Being Prepared for Severe
Weather Events in Connecticut

In recent years Connecticut has sustained heavy damage from hurricanes, tropical storms and blizzards including Tropical Storm Irene and the October Nor’easter in 2011, and Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The question is no longer if another severe weather event will take place, but simply when.

To be prepared for such events and deal with their aftermath, we’ve compiled suggestions and resources that we hope you will find useful. Consider printing this page and keeping it in a safe place in case you don’t have Internet access when you need it.

When Severe Weather Approaches

The State of Connecticut Web site CTrecovers.ct.gov serves as a permanent, one-stop portal for residents, businesses and municipalities to gain information about services available in the aftermath of natural disasters and other emergencies, such as available federal and state grants.

The Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security has dedicated a section of their website dedicated to hurricanes at ct.gov/hurricane. When a storm is actively approaching, the department updates this site.

The federal government has up-to-the-minute information at the National Hurricane Center at www.nhc.noaa.gov. During a major storm they often provide an RSS news feed specifically for breaking updates and advisories.

Connecticut’s broadcast media outlets provide local forecasts as well as cancellation listings. You can find the major ones online:

After Tropical Storm Irene, the Senate Democrats created a Twitter feed @AfterIreneCT and an AfterIreneCT Facebook page to track preparations for, and responses to, severe storms. These two social media outlets come to life during severe weather events. They also provide updates throughout the year on legislation related to such storms. You’re invited to post to them and share your experiences and opinions.

The CT Alert Emergency Notification System (ENS) uses the state’s Enhanced 9-1-1 (E9-1-1) database for location-based notifications to the public for life-threatening emergencies. Since the E9-1-1 database includes only traditional land line telephone numbers in the state. Other than your land line, you can also sign up to get notifications through your cell phone, e-mail, text message, or fax, among other communication devices. Visit www.ctalert.gov to sign up.

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Preparing For a Hurricane, Tropical Storm or Blizzard

FEMA’s website at Ready.gov provides a wealth of information on disaster preparedness; this includes information for business owners as well as individuals and families.

In case you sustain damage to property and possessions, it would be wise to create a home inventory well ahead of a big storm. It’s also good to know—ahead of the storm—what your insurance policies cover.

The Connecticut Department of Health has an excellent Guide to Emergency Preparedeness that is good to print out and have on hand.

storm preparedness kitPack an Emergency Supply Kit

  • A supply of water in jugs or bottles. You should have at least one gallon of water for every person in your home for each day. You will need more water if there are children, if someone is nursing a baby or if the weather is hot.
  • Food—in cans or sealed packages like soup and tuna fish;foods and juices that do not have to go in the refrigerator or be cooked;food for infants or the elderly.
  • A manual can opener, paper plates, plastic utensils and something to cook on like a small grill with fuel. be sure to use charcoal and gas grills outside to prevent carbon monoxide build-up.
  • Paper towels, toilet paper, soap.
  • Battery-powered radio, flashlights, cell phone, with extra batteries.
  • Blanket/sleeping bag, pillows for everyone in the family.
  • Extra clothing for everyone in the family.
  • Things babies and children need like diapers, games, toys and books.
  • First-aid kit—Remember to include: medicines (prescriptions, fever reducers, aspirin); eye glasses and contact lens supplies;list of the doctors you go to; medical supplies (colostomy supplies, insulin syringes).
  • Garbage bags and cleaning supplies.
  • Things your pets need like food and water, a pet carrier or cage, medicines, muzzle, collar, leash, id tags and their immunization records. More about pets.
  • Extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash and important information like social security numbers and birth certificates.
  • Plastic and duct tape (see chemical emergencies).
  • Pictures of your family members and pets in case you are separated and need help looking for them.
  • A copy of a good disaster preparedeness guide.

taping windows for stormSECURING YOUR HOME

  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purposes such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other large containers with water.
  • Close all interior doors—secure and brace external doors.
  • If necessary, take refuge in a small interior room, closet, or hallway on the lowest level.
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm—winds could pick up again.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows, another option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Remember your pets! They should be kept indoors, with a collar and identification and ample food and water.
  • If you have a boat, determine how and where to secure it in advance of a storm.

