Atlantic hurricane season: June 1 through November 30. Wildfire seasons vary, depending on the region. Earthquakes have no season – they strike without warning inside and outside the Baltimore/Washington Area … remember the earthquake that we had in the Baltimore/Washington Area a few years back! (That was crazy!!! Do you remember where you were? I will never forget, I was in Downtown Baltimore at the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Office … It’s right by the courthouse and all those tall buildings … it was pretty scary!)
Depending on where you live, natural disaster preparedness may be a vital undertaking, but stocking food and water only takes care of one’s immediate needs.
What happens if your roof is blown off, your walls collapse or your home is completely destroyed? Even the most diligent retrofitting can’t fool Mother Nature.
Our hearts go out to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. We know that once their safety is assured and their immediate needs are taken care of, their thoughts will turn to the safety and overall livability of their homes. So, today we thought we’d take a look at some preliminary steps to take.
Head For Safety, First
Don’t remain at or return home if you have any doubts about the soundness of your home. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army typically provide shelters during disasters. You can locate shelters by texting “SHELTER” and your ZIP code, (for instance, “SHELTER 75043”).
The Recovery Process
Now that you’re safe, take these steps to begin the recovery process:
- Get in touch with your mortgage servicer to request a forbearance on your mortgage payments. Document the home’s damage, how your job may be impacted by the disaster (and, thus, your income) and anything else that may hamper your ability to make your payments.
- As soon as possible, document the damage to your home and belongings (photographs are ideal) and secure the home if you cannot remain there safely. Your insurance company will want to know the extent of the damage and be assured that you’ve secured the home from further damage by weather, looters and squatters.
- Keep all receipts for any disaster-related expenses, including hotel rooms, food, clothing and supplies purchased to board up the home’s windows or patch holes in the roof (anything purchased in your efforts to secure the home).
- Contact your homeowner insurance agent and flood insurer. It’s important to get the ball rolling on this as soon as possible. Ask your insurance agent if you have coverage for alternative living expenses during the time you’ll be unable to return to your home. Then, get the specific steps you’ll need to take before repairs can begin.
Remember, even if you lack flood coverage, you may still be eligible for assistance.
Get the details at disasterassistance.gov.
Whether or not you can obtain federal disaster assistance depends upon if your county is declared an official disaster area. If it is, apply for disaster assistance, even if you have insurance. FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Assistance program offers grants for some home repairs, rent payment assistance and other disaster-related necessities. You can apply online, here.
Don’t wait to apply for assistance – if you do, you run the risk of missing FEMA’s deadline to apply.
Scammers Will Be Out In Full Force
Authorities with FEMA warn that phony contractors, housing inspectors and those hawking offers of government aid will be circling the area like vultures.
Always ask for official identification and never entertain anyone who asks for money.
“There is no fee to apply for or to get help from FEMA, the Small Business Administration or the state,” they warn.
Report suspicious scammers to FEMA at 866-720-5721 or by contacting your state’s attorney general’s office.
While Hurricane Harvey’s floods are top-of-mind right now, disasters of many stripes can occur across the country including in the Baltimore/Washington Area. Keep this information handy as it applies to earthquake, wildfire and other disaster victims as well.
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