Disaster Recovery Renovations: What to Do if a Natural Disaster Damages Your Home
By Kara Parlin
According to the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), 238 natural disasters have occurred in the U.S. since 1980, resulting in damages each of over $1 billion. And, the total combined cost of those events is more than $1.5 trillion. Despite those statistics, many homeowners never expect a natural disaster will affect their lives or property, which is one reason it can feel especially devastating when it does happen. Here are some ideas and resources that can help if a natural disaster damages your home.
Being Proactive Can Provide Peace of Mind
If you live in an area that you know is susceptible to floods, hurricanes, earthquakes or tornadoes, doing a little bit of work beforehand can ease your burden when facing the effects of a natural disaster. Store copies of important documents and contact information outside of your home, for instance, in a safe deposit box or securely online.
In addition to paperwork like birth certificates and insurance policy documents, it’s also a good idea to inventory and take pictures of your home’s interior and exterior for reference.
First Steps After a Disaster Occurs
Whether you are returning after evacuation or coming up from the basement to survey the damage, safety should be your first priority. Before inspecting your property, make sure to turn off water and power service. Do an initial inspection for downed power lines, broken glass or hazardous conditions before allowing family or pets to roam freely. You may want to wear work gloves, protective eyewear or a face mask to also protect yourself.
Also, be aware of hazards that aren’t immediately noticeable, such as mold, contaminated water or warped structural elements.
Once everything is relatively stable, document any damage with photos or video. Even if there are small repairs you can make yourself, wait until you’ve spoken to your insurance company before starting any repair work. There may be clauses in your policy that impact your claim if work is done outside of approved channels. What you can do is secure or move items to prevent further damage.
Communication Is Key
After you’ve taken stock of the damages, reach out to a couple of organizations. Nerd Wallet suggests you put these at the top of your list:
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to locate a local disaster recovery center or apply for assistance
- Your homeowner, flood and/or other disaster recovery (if applicable) insurance companies
- Your mortgage servicer or lender
This will get you started with any claims you’ll need to file and put you on the road to rebuilding. One thing the Mortgage Bankers Association suggests you watch out for, however, are scammers looking to benefit from your misfortune. Always ask for identification and licensing information for any salesperson or “expert” who approaches you out of the blue.
The Claims Process
Even if you’ve been through the process of filing a claim previously, disaster damage creates a few added complications. If the event affected a large area, the overall claims process may move slowly, simply due to simultaneous filings. In turn, it may be tougher for you to secure qualified contractors who are available.
In addition to rebuild construction considerations, your insurance company will also need to determine coverage for debris cleanup and removal, temporary relocation assistance if your home is uninhabitable, and other costs.
When Damage Isn’t Covered
In some cases, natural disasters cause minor damage that may not qualify for an insurance claim or government aid. While they may be a major headache for you, smoke damage and low-level flooding, for example, don’t fall under “disaster relief” considerations. You’ll still want to consult with your insurance company first, but it may direct you to contact a specialist yourself.
Now more than ever, there are organizations and resources you can turn to for support following a disaster. Emprove is here to help you through the rebuilding process.