The cost of hurricanes and other natural disasters are very difficult to predict according to economists and the insurance industry.

But both sides agree, Irma is going to cost Florida well into the millions.

“It takes time to get an accurate picture. The property claims service will compile data from different insurance companies as quickly and accurately as possible. In terms of Texas and Harvey, we’re still two weeks out from just preliminary data,” explains Chris Hackett, Senior Director of Personal Lines for Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.  “It’s even more difficult to speculate what Irma is going to cost Florida. It’s a powerful storm and the south Florida area is very well populated, so we are expecting this to have some serious impact. It’s going to be devastating.”

First, PCI encourages everyone in or near the direct path of Irma to evacuate, as material items can be replaced.

Next, PCI has some advice to help mitigate the damages for people living in Florida, after Irma has safely moved on.

“After Irma has cleared the area and law enforcement says you can safely return, take photographs and call your insurance company to start the process. Hold onto any damaged property so it can be inspected to be included in the claim,” advises Hackett. “Mitigate any further damage by protecting what’s left, such as putting a tarp over any roof damage.”

Another possible danger post natural disasters? Shady people. PCI knows people will be devastated and stressed out, but want folks to think logically, not emotionally, as difficult as it may be.

“Do your homework before you hire a contractor. Make sure it’s someone who’s reputable. The Better Business Bureau is always a good resource. Beware of the contractors who knock on your door,” warns Hackett.  “If you find yourself in a situation where you believe someone is clearly not using reputable business practices, contact your attorney general. If the person is a licensed contractor, contact their licensing board. It’s really best to make sure you get everything in writing before the work starts.”

​And one final issue PCI wants to remind Florida about is the assignment of benefits fight:

“Don’t sign away your rights and benefits away to a contractor immediately. ​Assignment of benefits has been a huge issue in Florida, which increases the cost of insurance for all Florida residents. Be very careful before you do this. It’s always best to let an adjuster see the damage first.”

For more advice, check out www.pciaa.net.