Linda Donovan is a vice president at the Morgan Stanley office near the Galleria. When Hurricane Ike blew through nearly five years ago, it brought down a neighbor's tree into her house in the Memorial Villages neighborhood.
"We had to figure out whose comprehensive insurance paid for what. So I believe it's very important that homeowners have all their data, their financial records, in order — in terms of health insurance, life insurance, home insurance."
Fortunately, both Donovan and her neighbor had thought ahead to have those documents at the ready. They were quickly able to determine that her neighbor bore liability for the fallen tree. That cleared the way for workers to come in and remove it, before the tree caused more damage to her home.
Donovan says when you make financial preparations for a storm or any other kind of disaster, you should create at least one backup file.
"I have a file at home. It has my medical records, insurance records, account numbers, policies. And I have the same file, away from home. And I talk to people, sometimes they put it in a sealed bag, and they send it to their brother in California, in the worst-case scenario. So it's very important to have a file readily accessible to you. And suppose the home was damaged? It's best to have it outside of your premises."
Donovan says it's not enough just to have access to your insurance policy after a storm. Homeowners should read the fine print in their policies before a storm.
"They need to know what type of coverage they should have, in terms of hazard insurance, flood insurance, wind, hail damage. All that comes into play. And it should be updated, as well."
Along with updating your homeowner's insurance, Donovan says you should make sure you have enough cash on hand to last up to five days, if there's another widespread power outage like the one created by Hurricane Ike.
"There will be out-of-pocket expenses that you don't anticipate. And if you don't have access to an ATM, most people don't take checks today."
Donovan also advises signing up for online banking and direct deposit, so any paychecks or other income you might be counting on when a storm hits won't be held up by any postal delays.
One final piece of advice she offers is to go on what she calls the buddy system — recruiting a relative or close friend outside the area who could help make arrangements for emergency accommodations, or get the ball rolling on insurance claims.
For more, visit our hurricane resource page.