As flood waters begin to recede, anxious Texans are gradually being allowed to return to their homes. Many residents are getting their first glimpse the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. With such devastation, rebuilding can seem like an impossible task.
We hope these tips can aide those affected as well as those volunteering to help in the recovery process.
Care for Yourself
Your safety is the most important thing following a disaster. Make sure you and your loved ones are safe and in a secure location.
Rest often, eat well, and stay hydrated. Seek help from assistance programs for shelter, food, and other necessities.
Keep small children, pregnant women and people with health problems away from flooded areas until cleanup is complete.
Re-Entering Your Home
Do not return home until authorities have advised that it is safe to do so.
Shut off electrical power, natural gas and propane tanks to avoid risk of fire, electrocution or explosion.
Before entering the home, check for any visible structural damage, such as warping, loosened or cracked foundation elements, cracks, and holes.
Keep away from downed power lines and report them to your utility company. Leave immediately if you smell fumes or gas, and notify emergency personnel.
Keep an eye out for snakes and other animals that have been forced into your property by rising waters.
If there is still standing water in your home, wear rain-boots or waders to protect yourself. Even if the water in your home is clear, it could be contaminated by sewage, household chemicals or other substances.
Documenting the Damage
Go through your home and take notes on all damage to the home itself and your belongings.
Take pictures and videos if you can including the level of flood waters if your home is still flooded.
Make a copy of your home inventory for your adjuster. Try to find owner’s manuals, serial numbers, credit card statements or receipts for items that have been damaged or lost.
Be prepared to provide your insurance company with as much information as possible about the damage.
Do NOT throw away or discard any damaged items until your insurance adjuster has seen them.
Contact Your Insurance Agent right away
Notify your insurance agent in writing of the damage as soon as possible. Your agent will be your advocate throughout the claims & recovery process.
Each insurer has its own process on how to file a claim, and they work on a first-come-first-served basis, so you need to get the process started quickly.
Check your policy and confirm the coverage you have in place. If your vehicle was damaged, check your auto insurance coverage too.
Do you have separate flood insurance? Your homeowners insurance does not provide flood insurance for water damage caused by flooding (it may cover other types of water damage, such as damage due to wind-driven rain). If you have separate flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, contact your agent to file a claim.
Make Basic Repairs to Prevent Further Damage
The longer your home is exposed to water the more damage there will be to your roof, ceiling, walls and floors as well as your personal belongings.
Take steps to dry out your home by opening doors and windows to let air circulate.
If it’s safe to use electricity, utilize wet vacs, dehumidifiers, and fans.
Make some basic repairs right away to prevent further damage, but do NOT make any permanent or major repairs until you meet with an insurance adjuster. He or she needs to see the damage before any repairs are made.
Take pictures before you make any temporary repairs.
Clean up broken glass and remove debris that pose safety hazards; board up broken windows and doors; Cover any roof damage with tarps or plywood.
Keep receipts for any materials you purchase for temporary repairs (tarps, boards, etc.).
Don’t throw away damaged items until an adjuster visits your home. Place damaged items in a safe, secure area where they can be inspected later
Recovering Personal Property & Keepsakes
Never attempt to salvage belongings at the expense of your own safety.
Wear long sleeves, sturdy shoes or waterproof boots, and plastic or rubber gloves during cleanup.
Use great caution in handling your property, items can be especially fragile when wet.
Separate damp materials: remove the contents from drawers; take photographs out of damp albums; remove paintings and prints from frames; place paper towels between the pages of wet books.
Gentle air-drying is best for your belongings—indoors, if possible. Hair dryers, irons, ovens, and prolonged exposure to sunlight will do irreversible damage.
What To Expect From Your Insurance Company
Once you have made a claim, the company may send you forms to complete. Properly fill the forms out to avoid delays.
Your company will send out an adjuster to inspect your home. Make a list of the damage to your home that you would like to show the adjuster.
Once you and your insurance company agree on the terms of your settlement, state laws require that your payment is sent promptly.
As an insurance provider, we know the impact adverse conditions and weather events can have. Being prepared and informed helps you protect what matters most.
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