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With spring comes the threat of tornadoes, floods and other devastating weather-related events. When Mother Nature strikes, as she recently has in the mid-West, we wonder where the survivors begin to pick up the pieces and start again.
My family: It goes without saying that the first order of business is to make certain that all your family members are accounted for and that their injuries, if there are any, are properly treated. The trauma of these events can be an ongoing struggle which isn’t as easily seen as cuts and bruises, nevertheless, you must be alert to signs of mental injuries as well as physical ones.
My home: Remember first of all that disaster sites are probably as dangerous as the event which caused the damage in the first place. There are live electric wires, escaping gas and broken glass and boards, all of which can be deadly in and of themselves. Before you return to your home, make sure the emergency management team has cleared the area of the most deadly hazards.
My insurance agent: Once you’re sure your family is safe, your first call should be to your insurance agent. Set an appointment with him or her as soon as possible and practicable in order that you may review the damage together and set about your recovery process.
Your agent will remind you of what coverage you have and give you advice about how to proceed. Don’t hesitate to use your agent as a resource. At times like these, he can be your best friend and a solid shoulder. He’s an old hand at losses, and will know exactly what must be done next.
If I had a hat, where would I hang it? Depending upon the extent of the damage to your property, you might be able to continue to live at home. In some cases, though, you may be required to find alternative lodging or, in the worst cases, stay in a shelter temporarily. Your insurance agent will also advise you of your options here as well.
If you are able to stay at home, be sure you have clearance from utility companies before you use them and always check for water pot ability before you drink from the tap.
What about my stuff? As you begin the process of salvaging what you can of your possessions, know that there are companies which specialize in dealing with flood and fire damage which may be able to save many of your belonging. Your insurance agent may suggest that you call such a company. In the case of flooding, you may find that the items stored in upper cabinets and on upper levels of your home will be perfectly fine.
Inventory? As troublesome as it may seem, this is the time for you to begin making an inventory of belongings which have been lost or destroyed. Naturally, some things may never be replaced, but your job is to make as extensive a list as possible including the item itself, where you got it, when you got it and what you think you paid or it, or, if it was a gift, how much it was worth.
One easy way to jog your memory is to take a legal pad and pen to a local department store. Walk up and down the aisles making notes of all the things you had and what the price-tag is today. This total will eventually be needed by the insurance adjustor and, by making careful notes, you will be better able to begin the process of rebuilding your life.