Getting even just a few inches of rainwater inside your houses can be disheartening. Losing it to major flooding is downright devastating.
Here are a few things that can help lessen the burden.
1. Call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): 800-621-3362. Call them and give them all the information you have. While FEMA’s grants to victims are far below what’s needed to fully recover from Harvey, it’s a start.
2. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Take pictures of all of the damages to your property. Be as detailed as you can. It also helps if you have existing photos of your house BEFORE Hurricane Harvey.
Also keep receipts for all purchases made after the storm. Many insurance policies don’t just cover damage and property that’s lost. In some cases, the insurer will be on the hook for additional expenses incurred because of the disaster. This can include food receipts (if kitchen is unusable), hotel accommodations (if bedrooms are inaccessible), etc.
3. Start preparing documents and all the necessary paperwork. Get photocopies of your driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, property tax records, vehicle insurance, house insurance, etc.
FEMA and insurance companies will want proof of identification and personal records, so it’s necessary to have multiple copies of this on-hand.
Keep everything in a plastic binder or a waterproof case. Upload digital copies online and have soft-copies in your USB’s and / or hard drive.
4. Do your best to file property damage claims before September 1. House Bill 1774, which was backed by the insurance industry and passed by the 85th Texas Legislature last month, goes into effect at 12:01 AM, Friday, September 1, 2017.
According to Jeff Rasansky of Rasansky Law Firm, “This new law will curtail the ability of policyholders to sue insurance companies over property damage claims following extreme weather events. Essentially, the bill will make it much more difficult for homeowners and business owners to hold insurers accountable for underpaid claims or poorly handled claims’ investigations by cutting the penalties for insurers who offer inadequate compensation on weather-related property damage claims.”
5. If you lost your car to flooding, take pictures and document your car insurance for claims later.
If you can, avoid buying used cars for a while – the market will be teeming with flooded cars being sold as “not flooded”. If you really must buy a second-hand car, check the floorboards for dampness, check the wheel well in the trunk for dampness, check all the lights, blinkers, high beams, and check under the hood.
6. For properties that will need demolition, get everything out as soon as you can. Sort what’s still usable from what needs to be disposed. Get a storage unit if you can and store all of your important items there.
We have great contractors and vendors. Contact me if you need recommendations.
7. With thousands of homes affected by Harvey, expect that contractors and vendors will be on high demand. Construction workers will be on short supply too.
Providing that the home remains structurally sound, do what you can in the meantime. Get a few friends and family to help out. If needed, partner with a few neighbors and help each other out. A few things to keep in mind as you do the rebuilding:
- Get a facemask or a respirator. Your home may have dead animals, molding, or other chemical and gas leaks.
- Kill the main power and unplug all appliances before you start. Be on the lookout for exposed wiring and broken appliances.
- Tools will be hard to come by, so account for whatever tools you may have specially crowbars, hammers, sledge hammers, cutters and pliers. Wheelbarrows are essential, try to get your hand on at least one.
- Take out the fridge. If there are rotten food inside, secure it by duck-taping the doors.
- Get the carpeting, vinyl tiles, linoleum, and sheetrock next. These are prime areas for molding and you want to avoid this as much as you can.
8. Register your property damage on CrisisCleanup.org. Non-profit and crisis management organizations like All Hands Volunteers, Habitat for Humanity, and Samaritan’s Purse use the program to organize volunteers to help with the cleanup and rebuilding process.
After registering, your home is logged on their map. They will then call you if they have volunteers in the area and assist in demolishing your home at no cost. These are charity organizations that spend months in disaster areas helping families recover.
9. Contractors will have little to no availability. Be wary of contractors trying to rip you off. Get copies of their licenses, research their history, make sure they are who they say they are and that they are not a fly-by-night operation.
We have great vendors and contractors. We have already reached out to a few and while some of them are dealing with their own home flooding, some are already preparing to bring in contractors from out of state to be able to assist with a rapid clean up. Contact Paige Martin if you need recommendations.
10. Plan for the future and do property improvements if you have the resources. It doesn’t have to be big: things as minor as adding extra outlets, changing where the cables are laid out, and improving water piping layout can be good updates.