The storm is over, but the damage is left. What’s next?
In the wake of Hurricane Sally, we are all sobered by the reminder that anything can happen. A storm can turn and strengthen at the last minute, leaving families underprepared and quite literally picking up the pieces of their life.
You may be feeling angry, sad, frustrated and anxious. This is a normal and understandable reaction when experiencing loss and trauma. But you're moving forward and with so much needing to be done, your to-do list can feel overwhelming. Where should you start? We’re here with some suggestions and resources to help you navigate through your recovery.
Document the Damage
Make sure to contact your insurer as soon as possible. Most standard homeowners, rental and business insurance covers damage from wind and severe weather. If you have flood damage, contact your flood insurer. If you have flood damage and but not flood insurance, you might be eligible for federal disaster assistance.
Before you begin any cleanup efforts, it is so important to document damages to your property and belongings. This helps you to show proof of ownership, loss and the cause of loss. Properly documenting damage will help you with insurance and disaster relief claims. We have three tips for documenting the damage.
1. Take Pictures
Document waterlines of flood damage. If you lost all of your groceries due to the power being out, take pictures of the food before throwing it out. If a tree fell on your car, take pictures before removing the tree and cleaning up your yard. If belongings were damaged due to rain or flooding, take pictures and be sure to include tags that show brands and serial numbers.
2. Make a List
Write down everything that was lost in the storm that had value. Try to find receipts for those lost items. Don't throw away damaged items until an adjuster surveys the damage.
3. Save Receipts
Save your receipts for post-disaster home repair and cleanup. This will help you with receiving reimbursements. Additionally, many standard insurance policies provide reimbursement of additional living expenses (temporary housing, food, laundry, etc.) when the property is determined to be uninhabitable due to damage.
As you’re cleaning up, it is more important than ever to use personal protective equipment like gardening gloves, goggles, hats and work boots. Flooding can leave dangerous debris and wildlife, like snakes and rodents, displaced. Work slowly and pay attention to your surroundings, noting utility lines.
Clean and Sanitize
Extensive water damage can seem like an overwhelming task to clean up. After taking pictures and making a list of lost belongings, do not wait to start cleaning. Mold grows quickly. Do your best to sanitize surfaces as you go – even if it’s not perfect. You don’t know what germs were washed in with the water.
Depending on how long food sat in your fridge and freezer, you also need to sanitize those inside surfaces before restocking. If food leaked as it was going bad, you don’t want to put fresh food on those dirty surfaces.
Ask for Help
This is not the time to be too proud to accept some help! Ask friends and family for a hand. If FEMA declares a disaster, apply for federal assistance. Call 1-800-621-3362, go to disasterassistance.gov, or use the FEMA app to file for assistance with FEMA, when it is time to do so. Seek out locations near you where needed supplies are being distributed.
If you've experienced changes in your financial circumstances due to storm damage, please communicate with us. We're here to help.
- Escambia County News & Information — most up-to-date information on feeding sites, road closures, debris pick up, and other essential information.
- Santa Rosa County Information
- Baldwin County Emergency Management
- FEMA Hurricane Guide — Recovery section starting on page 8)
- Federal Emergency Management (FEMA)
- Florida Disaster Emergency Information
- Department of Labor — Actions assisting those affected by Hurricane Sally
- Disaster Assistance — Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program