The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and ends on Nov. 30. The wildfire seasons vary, depending on the region. Earthquakes have no season; they strike without warning.
Depending on where you live, being prepared for a natural disaster may be a vital undertaking, but stocking food and water only takes care of your immediate needs.
What happens if your roof is blown off, your walls collapse, or your home is completely destroyed? Even the most diligent retrofitting can’t foil Mother Nature.
Our hearts go out to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. We know that once their safety is assured and their immediate needs met, their thoughts will turn to the safety and livability of their homes. Let’s take a look at some preliminary steps you can take if you’re facing a natural disaster.
First, Head For Safety
If you have any doubts about the soundness of your home, don’t stay at home or go back there. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army typically provide shelters during disasters. You can locate shelters by texting “SHELTER” and your ZIP code, (for instance, “SHELTER 20602”).
The Recovery Process
Once you’re safe, you can begin taking steps in the recovery process.
Mortgage: Get in touch with your mortgage servicer to ask for a forbearance on your mortgage payments. Document the damage to the home, how your job is impacted (and thus, your income), and anything else that could hamper your ability to make your payments.
Document Damage: Make note of the damage to your home and belongings. Photographs are ideal. Secure the home if you can’t stay there safely. Your insurance company will want to know the extent of the damage and know that you’ve secured the home from further damage by weather, looters, and squatters.
Save Receipts: Keep all receipts for any disaster-related expenses, including hotel rooms, food, clothing, and supplies purchased to board up the home’s windows or patch holes in the roof.
Insurance: Contact your homeowner’s insurance agent and, if you have it, your flood insurer. Get the ball rolling on this as soon as possible. Ask your insurance agent if you have coverage for alternate living expenses during the time you’ll be unable to live in your home. Then, get the specific steps you’ll need to take before repairs can begin.
Remember: Even if you lack flood coverage, you may still be eligible for assistance.
Get the details at disasterassistance.gov.
Whether you can get federal disaster assistance depends upon your county being declared an official disaster area. If it is, apply for disaster assistance, even if you have insurance. FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Assistance program offers grants for some home repairs, rent payment assistance and other disaster-related necessities. You can apply online here.
Don’t wait to apply for assistance – if you do, you run the risk of missing FEMA’s deadline to apply.
Look Out for Scammers
Authorities with FEMA warn that phony contractors, housing inspectors, and those hawking offers of government aid will be circling the area like vultures. Always ask for official identification and never entertain anyone who asks for money.
“There is no fee to apply for or to get help from FEMA, the Small Business Administration, or the state,” they warn.
Report suspicious scammers to FEMA at 866-720-5721 or by contacting your state’s attorney general’s office.
Hurricane Harvey’s floods are top-of-mind right now, but disasters of all kinds can occur across the country. Keep this information handy as it applies to earthquake, wildfire, and other disaster victims as well.
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