It’s easy to look back at what we wish we’d done to prepare for a hurricane, tornado, or other major storms. But once the damage has been done and the storms have passed, it’s time to deal with what’s at hand and take steps to protect your belongings. Here are some practical things you can do – some may even be covered by your insurance – to minimize the negative impacts.
Safety first, and first steps
Before entering your home, be sure that the structure has been deemed safe. If there is any major structural damage work with a qualified professional to ensure you can retrieve your belongings without injury.
Then? Attend to the biggest issues first and protect what you can. Use tarps to cover broken windows, unplug all appliances and cover any furniture that is still dry (wet furniture should be left uncovered to prevent molding), and relocate things to a dry area of your home. If your basement has been flooded, immediately install a pump to get the water out and begin the drying process.
Document everything carefully
If you will be filing an insurance claim, the first tool you should use in your protection measures is a camera. Your insurance company will need to know exactly how everything appeared following the storm, but sometimes it can take days for an agent to come for an assessment. In the meantime, take photos with a reliable timestamp before you start moving anything. Photograph any exposed wiring, major structural damage like the roof or support beams, and anywhere that mold has or might start to grow like saturated drywall.
Know your rights and get support where it is available
Although filling out paperwork may not be priority number one in your mind, it’s best to get it taken care of. File a claim with your insurance company as soon as you can and, if the storm damaged multiple homes and/or infrastructure in your area, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will probably have a presence either at a temporary office or with agents making the rounds. This organization can provide funding to help with temporary housing, renovations, and more. Talk to an agent to find out if you’re eligible and how to apply.
Move things into storage if necessary
If there has been too much damage, you may need to move your belongings into a storage unit for a little while – at least until some repairs can be done on your home. This can make it easier and faster for the professionals to get in, do their work, and let you get back into your home. If any of your belongings have gotten wet, be sure to choose a climate-controlled unit and keep it cool and dry to avoid the growth of mold – and keep an eye out for deals on storage units for storm survivors.
Find a temporary place to live
Although it seems like a hassle, you may want to find a temporary living situation after your home has been damaged. Your insurance company and/or FEMA should help with funding whatever rent or hotel costs you have to pay due to unlivable home conditions, and local offices can help clarify the rental process. For instance: if the State of Emergency has been declared, hotels and motels are required to allow you to bring them with you in many states – check your local laws.
An ounce of prevention…
You know the saying! Now is the time to start taking steps to be more prepared for the next storm. After all, hurricane season comes every year – and even if disaster strikes on moving day, there are plenty of ways you can be more prepared!