Are you prepared for hurricane season?
It struck in ferociously with 150mph winds in the late afternoon. The turmoil was relentless for 12 hours straight through the night.
On the shore line, solid stone homes collapsing under the assault of the 30ft booming ocean rollers. Entire windows, door frames and roofs were blown out. Sea, sand and rain, combined in a plaster-like substance, adhered to buildings like pink glue.
We lost power, in some cases for weeks. Boats, no discrimination as to sizes or shapes, were tossed aside as detritus in sea and shore alike; vegetation a dissembled green morass, and with outside communication and internet derailed – the very old-fashioned landline once again came to the rescue.
Bermuda felt the full hurricane impact with the tragic loss of our own islanders, their vehicles swept away by the raging sea breaching the shattered Causeway. In the aftermath, St George’s’ and St David’s islanders, always adaptive, shifted into survival mode, commuting by any boat possible, as access to the mainland was destroyed.
Damages to the island were reported at $300 million.
The day was Friday, September 5, 2003. Hurricane Fabian was the most intense storm to impact the island in 80 years.
With repairs and supplies scarce, resources were immediately deployed, as many volunteers stepped up to help in any way they could.
Corporate jets freighted in tarpaulins and related equipment to protect decimated homes from the elements.
The Bermuda Regiment responded strongly – out in force fielding supplies, clearing blocked roads and transporting islanders.
Belco, BTC and Public Works staff were in action in the aftermath, restoring home functions.
Neighbours helping neighbours, high on roofs, locking down waterproof tarpaulins with concrete blocks, clearing debris, trucking, supplying water, and food to those without.
The prevailing view for months on island was the sight of thousands of blue-covered roofs, some waiting for their rebuild turn, others regretfully underinsured or uninsured.
The landfill rose to mountainous heights in the mop-up of nature’s destruction.
Families grieved as a semblance of normality returned with the help of our extraordinary community efforts, all in solidarity against a common disaster.
And, just like that as if nothing had happened, the next morning, the sun shone down on another Bermudaful day!
Three days later, Monday, September 8, 2003, Bermuda was open for business per usual; never forgetting this tragic day, but moving ahead with positive determination towards the future.
Once again, Bermuda islanders’ resiliency and preparedness stood the test of time – as we have ever since the first settlers survived a shipwreck in the aftermath of a horrendous Atlantic storm.
Now, are you hurricane-ready this year?
Are you carrying insurance on your home? Do you know what it covers? When was the last time you reviewed it?
Consider this brief review of a generic homeowners policy, but be sure to consult your agent for home insurance specific to your needs, coverage, and environment.
Property and casualty insurance is a legal contract between you and your insurer. Both of you have obligations under the contract; the company to insure you under their defined criteria for a price; you to adhere to those defined conditions and constraints in order to receive the insurer’s protections.
Generally, a standard homeowner’s policy will cover:
• Damage, theft, accidents to your home structure, stand-alone garage, shed, etc
• Inside your home: furniture, equipment, personal belongings, although there may be dollar limits on very expensive items
• Liability coverage against lawsuits for property damage or bodily injury caused by you or family members (may include pets) and certain medical coverage for other people injured in your home
• Support and living expenses away from home due to damage from an insured disaster.
A peril is insurance vernacular for a specific cause of property damage or bodily injury, as an event, situation, or incident. Examples are fire, lightning, windstorm, hail, explosion, riot or civil commotion, aircraft, vehicles, smoke, vandalism, malicious mischief, theft, while examples of exclusions are neglect of property, intentional loss, war, power failure, etc.
Insurance contracts carefully define what is covered (or not) in the perils declarations section. Named perils state specifically what losses are covered, while open perils, also known as an all risk policy, covers all perils except those specifically excluded. Policies may have a mixture of both.
Generally, insured coverage is calculated on the replacement cost. This replacement number can vary from the selling price of a home and the mortgage lender’s valuation.
The homeowner must purchase sufficient insurance to cover 80 per cent of the house’s total replacement value, if that coverage is less than 80 per cent, then the amount paid by the insurer will be proportionate to the amount of the coverage.
This is an important point given that inflation drives up construction and labour costs in arriving at final numbers on rebuilding or repairing damaged property. And if the homeowner does not purchase sufficient insurance to cover the replacement value, he or she will have to cover the difference in the damages.
Can you afford that difference?
Only you can answer that question.
If you cannot, but decide to play the partial-insured, or no-insurance lottery game anyway, if your home incurs severe damage, can you safely cover the rebuild from savings and investments?
It is unclear if the self-insured homeowner could obtain a loan collateralised by a property in possible total disrepair, if savings are not sufficient.
You can see why mortgage banks require borrowers to carry adequate home insurance.
Numerous current videos in circulation this week are a timely reminder of how homes can collapse into the sea. It always makes one think.
Did they have adequate home insurance?
Be prepared. Review your policy carefully to understand what is and is not covered under local Bermuda conditions and what your cost of a projected loss will be!
Call your insurance representative for a review of your policy, if necessary.
Next monthly insurance article: how do insurance companies assess your home, surroundings, geographical location, and many other data facts to provide you with property insurance?
The Bermudian, The History of Hurricanes in Bermuda, August 11, 2021 and a timeline of the most destructive storms in Bermuda’s history.
• Martha Harris Myron is a native Bermudian finance columnist with US connections. Contact her at email@example.com