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August 26, 2009

Southeast insured coastal property value staggering

Here’s a really big number worth your consideration as 2009’s hurricane season ramps up: $3.04 trillion. That’s the total value of coastal insured property stretching from South Carolina to Louisiana.

So what does that mean to those who own coastal property in these states? Actually, more than one might think.

Individually, it represents the homes of hundreds of thousands of people who live full-time along the Southeast coast. Whether they’ve been there one year or 30 years, they can keep a close eye on the weather and on their property, even if they have to evacuate for the most serious storms. But there are also thousands of individuals who don’t call the Southeast coast home, but who do own coastal property in one or more of these states. Single-family homes, duplexes, condos, and townhomes are, in many cases, rental property that the owner uses for a few weeks a year. Who is looking after these properties as a storm approaches?

Long-distance owners have an extra responsibility to ensure that their second homes and investment properties are always storm-ready, or to make plans in advance of an approaching storm to “batten down the hatches.”

The importance of adequate building codes and structural integrity cannot be overstated when assessing a home’s ability to withstand wind and water damage. The Institute for Business and Home Safety (www.disastersafety.org) and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (www.flash.org) are two excellent sources of information about how to build new properties and retrofit existing properties to be storm-proof, and how to prepare for oncoming storms.

As the most recent storm to hit the Southern U.S., Tropical Storm Claudette provided another significant demonstration of the capability of these events. First, damaging storms can develop quickly, leaving little time for advance preparation. One day Claudette was a tropical wave in the Caribbean; the next day she had strengthened into a tropical storm moving relatively quickly through the Florida Panhandle. Have all your major storm preparation done long before a major storm is heading your way. Claudette also reminds us that for many storms, it’s not only the wind we need to be prepared for, but flooding — both coastal and inland.

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