Over the years, many cities across the U.S., especially cities like Tampa, FL, and New Orleans, LA, have weathered brutal storms that have damaged homes, devastated communities, and had lasting impacts on their housing markets. Unfortunately, destructive storms are becoming more and more common, and it’s important to know what to do after a storm has damaged your home.
If a storm damages your home, it can feel like your life is suddenly flipped upside down. You may feel overwhelmed with the destruction the storm has caused, and it can be difficult to know what to do first. But careful planning before a storm hits can help you navigate the challenging waters afterward, so you can return to normalcy as quickly as possible. So what should you do after a natural disaster? Here are 5 steps to take so you can be prepared if a storm damages your home.
1) Be careful and stay alert
The destruction and aftermath of a storm of any kind can pose serious injuries. Once you’re certain you and your household members are safe and unharmed, take the necessary precautions to avoid injuries. It’s common to come across hazards from storm damage like broken glass, exposed nails, or displaced screws, so keep an eye out. Be alert of unsecured piles of debris like caved-in roofing materials, standing water, and collapsed walls.
It’s important to always assume that downed power lines are still energized and dangerous. Stay as far away from the power lines if possible and alert the police if you find downed power lines in your neighborhood. Additionally, if you smell gas, immediately shut off any gas valves to prevent further danger.
2) Assess the damage and take photos of the storm damage
After the storm has passed and before contacting your insurance company, assess the storm damage to your home. To ensure you’re fully compensated, take pictures of any interior and exterior damage to your home. Your house could have structural damage, so always be cautious as you’re moving about your home. When you’re inspecting the interior and exterior, record any of the following:
- Roof lifting and lost shingles. Be alert of any holes or leaks in the roof, split seams, dents on vents and gutters, missing, broken, or dented shingles. You can work with an experienced roofer to find a local, reputable insurance agency.
- Missing or damaged exterior siding. Rain can cause damage to siding and strong winds can tear it right off.
- Broken windows and destroyed doors. The wind itself as well as the debris it carries can easily break windows and blow open doors.
- Damaged or broken appliances, including your air conditioner. This is commonly due to water damage.
- Basement flooding. When the soil surrounding your home becomes too saturated with water, your basement or crawl space can flood, causing damage to your belongings and the foundation of your home.
- Moisture damage. Rain and water can seep into your home and cause mold to develop in insulation, wood, furniture, and carpeting.
- Fire damage. Electrical shorts caused by downed power lines or water entering outlets and electrical equipment can cause fires.
Don’t forget to record the loss or destruction to your personal items too. Most homeowner’s insurance policies include personal property coverage up to a scheduled limit.
3) Call your insurance agent right away
After you’ve taken photos of the storm damage, call your agent as soon as possible and stay in contact until your claim is resolved. They’ll be able to explain what kinds of damage your insurance policy covers. Make sure to discuss the damage caused to your home and provide the photos you took along with proper documentation. Following this, your insurance company will send out an adjuster to determine the extent of the damage.
4) Stop further damage
Now is the time to do what you can and stop any further damage from occurring. If storm damage is allowing wind and water to get into your home, start by covering broken windows or a leaking roof with a tarp or plywood. Do what you can first to minimize further damage, then consider contacting a local restoration service provider to help you out. They can help you tackle storm damage and get your property back to normal. If you don’t know of a trusted contractor in your area, oftentimes your insurance company can help you get in contact with a reputable contractor to avoid any scams.
During this time, if your home is in poor condition, consider booking a hotel room or staying with friends and family for the time being. If your home requires extensive repair, make sure you return only when it’s safe to do so.
5) Stay organized and keep receipts
Keep good documentation for any claim to your homeowner’s insurance. For example, save all receipts for materials and labor to ensure you receive fair reimbursement.
Familiarize yourself with what your homeowner’s insurance policy covers. For example, a typical homeowners insurance policy will cover tree damage from a storm, but the biggest exception to most coverages is flood damage. Regardless of carrier, flood damage is not covered as part of a standard policy. Therefore, you’ll need flood insurance in the event that your home is damaged by a flood.
A homeowner’s insurance policy will typically cover three scenarios:
- Weather damage: This typically includes damage due to hail, wind, fire, snow, and more.
- Non-weather events: Common non-weather events are actions like theft and vandalism.
- Sudden/accidental events: This includes situations like a water pipe breaking or a water leak.
If you live in an extreme-weather area with high storm risk, speak with your agent to find out if it’s in your best interest to protect your home and belongings with storm damage or flood insurance. It’s an additional coverage you can opt for in your homeowner’s policy, but can help you after a storm damages your home.