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Protect Your Property and Finances Against Hurricanes

Take these steps before a storm strikes and know how to make your insurer pay if there's damage.

Emergency officials from Florida to North Carolina are warning residents to prepare for Hurricane Irene, which is expected to make landfall this weekend. It would be the first hurricane to hit U.S. mainland in three years.

There are several steps those in the path of the storm can take now to protect their home, property and finances.

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Secure your home. From buying plywood to eliminating potential projectiles, there are several steps you can take before the storm hits to limit damage. See How to Prepare for a Hurricane for details.

Prepare for an emergency. In case the power goes out or you have to evacuate your home, you need to be ready. Find out which items are must-haves for your emergency kit and get tips on preparing for an emergency from victims of other natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina.

Review your insurance coverage. Standard homeowners policies cover wind damage to a home and its contents. Check your coverage, though, to make sure your home is insured for the amount it will cost to rebuild (not the market value) so there won't be any surprises during the claims process. If your neighbor's tree falls in your yard and damages your property, you will have to file a claim with your insurer. See When Your Tree Falls in Your Neighbor's Yard to learn more. Your homeowners policy won't cover flooding, though. To get flood coverage, you must go through the National Flood Insurance Program. See Protect Your Home and Finances Against Floods for more details.

Be prepared to file an insurance claim. You can speed up the repair process after a hurricane if you know what steps to take to file a claim with your insurer. I wrote about 7 steps to take to speed up the claims process after a tornado, which also apply in the aftermath of hurricanes. And see Make Your Insurer Pay to learn how victims of Hurricane Katrina got their claims paid quickly.

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