Whether your home has sustained damage due to a massive storm, forest fire, earthquake or other cruel event — Mother Nature’s wrath could knock on your doorstep at any moment with a disaster. In the past month, a slew of catastrophic natural disasters wreaked havoc on North America. Hurricanes, major earthquakes and ravaging forest fires have swept through all corners of North America.
And, it doesn’t take a catastrophe to face an unexpected disaster.
An old tree could hit the roof, a faulty wire could spark a fire, or irregular weather patterns create the perfect hail-storm concoction. Tragedy’s hand is often unpredictable. Luckily, you can map out a road to recovery. Here are some ways you can bounce-back and return to a normal life after succumbing to such disastrous events.
Recovering Your Approach after a Disaster
In the aftermath of the event, there are a couple of things you should do to ensure the safety of yourself and your family.
First, make sure you protect your personal identity. You’ll have enough on your mind during the initial disaster. The last thought that will pass through your mind won’t be what you’ll do with your personal documentation. Unfortunately, certain less-than-moralistic individuals can loot through your belongings, even steal your identity.
To help prevent this from occurring, make sure to immediately touch base with creditors and immediately report any and all lost credit cards. Your bank will help you replace lost checks or bank cards. Shred papers with personal information that you spot when cleaning. Place a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus.
It’s also important to brush up on the potential physical dangers you and your family could face upon the initial return home. For example, electrical damage caused by a disaster such as a flood could create serious hazards, especially if the home still has standing water.
Learn the in’s and outs of what you’ll need to document prior to returning to your home. Keep in mind, you’re not a trained insurance adjuster or home inspector. You can at least give it the eyeball test, which includes taking extensive notes and photographs of all damage created, including debris.
An organized approach will make the best use of your time and money. If your structure is substantially damaged, you need to ask yourself if you should rebuild at all — it may be smarter, safer, and cheaper to relocate.
Recovering Your Structure after a Disaster
Once you’ve been given permission to return to your neighborhood and home, use caution.
You may discover that your damaged home needs extensive repair or demolition. Insurance settlements and relief from the federal government to property owners can provide con artists with opportunities to profit unfairly. It’s no secret that fraudsters follow weather emergencies, attracted by the demand for repairs and the availability of funds.
Make sure to check the exterior of your home for cracks in the foundation and/or chimney as well as sagging in the roof. Don’t force open a door if it’s jammed — it could be supporting your home’s structure.
If your home is severely damaged, make sure you can legally rebuild if you intend to. When you file for a building permit, local inspectors will determine what federal regulations you must comply with. Make sure you check the building permit for any restrictions yourself and that the new structure meets any elevation standards.
With that in mind, you should begin thinking about temporary repairs. The exact steps you going to take depend on damage. A few examples of what you could do include ripping out wet drywall or carpet to prevent the spread of mold. Use boards to close openings on the property. Put up tarps. Install fencing to prevent bystanders from getting injured or from entering your property.
However, don’t make any permanent repairs because your insurance company will need to know what damage was done. This will likely hamper your ability to get reimbursed if they don’t know the full extent of the damage. Avoid contractors looking to make a quick buck.
Recovering Your Coverage after a Disaster
How much of your loss coverage depends on your policy.
And, this boils down to the type of property insurance you have. This type of insurance falls into one of three categories: your house and/or possessions, car, and living expenses.
The standard homeowner’s insurance often covers fire damage, including wildfires. Destruction can constitute a need to cover the costs to rebuild or repair your home. There are some wildfire-prone areas that insurers won’t cover. People that live in forested areas may need to carry fire insurance. Make sure to check with your agent to make sure this isn’t the case for your property.
However, standard homeowner’s insurance typically won’t cover damage caused by earthquakes and floods. Flood damage requires a separate policy usually backed by the National Flood Insurance Program, although a few private insurers provide it independently. If you live in an area that’s considered a flood zone, lenders and mortgage investors require you carry flood insurance.
