Disaster Recovery

Feb 23, 2011

By Staff writer State Farm™ Employee

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.

Stay Safe

Wait for an all-clear announcement before leaving your home or shelter. Then, check yourself and the people around you for injuries, applying first aid and seeking further assistance as necessary. Restrict telephone use to emergency calls.

Use your emergency water or boil tap water before drinking until you are told the water supply is safe. Food that came in contact with water may be contaminated and should be discarded. Check refrigerated food for spoilage.

If you must travel, stay away from downed utility lines; washed out, flooded, or debris-filled roads; collapsed or deteriorated bridges and crumbling buildings. If flooding is a potential hazard, stay away from rivers and streams.

Secure Your Home

Visually inspect your home for structural damage and take reasonable steps to prevent further damage. For example, board up holes with plywood and cover leaks with plastic sheeting.

If it is safe to enter your home, check your water heater and 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 or other combustible substances. If you smell gas, open windows and turn off the main valve. Don't turn on lights and appliances until the gas has dissipated and the system has been checked. 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.

Once the structural damage has been addressed, begin salvaging your furnishings and possessions. Dry and clean saturated floors, carpets, furniture, and clothing as soon as possible. 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. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administers post-disaster housing programs. Otherwise, organizations such as the American Red Cross may offer help. You may want to explore other options, but itís usually best not to enter a long-term lease until you talk to a claim representative. If you're a State Farm customer, access the online claim center.

Protect Your Vehicle

If your car was under water, do not try to start it. Instead, cover broken windows and holes to prevent more water from coming in. Then remove any remaining water, using fans and disposable towels to thoroughly dry your vehicle. Find your vehicle registration, as you may need it to file a claim.

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, including quantity, description, and age. Check with your claim representative before you dispose of any items you plan to claim as damaged. You will also want to document the time you spent cleaning up and what you did. Remember, properly documenting your losses and expenses will help expedite your claim.

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