Why it's important to review your insurance policy before a hurricane

National Hurricane Preparedness Week is the first week of May, a full month before the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, which begins June 1.  The goal of this week is to inform residents about the risk of hurricanes and encourage them to make preparations before a hurricane or tropical storm is upon us. 

As part of those preparations, experts recommend you review your insurance policies to make sure you’re covered for any disaster Mother Nature might throw your way. Part of the review process is to take an inventory of your home before deciding on the right deductible and any add-ons – go from room to room, take pictures of things along the way, and note the model and serial numbers of high-dollar items.

Mark Friedlander, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute, said the primary function of your insurance is to give you some peace of mind when a disaster strikes.  "When we talk about insurance coverage for consumers, we stress financial protection," Friedlander said. "The purpose of insurance is to financially protect you, your family, and your assets."

Reviewing your policy

Reviewing your insurance policy at least once a year is a good idea.  Talk to your agent to see if you have the right types and right amounts of coverage, so you are financially prepared for hurricane season, experts say.

Increased building costs can leave you shelling more out of pocket if your insurance isn't correctly configured, so consider the cost of rebuilding your home, not just the value of it.

Not only is the level of coverage important, but homeowners also need to think about the deductible – the amount that must be paid out of pocket before insurance begins to cover the costs.  While you can expect lower monthly premiums for a higher deductible, you should ask yourself, "Could I pay that deductible in the event of a total loss?"

Separate policies or add-ons

Experts say insurance coverage varies based on where a person lives and the types of disasters to which their property might be subjected.

"Typically in coastal states, you have many components of your home insurance policy," Friedlander said. "One is standard coverage for perils such as fire, water leaks, things of that nature, and then you might have a separate area of your policy that covers hurricanes and windstorms, and it all varies by state."

According to Friedlander, there are 19 coastal states from Maine to Texas, plus the District of Columbia, that have different regulations when it comes to windstorm and hurricane insurance coverage. The Insurance Information Institute has put together a guide to those state-by-state rules at iii.org.

Flooding is another weather disaster that requires a separate policy from your standard homeowner's or renter's insurance.  Even if you don’t live in a high-risk flood area, it may be wise to get flood insurance, since floods can occur anywhere. Over 40% of the flood claims the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) received between 2015 and 2019 came from low-to-moderate flood-risk regions, according to FEMA. You can purchase flood insurance through the (NFIP) or directly from a private insurer. 

Friedlander said people should keep in mind that insurance policies for a dwelling won't cover damage to a vehicle, even if that vehicle is parked in a garage that is part of the dwelling. He said your auto insurance is responsible for covering that damage.

"You need comprehensive coverage," Friedlander said. "If the garage collapses, destroys your vehicle, you have no coverage if you don't have comprehensive. So, that's another big gap that a lot of consumers don't understand."

FOX Weather contributed to this report. Get updates at FOXWeather.com.