The period following a natural disaster can be disorienting and dangerous. The following steps will relieve some of the uncertainty and help you stay safe, secure your property and begin the claims process in the aftermath of a major event.
Secure your home
Visually inspect your home for structural damage and take reasonable steps to prevent further damage. Board up holes with plywood and cover leaks with plastic sheeting. Check your appliances for damage and safety hazards, such as gas leaks and electrical problems. Do your checking with a flashlight, not matches or candles, to prevent igniting leaking gas. If you smell gas, open windows and turn off the main valve. If electric wires are shorting out, turn off the power. If your power is out, unplug all devices to prevent damage from an electrical surge.
Neighborhoods recovering from storm damage often attract the attention of repair companies. Ask questions, do research and obtain information before signing a contract for repairs.
Look for an established, licensed or bonded roofer and request references.
Ask to see certificates of insurance to be sure both liability and workers compensation insurance coverage is carried, and are in force.
Insist on a detailed, written estimate clearly stating the quantity of materials needed (labor charges; work specifications) which include starting and completion dates.
Carefully review and understand any warranty and watch for conditions that would void it.
You may also contact your National Roofing Contractors Association at 1-800-USA-ROOF or go to http://www.nrca.net/.
Once the structural damage has been addressed, begin salvaging your furnishings and possessions. Dry and clean saturated floors, furniture and clothing. Separate items that can be cleaned or repaired from those that will be discarded.
If your home is not habitable
If a major disaster was declared for your area, federal housing assistance may be available. FEMA administers post-disaster housing programs, organizations such as the American Red Cross may offer help.
Document your expenses
Your insurer will require you to document any damage to your property and provide receipts for recovery-related expenses. Be sure to save all receipts for home repairs, vehicle towing and repairs, temporary housing, meals and other living expenses.
Also, photograph and list all damaged, spoiled or contaminated items. Check with your claim representative before you dispose of any items you plan to claim as damaged.
Remember, properly documenting your losses and expenses will help expedite your claim.
Information provided by Matt Cale, State Farm Insurance, 6733 University Ave., Windsor Heights, 280-9000.