Insurers are encouraging people to do what they can now – organize emergency kits, make sure the family has a communication plan, clearing yards of debris – before Hurricane Sandy hits.
The federal government site Ready.gov has tips for creating an emergency kit, said Ken Katz, property risk control director with The Travelers Cos.
The Travelers Cos. also suggests items to have in an emergency kit: canned food — 3 to 7 day supply; water — 3 to 7 day supply of 1 gallon per person per day; a can opener; first aid kit; portable radio; flashlight; batteries; medicine; clothing; blankets and your insurance policy.
In lieu of canned food, some people buy powdered meals that only require water, or dehydrated camping meals, typically available at Walmart, EMS or other stores with outdoor equipment.
Before the storm hits, Katz recommends people clear out gutters and down spouts to allow rain water to flow off the roof.
Homeowners should also bring inside or secure anything outside that could blow away in the wind, such as furniture, flower pots, Halloween decorations and garbage cans, Katz said.
"The other thing is gas," said Mary K. White, an assistant vice president in Consumer Markets, which includes homeowner's and auto coverage at The Hartford Financial Services Group.
"I think some people have generators, but they might not have gas," White said.
Both White and Katz recommend filling up automobiles with gas. Gas pumps require electricity, and, in a power outage following a storm, the pumps can't operate. Separately, gas stations that do work could have long lines after a storm.
Also before the storm, be sure to charge your cell phone.
After the big storms last year, many people had to toss perishable food that was spoiling because they didn't have power. "Try and eat the food that's going to go bad," White said.
Travelers recommends storing data electronically in a password-protected flash drive that can go into the survival kit, such as: wills, trusts, deeds, titles, personal and family records, medical records, financial and legal documents, birth certificates, account numbers, copies of licenses, home inventory, pictures of your home and belongings.
Also consider the needs of pets. For example, have a pet carrying case ready to go with food, water and medications.
Pets have kept people from leaving a home during a hurricane, Katz said.
"If you look at Hurricane Katrina, they went and interviewed people, 'Why didn't you leave when you should have, and you knew you should have?' That was one of the leading responses," Katz said.
James Berliner of Newtown, president of Professional Insurance Agents of Connecticut Inc., said people do sometimes call agents to check in on their insurance policies.
Most insurance companies have a moratorium on increasing or adding coverage after a catastrophic event is already looming, Berliner said.
"With coverage moratoriums, preparedness then becomes a key — gutters cleaned?" He said. "Batteries? Evacuation plans? Things off the basement floor? Insurance agent's cell phone in the event of an extended power loss?"