After the storm: 15 things to do

The impact of Hurricane Harvey will be felt for years, and rebuilding will not come easy for many. But the Defender has compiled a list of 15 things to do to help you rebuild after the storm.

  1. Contact FEMA/your insurance company. While you can wait until you can fully assess your damage, experts urge you to go ahead and get your application started. With HB 1774, a new law regarding homeowners and insurance lawsuits going to effect on Sept. 1, getting a claim number now could prevent a headache later. Besides, insurance companies and FEMA are about to be inundated with claims. The sooner you get your application started, the sooner you’ll get relief. CONTINUE TO FILE YOUR CLAIMS AFTER SEPT 1.
  2. Go to disasterassistance.gov. If you are directly affected by the storm, FEMA is poised and ready to assist NOW. They are providing housing stipends and immediate reimbursements/living expenses but you have to complete a registration.
  3. Take stock. The quickest way to move your claim along is to have photos/video of your damage. Email a copy to yourself as a backup. Check with your insurance company to see if they require you keep the damaged items until they can inspect. FEMA generally wants to see your damaged items so make sure you know the policy before you throw away any damaged items.
  4. Get a reprieve from bills. Call your mortgage company, car loan company, student loan and credit card companies. Ask for a three-month reprieve from payments. There should be no late fees assessed. They will work with you. You may need the money to get back on your feet.
  5. Take lots of photos. Call the insurance company ASAP. Get them to start your claim now. Anything under water is covered. Exceptions would be items that can be washed or stone counter tops. But laminate counters can be claimed because they are wood.
  6. If it has a plug or an outlet and it was under water, DO NOT USE IT. Water and electricity do not mesh. Those outlets will corrode over time and house fires can start, even in the future.
  7. Remove destroyed items. After you’ve checked your insurance company’s claim policy, empty your home quickly of items that are destroyed. If it has a plug, it’s not good. If it runs on gas or electricity and was under water, it is trash. Cut drywall to 4′ (the width of drywall.). It saves time and money when you are replacing it.
  8. Break out the bleach. Solid wood furniture? Spray with bleach or Wet and Forget from Home Depot type stores. Bleach is less expensive.
  9. Treat everything. Everything will mold or mildew if not treated. It is not worth your health in the long run.
  10. Be patient. Expect that it will take three months on average to return to normal.
  11. Keep the receipts. Anything you purchase to rebuild, keep your receipts for insurance and disaster declaration support.
  12. Keep track of communication. In the process of rebuilding, you’ll probably be talking to a lot of folks. Get names, log dates. This process can be frustrating but if you keep a record of all your communication, it can make your process flow a lot smoother.
  13. Leave the children when you return home. If you have children, leave them with a relative or friend while you conduct your first inspection of your home after the disaster. The site may be unsafe for children, and seeing the damage first-hand may upset them even more and cause long-term effects, including nightmares.
  14. Remove water from your home slowly. If you have several feet of water, do not pump all the water out at once. Pump about 1/3 of the water out every day to avoid possible pressure build-up from the outside walls. Removing the water too quickly may result in outside pressure being higher than the pressure on the inside walls, which can cause the walls and floors to crack and collapse.
  15. Check the outside of your home before you enter. Look for loose power lines, broken or damaged gas lines, foundation cracks or other damage. See if porch roofs and overhangs still have all their supports. If you see damage on the outside, it could indicate that the inside of your home is seriously damaged. Also be sure to quickly remove the water that you use during this clean up.