Even after the storm has passed, it’s important to be aware of the dangers in your area. Here are some tips to help keep you and your family safe whether you rode out the storm at home or are returning to assess the damage.
1. If you evacuated before the storm hit, don’t return to your local area to assess the damage until officials say it is safe to do so. Keep in mind that flash flooding can occur, so roads and bridges may be damaged. To get road conditions in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee after a hurricane, call 511.
2. Let people know you’re safe. Register on the American Red Cross’ Safe and Well webpage so family and friends can see that you checked in and know you are safe.
3. Avoid driving or walking through floodwaters. Standing water can be electrically charged from downed and underground power lines; conceal dangerous debris and animals — dead or alive — or be contaminated with sewage and hazardous chemicals. Just six inches of moving water can knock down a person, and a foot of fast-moving water can destabilize a vehicle.
4. To avoid home hazards from flooding, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker, or ask for professional help. Do not touch electrical equipment like appliances and televisions. Use a flashlight to look around, not a lighter or a lantern with an open flame, in case there’s a gas leak.
5. Be aware of hazards relative to power lines, polluted water, and the challenge of putting out a fire because of low water pressure.
6. Be wary of unlicensed contractors when repairing hurricane damage. Although natural disasters often bring out the best in people, with strangers reaching out to help others in need, the aftermath of a hurricane opens the door to a variety of scams and unlicensed contractors who seize the opportunity to take advantage of those who need help. Before you hire someone to make repairs, make sure they’re legitimate and do quality work by looking them up on the Better Business Bureau’s website. Additionally, never pay in advance for work to be done, and be wary of any contractor who demands full or half payment up front. Your best bet is to use a contractor recommended by your insurance company.
7. If your home is flooded, document the damage as soon as possible. Take a combination of photographs and videos for your insurance claim and personal records. The more documentation you have, the easier it will be to file your claim. Do only what’s necessary to prevent further damage, such as covering broken windows with plastic or the roof with tarps to keep rain out. Don’t make or commission permanent repairs until an insurance adjuster has reviewed the damage.
8. If your home is destroyed and uninhabitable, you’ll need to find a safe place where your family can stay while your home is being repaired. The loss-of-use coverage in a standard homeowner insurance policy typically helps pay for your family’s lodging as long as the damage is part of a covered claim. Check your policy or ask your agent to make sure you have this coverage and to determine its monetary value and time limits. If you need help locating temporary housing options, use the FEMA Housing Portal on FEMA’s Interim Housing Resources.
9. Expect hurricane damage assessment teams to do an extensive review of all areas, and for insurance representatives to be on the scene immediately following a hurricane to expedite the handling of claims. Notify your agent of any losses and leave word of where you can be reached. Keep in mind that hardship cases are settled first, so please be patient.