1. Hurricane

Hurricanes, home insurance and how to make sure you’re prepared

The process of filing a disaster claim can be stressful. Here are some tips for how to get ready.
A home lay tossed onto its side in Mexico Beach two months after Hurricane Michael. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2018)
Published Jun. 26
Updated Jun. 26

Confused by home insurance?

We talked to several experts in the field, and came away with these tips for making sure you’re prepared before the next storm.

READ MORE: Complete hurricane coverage from the Tampa Bay Times

BACKGROUND: Hurricane Michael destroyed their homes. Then the insurance heartache began.

Background check your providers. Research the Better Business Bureau ratings and comb through some of the data on the state Office of Insurance Regulation website ( Look into the company’s financial standing — will it have the funds to pay you if a disaster strikes? “A lot of people treat insurance as if it is a commodity, like every insurance policy is exactly the same,” said Charles Nyce, a Florida State University risk management and insurance professor. “And they’re not. Some insurance companies are better than others.”

Read your policy. Advice so trite it seems annoying. But go through your policy line-by-line, the best you can. Your home is likely your most expensive asset, and you should make sure it’s protected. Think about your cell phone bill, and how you comb over the coverage you get for the various fees. Try to understand insurance at least as well.

Lean on, and challenge, your agent. When you don’t understand something on your own, ask. Your insurance agent is an expert you hire to help you get coverage. Press them for details, until you feel like you really get it.

Know your deductibles. Before a storm hits, check and make sure you are aware of how much money you could owe if you have a claim. Nyce said the deductible should be right on the first pages of your policy, with the declarations. At the very least, read these.

Take a video of your house. If you evacuate before a storm, press record on your cell phone and perform a slow walk-through, showing everything you own and its condition. After the storm, when your insurer asks you to provide proof of all the contents you lost, this video will be crucial to your claim.

If it’s too late... and you’re struggling with an insurance claim, you can ask questions or file complaints to the state. Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ office has held insurance workshops in the Panhandle since Hurricane Michael.

In-state: 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236)

Out-of-state callers: (850) 413-3089

TDD line: 1-800-640-0886



  1. Mos Antenor, 42, drives a bulldozer while clearing the road after Hurricane Dorian Mclean's Town, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Friday Sept. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) RAMON ESPINOSA  |  AP
    Threatening to exacerbate islands’ problems, Humberto’s rains were falling on Abaco island.
  2. Members of the fire rescue team Task Force 8, from Gainesville, Florida, help remove a body one week after Hurricane Dorian hit The Mudd neighborhood in the Marsh Harbor area of Abaco Island, Bahamas, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Dorian, the most powerful hurricane in the northwestern Bahamas' recorded history, has killed at least 44 people in Bahamas as of Sunday, Sept. 8, according to the government. GONZALO GAUDENZI  |  AP
    Many in the northwestern Bahamas, known for its casinos, golf courses and mega yachts, worry they will be forced into deep poverty.
  3. The tropical outlook on Saturday Sept. 14, 2019. National Hurricane Center
    A north-northwest turn is expected by Sunday, just as the storm is projected to become a hurricane.
  4. The tropical outlook on Saturday Sept. 14, 2019. National Hurricane Center
    Humberto’s wind speeds reached 40 mph on Saturday as it’s expected to turn north-northwest.
  5. Wreckage left behind by Hurricane Michael. News Service of Florida
    Entire school systems are still recovering from long-standing damage and dealing with the disruptive aftermath of the storm.
  6. A 12-year-old Bahamian girl was separated from parents in Nassau after being rescued from Abaco. She ended up in a Miami home for migrant kids. COURTESY OF PAUL FAMILY
    Katyora Paul was released from a Miami shelter to her mother.
  7. The tropical outlook on Friday Sept. 14, 2019. National Hurricane Center
    The potential cyclone is expected to ride up the east coast, but will still send rain to Tampa Bay.
  8. Trevon Laing walks the roof of his house to repair the damage made by Hurricane Dorian, in Gold Rock Creek, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday Sept. 12, 2019. Trevor says "After the hurricane they had me for dead, My momma was crying." When he returned, he said he found his brother crying on the front porch."I'm like, 'Hey, I'm not dead! You guys have no faith in me. I'm a survivor,'" he said, adding with a laugh, "He was shocked and mad at the same time." RAMON ESPINOSA  |  AP
    The government has cautioned that the list is preliminary and many could be staying in shelters and just haven’t been able to connect with loved ones.
  9. The outlook of the tropical disturbance from the National Hurricane Center. National Hurricane Center
    The National Hurricane Center said a disturbance over the Bahamas is growing and could soon become the next named storm.
  10. Royal Bahamas Police Crime Scene Investigators search for bodies in Marsh Harbour on Abaco Island on Sunday [AL DÍAZ   |   Miami Herald]
    Hundreds of evacuees are being turned away from because of new rules that weren’t in place before Hurricane Dorian. Bahamians who lost everything say they can’t comply.