Cue the suspense music: hurricane season is bearing down on East Coast property owners. Officially, the season spans June 1 through the end of November but the last six seasons started early and ended late. Last year was the worst hurricane season on record and forecasters expect another blockbuster year with up to 18 named storms. Of those, seven to nine are likely to grow into destructive hurricanes.

We spoke with Wayne Merlino, with Paul Davis of Palatine, Illinois, about what property owners need to know as they approach hurricane season. Merlino, a former general contractor specializing in luxury homes, cut his mitigation and restoration teeth on a famous storm.

PD: You’re based in the Midwest. When did you perform mitigation and restoration work for hurricanes, which are a coastal phenomenon? 

WM: I opened my franchise in 2012, an unusually calm weather year in the Chicago area. When Superstorm Sandy struck in October 2012, I took my team to the East Coast to pitch in. There is no way I could have had any idea of the destruction without personally experiencing it. It was the most amazing educational experience of my life.

PD: What did you learn?

WM: I was amazed to see how calm and collected people are after they have sustained significant damage. The more severe the damage, I think, the more they feel the enormity of what could have happened to their families and loved ones. That sense of gratitude makes those individuals a lot more centered on what they have versus what they don’t. That outlook is spot on from where I sit, particularly because Paul Davis was there to take care of their property needs and lead them through an incredibly difficult time.

PD: What do you recommend that property owners do to prepare for this hurricane season?

WM: Overall, the better organized you are with insurance paperwork and contractor selections the better off you will be since many people are seeking the same resources and those who are ready will be in position to receive them first. Make sure your insurance coverage is adequate, too, and call Paul Davis now. If you’re a commercial property owner, ask about our free First Priority® program, which jump-starts assistance after a disaster.

PD: What else is important for homeowners to do now?

WM: Store things such as photo albums, wedding dresses and cherished collections in waterproof, impact-proof boxes. This can be costly, but when an event happens, there is no time for this kind of preparation. We have seen a lot of broken hearts that might have been prevented with a couple of hundred dollars and a handful of hours applied.

PD: What should property owners know about Paul Davis and its approach to these large-scale disasters?

WM: Paul Davis is a large, very skilled, very organized company with locations across North America. We have the experience, equipment, digital capabilities and supply chains – and most important, the people – to help many customers during large scale disasters. Further, our teams are exceptional at communication and that’s a key skill that helps customers feel safe after a disaster. We are ready for hurricane season. By extension, so are our customers.