2023 Hurricane Season: How your cellphone can help you prepare for the worst

Rebecca Hale places shutters on her home as she prepares for the possible arrival of Hurricane Ian on September 27, 2022 in St Petersburg, Florida. Ian is expected in the Tampa Bay area Wednesday night into early Thursday morning. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) (Joe Raedle, 2022 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Many Floridians know that one hurricane can change your life forever with financial and property losses.

Hurricane Ian alone generated over 160,000 insurance claims in Florida.

From strong winds to flooding, your property can be easily damaged during a tropical storm or hurricane.

“We are going to see anywhere from 14 to 18 storms in the upcoming year,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. “I know that’s a scary number but what’s even worse is four major hurricanes. But this is the reality. We live in paradise and unfortunately Mother Nature loves to vacation in Florida.”

Before a system heads our way, Patronis said, there are ways to prepare for the worst.

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Patronis, who tracks state spending but also keeps track of the financial impact storms have on Florida, said property owners need to harden their homes. It’s the same as weatherizing your home, and there’s a state incentive to help.

State money is set aside to help you get hurricane impact windows installed, then you can get a windstorm mitigation inspection and call your insurance agent.

Then your insurance agent assesses your home and, depending on the outcome, it could lower your insurance premium.

Patronis said he’s personally benefited from the program too.

“My insurance went down about $700 a year and you know how it went down? I immediately got a check from my insurance carrier for a $700 rebate because my insurance company didn’t know how hardened my house was,” Patronis said.

There’s also something quick and easy you can do to prepare with a tool you already have with you nearly 24 hours a day: your cellphone.

Take videos of the inside and outside of your home. Then when a storm comes, if it leaves any damage, you can prove to your insurance company that your home was previously in good condition.

According to Patronis, the rebate check is guaranteed by Florida law if you have those improvements on your home. If it’s documented, they have to cut you a check. To find out more about getting prepared for hurricane season, visit preparefl.com.

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