Stay focused after a natural disaster and read our advice to get you through this tough time
After surviving a hurricane's trauma, the last thing you want to think about are the repairs you need to make to your home. Once you’ve made sure that your family, friends, and neighbors are safe and sound and you’re ready to focus your energy on rebuilding, follow our top advice to get you back inside, warm, and safe as quickly as possible.
1. Check Your Insurance Policy
Most homeowners insurance does not cover damage from flooding, which is one of the primary ways a hurricane can wreck your home. If you live in an area prone to this type of natural disaster, you may very well have flood insurance, and should re-read your policy documents to understand your coverage.
2. Document Everything
Do a thorough walkthrough in and around the house and take photos of all the damage for the insurance company; try to dig up photos of your home before the disaster so you can provide the insurance company with evidence of what your home looked like. You should also prepare an itemized list of all your possessions and make note of which ones were damaged or destroyed, including any food items. Finally, save all receipts to submit as part of your deductible.
3. Seek Government Assistance
Contact your local FEMA branch and inquire about what kind of assistance is available to you. It could come in the form of temporary housing, help with repairs, insurance claim guidance, meals for you and your family, and more.
4. Complete Urgent Repairs
Some repairs will need to be done right away to prevent any further damage to your home or yourself. For many of these repairs, you’ll want a professional to assess the situation to avoid putting you or your family at risk, and you should not try to live in your home if these issues are present. Repairs that need to be addressed immediately may include:
Water or gas leaks
Broken doors or windows that need to be boarded or tarped up
Weak or fallen trees
Fallen power lines
Evidence of mold
5. Make a Plan
Once you have dealt with any urgent issues in your home, you should make a plan for the rest of the repairs. This includes making a list of what needs to be done, prioritizing repairs, and contacting professionals to complete each repair.
6. Focus on Most-Used Rooms
Once you’re ready to begin repairing your home, consider starting with the primary rooms: the kitchen and the bathroom. Remember that you can sleep in any space, but you can’t cook in any space; fix the rooms you need the most first.
7. Expect Frustration
No one will tell you that this should or will be easy—it’s devastating, and your emotions will follow suit. You’ll feel stressed out, frustrated, confused, and much more. Healing after a traumatic incident will take time (and possibly some help from a therapist); don’t expect to be your usual self. That said, if possible, try and find the silver lining by focusing on each special moment shared with your family and friends, rather than dwelling on the big picture of the disaster.
8. Choose Quality Over Quickness
Many renovation and repair businesses will be shamelessly circling like flies trying to get your money, but you should do a thorough check on anyone you hire to make sure they are the right fit for you and your project.
9. Be Careful When the Power Comes Back
Depending on the hurricane's strength, storm surges can reach up to 40 feet. This means water could be everywhere, including in your wiring, breaker box, or appliances, which can cause electrical fires. Call an electrician to check if this is the case and safely get your lights back on.
10. Help Others
Often, people are nervous asking for help, but it’s important to be in communication with your neighbors and others you meet in your city after any natural disaster. Knock on doors and ask people if they need any kind of assistance—they might want your advice, or might just appreciate a hug or a warm meal.