This is also true when it comes to your personal belongings. Luckily, your homeowner’s, renters or standalone dwelling policy will belongings lost or damaged from a wildfire. This even includes theft or vandalism, and landscaping, up to a maximum.
Coverage for your vehicle is under the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy. It protects your car against fire damage and vandalism, as well as such perils like falling trees.
If you can’t live in your home because of the damage, your homeowner’s policy will reimburse you for additional living expenses. This includes hotel rooms, restaurant meals and clothing.
Recovering a Claim after a Disaster
Once you’ve figured out what your insurance will cover, you’ll want to make a homeowner’s claim.
It’s important to realize that once you file a claim with your homeowners insurance, your rates will likely go up. This is because the insurance company presumes that if it had to repair once, the probability increases of an event damaging your home once more.
This isn’t saying you should avoid getting insurance altogether. This isn’t to say you should never use your insurance. If that were the case, there would be no point in carrying it.
However, you should decide if it’s worth it for you to file a claim. You can figure this out by looking at your deductible. That is, let’s say damages cost only a few hundred dollars above your deductible. In this case, it might not be prudent to file a claim.
Your insurance company could also have the ability of providing you an estimate. This could be for free or for a fee, but either way it’s worth calling you provider for information. If agreed, your insurance company will send out an adjuster for the estimate. This will include repair costs and how much of the damages they are willing to cover.
Keep in mind that even if your insurance carrier agrees to pay for home repairs, you may not see the money right away. If your home has a mortgage, checks for repairs will likely be to both you and your lender. Your bank could hold onto the money, dispensing it as the work is done.
Recovering Your Health after a Disaster
Natural disasters often affect people in stages, according to health experts.
During the initial aftermath of a natural disaster, shock is an extremely common reaction. This is followed by added feelings of stunned, confused and/or emotionally numb. These are normal defensive mechanisms, but they can still produce less-than-ideal effects.
This is because once the initial confusions subsides, people experience an acute stress response. This comes with intense, unpredictable emotions triggering mood swings from nervous to anxious, depressed to normal again. Patience, tolerance and general temper also become shortened.
This type of stressful reaction directly influences physical ailments. These include fatigue, headaches, nausea and muscle cramps and aches. Although experts say these are normal responses, it doesn’t mean they are any easier. These could last anywhere from several weeks to months, depending on the severity of the situation.
The return home, especially after a natural disaster, can bring on an unexpected wave of emotions. To help face it, experts recommend surrounding yourself with family, friends and loved ones. They will allow support and strength at the moments of feeling overcome or overwhelmed by emotions and stress. It’s also important to allow yourself to grieve.
Often, following a disaster, there may be pressure to bury the sadness and return to a normal state. By acknowledging your grieving, and allowing yourself to feel out-of-sorts is actually an incredibly significant part of the healing process for both your mind and body.
By prioritizing your physical health, you are taking care of your emotional well-being. Make sure you eat regular meals, hydrate often, and sleep enough for your body to recover. If you can handle it, try doing some light exercise like walking. Exercise is a powerful combatant against anxiety and stress, studies show.
Just make sure to tailor your routine to fit what’s comfortable to your lifestyle. Focus on adopting habits with a sense of predictability. Even something as simple as a morning walk, calling a friend or reading before night can have a significant impacts to bettering your personal health.
Recovering Your Life after a Disaster
At the end of the day, remember that you and your family have been through a disaster. A return to normalcy is not going to happen overnight.
Natural disasters have a way of upending years of hard work and stability in as little as a few minutes. For this reason, among many others, a certain amount of shock is understandable.
Hopefully, these steps serve as a guide to prepare you for potential catastrophes, or point you in the right direction. Above all, try to be patient with your family, your neighbors, the local, state, and federal authorities, and volunteer agency personnel. If you have any additional comments, questions, concerns or tips, feel free to leave a comment in the section below.