How to Move Forward After a Natural Disaster Strikes
Emergencies happen. When they do, there are some steps homeowners can take to prepare themselves for the worst. But when a major disaster strikes, even the best-prepared families may face some difficult decisions.
If the home gets damaged, is it better to rebuild or move to a new location? And where is the best place to go during repairs? Whether they stay or go, homeowners whose properties have been severely damaged during a natural disaster should always prioritize their families’ safety. There are a few things that can help to ensure that everyone remains safe and comfortable during this difficult time.
Check-In With Family and Friends
Local friends and those living further away will be worried when they hear of the disaster on the news, so take a moment to assuage their fears by calling to let them know that the family is OK. Homeowners should also register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This is true even for those who have insurance.
Find Temporary Housing
FEMA and the Red Cross usually provide lists of local shelters following major disasters. These don’t provide any kind of long-term solution, but they will give residents a place to weather the storm in comparative safety.
Homeowners who plan to stay in the area, whether long-term or short-term, should look into interim housing as soon as possible once the worst of the storm is over. FEMA offers several types of aid with housing and many insurance policies cover the cost of furnished apartments for its policyholders while they make necessary repairs.
Register for Assistance
If the area has been declared a federal disaster area, it’s important to register for disaster assistance immediately. Residents affected by the disaster may be able to get money from the government that can help them start rebuilding their lives. Homeowners should also file claims with their insurance companies as soon as their families are safe.
Homeowners who are still making payments on their properties may be able to get disaster forbearance. This will give them time to figure out what they want to do and come up with a future payment plan.
Inspecting the Home
Once it’s possible to return to the home, homeowners should perform a basic inspection to determine how much damage has been done and how they should move forward. There are a few things to keep in mind while performing an inspection on a damaged home.
Stay on the lookout for potential safety hazards like downed power lines, wet electrical equipment, severe structural damage, and gas leaks. It’s always best to check with local utility companies in advance to make sure the area is not off-limits because of ongoing safety hazards.
If it’s possible to get inside the home without compromising anyone’s safety, homeowners should take an inventory of their possessions by taking photos or videos that show the extent of the damage. Don’t throw anything away until after the property has been inspected by an insurance adjuster, but feel free to make lists of what areas will require the most repairs.
Find Vital Documents
Find vital documents like drivers’ licenses, passports, birth certificates, citizenship papers, and Social Security cards. It’s OK to remove these from the property, as the family will probably need them to get aid and temporary housing. If these essential documents aren’t salvageable, contact the relevant agencies to order replacements immediately.
Make sure to have the mail forwarded to the family’s temporary address. It’s important not to miss official communications from insurance companies, disaster aid agencies, and local government officials during the rebuilding process. Those who have had to replace vital documents should use their temporary addresses to facilitate timely delivery.
Rebuild or Move On?
Deciding whether to rebuild a severely damaged home or move to a different area is largely a matter of balancing costs with benefits. It’s never wise to decide to rebuild a house based only on sentimental value. Instead, consider the following questions to make a more informed decision.
What Is the Extent of Damage?
Homeowners whose properties have suffered only cosmetic damage will have to pay less to remove standing water, remediate mold, and rebuild than those whose homes are considered a total loss. If the home only needs to be restored and not completely rebuilt, it may be more worthwhile to stay put, provided insurance coverage will still be available.
Is Fixing it Affordable?
Homeowners who have disaster insurance will be in a better position to rebuild than those who would have to foot the bill themselves. Organizations like FEMA and the Federal Housing Administration often offer aid money to disaster victims to help them rebuild as well. Consider the monetary cost of rebuilding and determine whether it would be worth the money.
Will Insurance Still Be Available?
Insurance companies are known to drop policyholders who live in known, high-risk areas. If homeowners have already filed multiple claims, insurance companies will be more likely to drop their coverage. Find out whether this will be the case before deciding whether to rebuild a severely damaged home.
How Much Damage Has the Local Infrastructure Sustained?
If other homeowners and businesses in the area all choose not to return after a serious natural disaster, it makes little sense to rebuild the home. Homeowners and their families should make sure their jobs will still be available and their public utilities will be restored following the disaster.
Natural disasters are always stressful. If severe weather events are serious enough that they cause substantial damage to homes and businesses in the area, homeowners may find that the risk of facing another serious natural disaster in the future outweighs the benefits of rebuilding their homes and continuing to live in the same community. No matter what choice they make, homeowners should prioritize their safety and that of their families.
Do you want to stay close, but not sure where to go while contractors repair damage to your home? Get in contact to start the temporary relocation process today.