house with hurricane shuttersIF YOU HAVE TO EVACUATE YOUR PROPERTY

  • When community evacuations become necessary, local officials provide information to the public through the media. In some circumstances other warning methods—such as sirens or telephone calls—are also used. If you still need to locate a shelter for your area, call Infoline at 211.
  • Listen to a battery-powered radio and follow local evacuation instructions. Some portable radios also run by a hand-powered crank.
  • Unplug electrical equipment, such as radios and televisions, and small appliances, such as toasters and microwaves.
  • Leave freezers and refrigerators plugged in unless there is a real risk of flooding.
  • Close and lock doors and windows.
  • Wear sturdy shoes and clothing that provides some protection, such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts and a cap.
  • Keep a full tank of gas in your car if an evacuation seems likely. Gas stations may be closed during emergencies and unable to pump gas during power outages.
  • Plan to take one car per family to reduce congestion and delay.
  • Leave early enough to avoid being trapped by severe weather, and be alert for washed-out roads and bridges.
  • Do not drive into flooded areas.
  • Avoid downed power lines.
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Electric Utilty Information

utility trucksEversource

United Illuminating

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Dealing With Damage

If your property sustains damage

It is important to document your damage and to seek as much insured compensation for your losses as possible. See the section “Regarding Insurance” below for detailed information.

Disaster Declarations

If the governor declares a “State of Emergency” and the president makes a federal “Disaster Declaration” for all or part of the state, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will provide disaster recovery assistance in addition to your existing insurance coverage.

Shore Up CTHelp With Property Elevations, Flood Protection & Wind Proofing

Shore Up CT is a State of Connecticut funded low-interest loan program which provides financing for property owners in coastal municipalities located in flood zones VE or AE to finance or refinance property elevations. Additional retrofitting for flood protection and wind proofing activities can also be financed.

These coastline municipalities are: Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, Norwalk, Westport, Fairfield, Bridgeport, Stratford, Milford, West Haven, New Haven, East Haven, Branford, Guilford, Madison, Clinton, Westbrook, Old Saybrook, Old Lyme, East Lyme, Waterford, New London, Groton, and Stonington.

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What is FEMA’s Disaster Assistance?

Disaster assistance is financial or direct assistance to individuals and families whose property has been damaged or destroyed as a result of a federally declared disaster, and whose losses are not covered by insurance. It is meant to help you with critical expenses that cannot be covered in other ways. This assistance is not intended to restore your damaged property to its condition before the disaster.

Sandy-damaged houseAccording to FEMA, if you have insurance you must also file a claim with your insurance company. The state Insurance Commissioner advises that if you have not already contacted your insurance agent to file a claim, you should do so as soon as possible. Failure to file a claim with your insurance company may affect your eligibility for assistance.

There are three ways to apply for disaster assistance from FEMA:

Whether applying online at DisasterAssistance.gov, from your computer or smartphone, or over the phone through a FEMA call center, you should have a pen and paper and the following information ready:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Current and pre-disaster address
  • A telephone number where you can be contacted
  • Insurance information
  • Total household annual income
  • A routing and account number from your bank (only necessary if you want to have disaster assistance funds transferred directly into your bank account.) Lookup your bank routing number.
  • A description of your losses that were caused by the disaster
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Assistance for Small Businesses and Nonprofits

small business carpet damage from floodingThe Small Business Administration (SBA) is committed to providing people in affected areas with federal disaster loans; getting businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is their highest priority.

Small businesses in a disaster declaration area are eligible for both Physical and Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the SBA. Small businesses and most private nonprofit organizations in the other communities (those not given an official disaster declaration) in the state are eligible to apply only for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

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Regarding Insurance

Insurance Tips

outbuilding collapseThe state Insurance Department offers the following tips when filing claims:

