After a natural disaster, people want to pick up the pieces and get their life back to normal as quickly as possible – clean up the mess, repair the damage and move forward. There are a number of steps that should be done first, beginning with ensuring the health and safety of your family.
Here are seven things to know:
1. Immediately following a disaster, provide first aid to anyone who is injured and call for medical assistance. If someone is seriously injured, don’t move them unless their location poses further danger.
2. Be aware of possible safety hazards. Floods, storms and other disasters can mean washed out roads, flooded roads, downed power lines, fallen trees, contaminated water, gas leaks, damaged electrical wiring and more. Don’t attempt to drive through a flooded roadway.
3. If necessary, make your way to an emergency shelter or other safe location. Your local emergency management office can provide information about shelter locations. You can also text SHELTER and your zip code to 43362 (4FEMA) to search for open shelters near you.
4. When you get back to your home, inspect the entire exterior for signs of loose/fallen power lines, structural damage, gas leaks, etc. If it seems unsafe, contact a qualified building inspector or structural engineer to check it out before entering.
5. Document damage to your property. Take photos and videos so you can share copies with your insurance company. Additionally, save all receipts from purchases you make for repairs, as well as receipts from hotel stays and food purchases during the time you’re displaced.
6. File an insurance claim as soon as you’re able to. Make sure to write down your claim handler’s contact information as well as their identification number and claim number if applicable. Once you provide them with a list of your damaged items, photos, videos and receipts, be sure to respond to their phone calls and emails promptly.
7. Exercise caution when hiring contractors and repair professionals. Be cautious of out-of-state contractors and those you see posting ads on trees or posts, and those who solicit their services door-to-door. Get all proposals in writing and don’t let them rush you into making a decision on the spot.
For more information about staying safe in the aftermath of a disaster, visit Ready.gov or usa.gov/after-disaster. To learn more about avoiding scams after a natural disaster, visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.