Bermuda Weather (977). Useful websites to note for use while you still have internet access are: www.emo.gov.bm, www.weather.bm, www.stormpulse.com, and www.nhc.noaa.gov.
This month is also a recommended time to do a quick assessment of your home to identify any external repairs, such as loose hinges on doors or shutters, or wall/roof cracks. Trim back damaged branches, large trees or foliage that may damage power lines causing outages.
Once a hurricane has been forecast, collect any last minute supplies and withdraw some cash before filling your car and bike with gas.
Park your vehicles away from the house and any large trees or power lines. Tie down or bring inside anything in your garden that could be moved around by strong winds, including garbage cans, outdoor furniture, potted plants or gardening tools. Close your shutters or board up windows, glass doors or skylights without shutters.
At the very least, you should apply masking tape in the shape of an “X” to protect yourself from flying glass. Bring your pets in as soon as you can. Make sure you charge the electrical equipment you can use during a storm like your cell phone, BlackBerry, laptops, iPads or even walkie-talkies if you have them.
Turn your fridge and freezer to the coldest setting and open them as little as possible to preserve the low temperature should power be lost. Fill your bathtub with water, as well as any other containers you have available.
When the hurricane is expected to pass or hit Bermuda within 24 hours, check that your supplies are in order and ensure you have started securing your home.
If your house sustains damage and you are exposed to the elements during a storm, take shelter in a room without windows, such as a closet or hallway and shield yourself with a mattress. Do not go outside until notified by an emergency radio broadcast that it is safe to do so. Remember, there will be a period of calm in the middle of a storm if the ‘eye’ passes directly over the Island.
With the recent rise in user-generated news content such as photos and videos, we have seen an increase in people taking chances for the sake of getting a great shot or footage, but it really isn’t worth risking life or limb to become a media star. More people taking these risks put additional pressure on emergency services, so your actions could jeopardise someone else’s safety.
After the storm make sure everyone is safe. In the event you need to make an insurance claim, help make the claim process as straightforward as possible by listing damage to your property and belongings.
When carrying out your inspection, use a flashlight rather than a candle or other open flame. It is also helpful to take pictures of any damage that has occurred. You can limit any further damage to your home by covering any roof or outside structural damage with tarpaulin and opening windows and doors to ventilate and dry it out.
Where possible, Argus will change its operating hours in the aftermath of a hurricane or other disaster to facilitate the submission of claims.
Stay safe this hurricane season by proactively looking after yourself and each other.
Please visit our booth at Gorham’s on June 9 to learn more about hurricane preparations and our special hurricane offer. We’d like to thank Gorham’s for allowing us to work with them to raise awareness of hurricane season.
John Doherty is Executive Vice President of Property and Casualty at the Argus Group. John is a Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter and holds an Associate in Risk Management, an Associate in Reinsurance and several certificates and diplomas in general insurance. www.argus.bm.
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