  • Contact your insurer as soon as possible.
  • Take photos of the damage.
  • DO NOT make permanent repairs until your insurer has inspected the property.
  • Keep a diary of all contacts and conversations with your insurer
  • If you can still live in the home, talk with your agent about critical repairs that need to be made. Whether you make the repairs or hire someone, save the receipts for your claim.
  • If you need to find other lodging, keep records of expenses and all receipts. Homeowner’s and renter’s insurance generally provide limited coverage for expenses like meals, rent, utility installation and transportation.
  • Your carrier will send an insurance adjuster to survey the damage at no cost to you. Public adjusters may offer the same services, but you would be responsible for any related fees. Check to be sure they are licensed with the Insurance Department.
  • Do not feel rushed or pushed to agree on a settlement. If there are disagreements, try to resolve them with your insurer. If you cannot reach an agreement, the Connecticut Insurance Department can help you decide if arbitration or mediation is an option.
  • Your full claim may come in multiple payments. The first will likely be an emergency advance and may include additional living expenses. The payment for your personal property and any additional living expenses will be made out to you. Payments for the structure may be payable to you and your lien holder if there is a mortgage on your home.
  • Even after settling your claim, if you think of items that were not in your initial loss list, contact your insurance company. Unless the company has paid the entire limit for the coverage of those types of items, it is possible the company will make an additional payment.
  • If your damages exceed the amount of your coverage, federal agencies will occasionally provide grants or low-interest loans to assist with recovery following major disasters.

Hurricane Deductibles

There are severe weather events where Connecticut homeowners will not face higher-cost hurricane deductibles resulting from the impact of a damaging storm. In 2012 the General Assembly passed a law setting new criteria that insurers must meet before imposing a higher hurricane deductible. Based on data from the National Weather Service. For instance, 2012’s Storm Sandy did not meet the statutory criteria and therefore companies could not impose a hurricane deductible on Connecticut claims after that severe weather event.

sign in street floodingFlood Insurance

Since standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding, it’s important to have protection from the floods associated with hurricanes, tropical storms, heavy rains and other conditions that impact the U.S.

In 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to help provide a means for property owners to financially protect themselves. The NFIP offers flood insurance to homeowners, renters, and business owners if their community participates in the NFIP. Participating communities agree to adopt and enforce ordinances that meet or exceed FEMA requirements to reduce the risk of flooding.

Visit www.FloodSmart.gov to learn more about the NFIP.

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Consumer Protection During Emergencies

Price Gouging Laws

We want to make sure you have all the information you need to protect yourself from physical and financial harm. That’s why you should know that Connecticut’s price-gouging laws take effect once the governor has declared a state of emergency. The following restrictions would then apply:

  • No one shall increase the price of any retail item in a location which is subject to a disaster emergency declaration issued by the governor or the president. This does not prohibit the usual fluctuation in price that occurs during the normal course of business. (CT General Statues, Section 42-230)

If consumers believe a business is charging an unreasonable price, or has raised its price to take advantage of the emergency, they can contact the Department of Consumer Protection at 1-800-842-2649. Reports of suspected profiteering or unconscionably excessive pricing of gasoline or other fuels can be made to the Department by phone or by e-mailing dcp.foodandstandards@ct.gov. Please include the business name, its location, and the prices you observed.

Protect Yourself From Home Repair & Insurance Fraud

  • Beware of scams! Fraudulent individuals often take advantage of the chaos following a disaster.
  • Check with the state Department of Consumer Protection to make sure contractors are properly licensed and/or registered and get references and more than one estimate before hiring a contractor.
  • Insist on a written estimate before repairs begin and do not sign any contracts before the adjuster has examined the damage.
  • Do not pay a contractor the full amount up front or sign over your insurance settlement payment. A contractor should expect to be paid a percentage when the contract is signed and the remainder when the work is completed.
  • If the contractor finds hidden damage that was not discovered in the original assessment by the adjuster, contact your insurance company to resolve the difference. For any disagreements that cannot be resolved, contact the Connecticut Insurance Department.
  • Before you sign a contract or write a check for coverage, STOP. Call the Connecticut Insurance Department at 800-203-3447 and CONFIRM that the agent, adjuster, appraiser, and/or company you are working with are licensed to do business in your state. You can verify an insurance license with the Department online at: Verify License.
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For Those Who Want to Help

disaster reliefMonetary donations: One of the best ways to support those affected by a disaster is to make a financial contribution to trusted organization. FEMA offers tips on donating and volunteering responsibly. Another excellent resouce is Charity Navigator’s “Tips for Giving in Times of Crisis” in order to avoid charities fraud.

Volunteering: The Connecticut Red Cross trains and coordinates volunteers to assist those in need, especially during emergencies. Learn more about applying to be a volunteer.

Give blood: To schedule a blood donation or for more information about giving blood or platelets, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
 

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