Home Disaster Assistance: What You Need To Know

Andres  Piedra
Andres Piedra
Published on September 5, 2017
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Atlantic hurricane season: June 1 through November 30. Wildfire seasons vary, depending on region. Earthquakes have no season – they strike without warning.

Depending on where you live, natural disaster preparedness may be a vital undertaking, but stocking food and water only takes care of one’s immediate needs, not the needs of a home disaster.

What happens after a home disaster? What if your roof is blown off, your walls collapse or your home is completely destroyed? Even the most diligent retrofitting can’t foil Mother Nature.

Our hearts go out to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey and to those currently preparing for Irma’s arrival. We know that once their safety is assured and their immediate needs are taken care of, their thoughts will turn to potential home disasters, the safety and overall livability of their homes. So, today we thought we’d take a look at some preliminary steps to take.

Head For Safety, First

Don’t remain at or return home if you have any doubts about the soundness of your home. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army typically provide shelters during disasters. You can locate shelters by texting “SHELTER” and your ZIP code, (for instance, “SHELTER 20165”).

The Recovery Process

Now that you’re safe, take these steps to begin the recovery process:

  • Get in touch with your mortgage servicer to request a forbearance on your mortgage payments. If you have a home disaster, document the home’s damage, how your job may be impacted by the disaster (and, thus, your income) and anything else that may hamper your ability to make your payments.
  • As soon as possible, document damage due to your home disaster, to include your belongings (photographs are ideal) and secure the home if you cannot remain there safely. Your insurance company will want to know the extent of the damage and be assured that you’ve secured the home from further damage by weather, looters and squatters.
  • Keep all receipts for any home disaster-related expenses, including hotel rooms, food, clothing and supplies purchased to board up the home’s windows or patch holes in the roof (anything purchased in your efforts to secure the home).
  • Contact your homeowner insurance agent and flood insurer. It’s important to get the ball rolling on this as soon as possible. Ask your insurance agent if you have coverage for alternative living expenses during the time you’ll be unable to return to your home. Then, get the specific steps you’ll need to take before repairs can begin.

Remember, even if you lack flood coverage, you may still be eligible for assistance.

Get the details at disasterassistance.gov.

Whether or not you can obtain federal disaster assistance depends upon if your county is declared an official disaster area. If it is, apply for disaster assistance, even if you have insurance. FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Assistance program offers grants for some home repairs, rent payment assistance and other disaster-related necessities. You can apply online, here.

Don’t wait to apply for assistance – if you do, you run the risk of missing FEMA’s deadline to apply.

Scammers Will Be Out In Full Force

Authorities with FEMA warn that phony contractors, housing inspectors and those hawking offers of government aid will be circling the area like vultures. It is infuriating to know there are humans in this world who would take advantage of others during a home disaster, but the fact is, not everyone has integrity.

Always ask for official identification and never entertain anyone who asks for money.

“There is no fee to apply for or to get help from FEMA, the Small Business Administration or the state,” they warn.

Report suspicious scammers to FEMA at 866-720-5721 or by contacting your state’s attorney general’s office.

While Hurricane Harvey’s floods and Irma’s approach are top-of-mind right now, disasters of many stripes can occur across the country. Keep this information handy as it applies to earthquake, wildfire and other disaster victims as well.

Now, I would be remiss to not take this opportunity to highlight one of the Veterans Realty Group’s favorite organizations to which we donate funds and volunteer our time and effort, Team Rubicon USA. As a military Veteran company, we strive to give back to the community, and we often do so through military Veteran-focused organizations. Team Rubicon is one of our favorites, given its dual-hatted mission; first, as an organization focused on military Veteran growth and care, and secondarily, in name, not importance, as a disaster relief organization. Team Rubicon has been paramount to successful recovery operations around the globe, and is currently on the ground in Texas conducting recovery operations after Hurricane Harvey while also preparing to deploy military Veteran volunteers to support disaster relief operations in response to Hurricane Irma. Team Rubicon USA often deploys ahead of government agencies in order to do what Team Rubicon does, bridge the gap. Team Rubicon USA cannot do this without your support. Not all of us can be on the ground to assist. However, we can all give something. Donate today, and thank you for reading. 

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Home Disaster Assistance: What You Need To Know
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