Once a hurricane or large storm has moved through, it’s important to be cautious when returning to the affected area. Here are some tips and resources to stay safe, reduce further losses, and a head’s up on what is important to your insurance company.
Storm Damage Mitigation – Your First Priority
Keep yourself, property managers and tenants safe by following the instructions given by local authorities regarding re-entry and any other emergency procedures.
What You Will Need for Your Insurance Company
Visit your affected properties as soon as safely possible. Take photographs of the damages. Your insurance policy will require you to mitigate any further damage by taking all reasonable precautions to ensure the security of your property. Any mitigation expenses you incur for a covered loss will be considered part of your claim. Such steps include water extraction, roof tarping and securing of the property.
In any type of loss, you will usually be required to:
- Contact your insurance company in a timely manner to advise them of the loss.
- Contact the authorities when appropriate.
- If a crime has been committed, file a police report.
- In the event of a fire, file a fire report.
- Take photos or videos of the damage, or both.
- Make any necessary temporary repairs to prevent further damage to the property.
- Set aside any damaged materials for the adjuster to examine.
- Save all receipts from any temporary repairs made. These are usually considered a part of your claim.
- Get an estimate from a reliable contractor. (Obtaining several is advisable.)
Cleaning Up – Tips from FEMA
- Always wear protective clothing including long-sleeved shirts, long pants, rubber or plastic gloves and waterproof boots or shoes.
- Before entering your home, look outside for damaged power lines, gas lines and other exterior damage.
- Take photos of your damage before you begin clean up and save repair receipts.
- Your home may be contaminated with mold, which raises the health risk for those with asthma, allergies and breathing conditions. Refer to the Center for Disease Control for more info on mold: www.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/pdf/flyer-get-rid-of-mold.pdf.
- Open doors and windows so your house can air out before spending any length of time inside.
- Turn off main electrical power and water systems and don’t use gas appliances until a professional can ensure they are safe.
- Check all ceilings and floors for signs of sagging or other potentially dangerous structural damage.
- Throw out all foods, beverages and medicines exposed to flood waters or mud including canned goods and containers with food or liquid.
- Also, throw out any items that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or disinfected (mattresses, carpeting, stuffed animals, etc.).
- Beware of snakes, insects, and other animals that may be on your property or in your home.
- Remove all drywall and insulation that has been in contact with flood waters.
- Clean all hard surfaces (flooring, countertops, appliances, sinks, etc.) thoroughly with hot water and soap or detergent.
Be Aware of Scammers Trying to Take Advantage of You
Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people out there looking to take advantage of those who have just suffered a loss, especially after natural disasters. You may not be able to avoid a storm, but if you are on your guard, you could avoid becoming a victim in the aftermath.
The Oklahoma Insurance Department recommends the following when hiring service providers after a disaster:
- Always be present when someone inspects your property. Companies may try to take advantage of you and your insurance company by causing additional damage to increase the repair cost.
- Never pay a repair bill in full until the work is completed according to your contract with the provider.
- Anyone who offers to get you more money for your insurance claim warrants additional caution.
- Always hire an established, licensed and fully insured company. Check the references they give you.
- Reputable contractors should be able to provide you with their certificate of liability insurance. If they have employees, they should also carry worker’s comp coverage.
- To help ensure coverage is in force while the contractor is working for you, you can ask to be added as an additional insured on their policy. If the policy lapses or cancels, you should be notified. In most cases, there is no fee to get you added to the policy.
- Written estimates should include a detailed breakdown of the type and quantity of materials as well as hours of labor needed to complete the job.
- Please note: Your signature is NOT required to receive an estimate. Some scammers may use this tactic to trap you into signing a contract.
- A formal repair contract should include approximate start and completion dates, as well as payment procedures. It also should guarantee that the contractor will secure any necessary permits.
- Fully read any warranty and make sure you are aware of any conditions that would void it.
- A bid that is substantially lower than other bids for the same scope of work is usually missing something significant. Review all bids carefully to ensure there aren’t items missing or unnecessary items added to the scope of work.
- High-pressure tactics can be a red flag. Don’t let the heightened stress following a loss cause you to rush the process of hiring a quality service provider.
FEMA & Storm-Specific Resources
FEMA resources can help you:
- Return to your area and inspect damage in your home safely
- Learn tips to help children cope
- Spot fraud and report price gouging
- Address rumors circulating in the wake of Irma and get accurate information
- Help others affected by the storm
Download the FEMA Mobile App to receive alerts from the National Weather Service, get safety and survival tips, customize your emergency checklist, find your local shelter, and upload your disaster photos to help first responders.
- Irma FEMA Resources
- Florida Hurricane Irma Disaster Declaration
- Florida Division of Emergency Management
More Storm-Related Advice from Us
Here are some other informative articles addressing storms which we hope you might find helpful: