While most of the Southeast is not in the clear yet with regard to Hurricane Irma, it is time to start the restoration process. Luckily, this record-breaking storm, while catastrophic, could have been a lot worse. Below are items to consider as the storm dissipates and the flood waters recede.
Don’t rush it.
Before heading home, make sure your area has been given the “all clear” to return. Even though the storm has passed, flood waters can still pose a major threat to homeowners, and debris carried by the winds as well as downed power lines can still make your neighborhood unsafe.
Check with your local authorities to ensure that your neighborhood is a safe place to come back to. As much as you want to get home and begin the rebuilding process, it is extremely important to be patient.
Once you arrive home, take your time. Make sure you inspect the utility & electric connections, gas lines, smoke detectors, alarm systems, etc. before reentering your home.
Document the damage thoroughly with photos and videos before attempting any cleanup or restoration. Make sure you keep a detailed list (and digital copies, if possible). This will help you tremendously during the claims process with your insurance carrier.
Contact Your Insurance Company IMMEDIATELY
You, no doubt, took our advice about keeping copies of your insurance policy information and important contacts handy before the storm ever hit. Make sure to contact your insurance company and/or insurance agent as soon as possible. They can guide you on the best steps to file a claim.
Insurance companies are certainly going to be overwhelmed post-storm, no matter how well they were prepared. When it comes to storm claims, they sometimes work on a first-come, first-served basis; so the quicker you report a claim, the more likely you are to have your claim handled quickly.
DON’T SIGN ANYTHING!
Insurance fraud was being reported well ahead of this storm. We, and our partner agencies have written about Assignment of Benefits. Florida’s newly appointed CFO even recently called AOB a
“potential problem of epidemic proportion,” Patronis warned that fraud resulting from homeowners and auto glass insurance Assignment of Benefits (AOB) will “affect every single policy holder in the state.”
Now with Irma causing so much damage, this problem will only become more amplified. Know what you are signing, and contact your insurance agent before you do anything!
Conduct Emergency Repairs
As we’ve said before, you can replace things, not people. Don’t try to be a hero right now. Try to perform only the necessary repairs to prevent further damage. Tasks such as covering damaged windows or roofs with tarps to keep rain out are ok, however, don’t try to make any permanent repairs until an insurance adjuster reviews the damage.
Review Your Home Inventory
Hopefully, you took our advice ahead of the storm and you created a comprehensive home inventory (with pictures and/or videos) and kept it in a safe place. Now is the time to review it and begin to compile the list of damaged or missing items. This will, again, help expedite the claims process.
Document, Document, Document
Keep accurate records of all your restoration expenses. Save receipts and take pictures or video of all your temporary repairs.
Make a Wise Decision
After returning home, you may want to just get back to normal. However, a realistic assessment of the damage may result in a conclusion that your home is not currently safe to fully return to. If you think your home is unsafe and unfit to live in due to storm damage, contact your insurance company to discuss finding temporary accommodations.
The Silver Lining
As devastating as these massive storms are, there may be some glimmer of positivity that comes from them. They offer you a chance to rebuild for the future, as hard as that may seem at the moment.
So, unless your house is completely demolished, use this as an opportunity to make improvements to be better prepared for the future. Make a list of things you wish you had prior to the storm. Begin compiling items for improvement now such as a generator for emergency power, bags to create water barriers, hurricane shutters, a storm kit, or even stores of water and food.
This storm season is far from over. If you were caught under-insured or uninsured, the time to contact a reputable insurance agent is now. Don’t wait until the next storm threat to remember how crucial insurance can be.