Everyone is usually prepared for the chaotic atmosphere created by a raging storm. Windows are boarded up, items are placed in storage sheds and garages, and candles, water and other necessities are purchased in bulk. However, what happens when the storm is over?
A surprising number of homeowners are ill-prepared for what actions need to be taken after a storm. Not being prepared for the recovery phase after a catastrophe could result in numerous problems that range from delays with insurance claims to extensive and costly repairs.
The following is a quick guide that will help any homeowner be prepared for what to do after a storm or natural disaster.
Contact your insurer
Check your policy to see what types of coverage you have and contact the insurance company to let them know that the property has sustained damage. Keep a record of everyone you speak to, the date you spoke to them and what was discussed.
High-quality photos will save time
Photographs will prove to be extremely helpful when it comes time to show insurance adjusters how extensive the damage is to your home or property. However, these photographs must be high quality and showcase exactly what happened to your property.
Some tips for taking photographs after a storm include:
- Don't wait to take photographs. Take photos as soon as it is safe to get outside and capture the damage with your camera.
- Use a camera that takes high-quality photos where details can easily be seen. Borrow a handheld digital SLR camera if your cellphone is unable to take clear, high-quality photos.
- Take more than one photograph of damage (close up, from a distance, etc.).
- Make sure to get photos that show multiple angles of the damage that occurred.
- Keep a hard copy of the photos and/or keep them on a USB drive.
- Take your photos, even if an insurance adjuster comes to take photos.
It would be extremely helpful to have before and after photographs of the home/property, but it is not necessary. Even if you don't have “before” photos, it is still important to capture the storm damage that occurred. Don't assume that because there aren't photos that can be used for comparative purposes, you will automatically be denied any insurance claim.
Damage needs to be assessed by a professional, quickly
Damage, no matter where it occurred to the home or property, needs to be assessed by a professional, and quickly. A fast assessment of damage will not only save you money and help get your home back to its original shape, but it could prevent further damage from occurring.
For example, if a tree fell on a roof, it is important to have someone come to the home to assess the movement and removal of the tree, as well as look at any harm that it caused to the roof. While assessing the damage, the individual — usually a contractor — will be able to determine just how bad the damage is and how soon repairs need to be made. In some instances, repairs may need to be made rapidly to avoid further damage to surrounding areas of the home.
A damage assessment from a reliable professional contractor can also help speed the insurance claims process.
Don’t enter the building if authorities say it isn’t safe to do so. When walking through the debris wear thick-soled shoes and wear heavy gloves — there can be sharp items, glass, nails and other dangerous items. Don’t enter rooms if the ceilings are sagging since there is a danger of them collapsing. Wash your hands frequently and make sure to stay hydrated when working to clear out the debris.
Next time a huge storm hits, don't panic, just be prepared for what to do when it passes. Following the suggestions listed here will help homeowners regain composure and be well-equipped to tackle whatever challenges arise after a storm.
William Giakoumatos is the president of American Custom Contractors, a contracting company that takes on residential, commercial and restoration projects in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
Related: 6 ways to tornado-proof your home
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