We were so excited to team up with SBP to offer our Community of Preparedness an interactive webinar in honor of Preparedness Month. If you aren’t familiar with SBP, they are a non-profit aimed at minimizing the suffering that comes after natural disasters. They help with everything from boots on the ground rebuilding to early planning of insurance to help speed up the recovery process.
Dulcie, the Recovery Programs and Project Manager from SBP, walked us through some great tips for getting prepared and how to navigate recovery after a natural disaster including rarely covered topics like insurance and contractor fraud, some of the biggest hurdles to getting back to normal after a disaster.
Check out some of the big takeaways below --
Protect Important Documents
Gather the following documents and verify that they are accurate and consider making copies:
- Proof of Ownership (i.e. Deed)
- Proof of Insurance
- Marriage and Birth Certificates
- Family Photos
It’s crucial to protect these documents from fire or water damage. Keep them in a waterproof or fireproof chest or safe if possible. Make sure you have access to safely stored copies even if you can’t get home. A common solution nowadays is to secure copies online with cloud storage, but also keep in mind you may have limited access to the internet so physical copies can be useful.
If you use a safety deposit box, remember that banks can also be impacted. It’s a good idea to put documents in sealed plastic bags and consider exchanging an extra copy of your records with a friend or family member out of the area, so even if one of your banks are impacted, you each still have a copy in a safe location.
Protecting Your Home
For most of us, our house is our most important asset so ensuring it’s secured and protected should be a priority. A good way to think about this is in three buckets:
- Inspections and Maintenance - Keeping things in good working order allows us to catch issues while they’re small and less expensive to fix. And to mitigate potential risks.
- Secure your property - secure and relocate large and heavy objects in your home, clear paths to ensure your family has at least 2 safe exits, remove or limit toxic flammables, and get professional help to assess a building’s structure
- Property Improvements - Check out roof, door, and window protections, and foundation anchoring
Getting the Right Insurance
Ask your insurance agent these key questions to understand your perils, policy coverage values, property coverage, filing claims, and other needs.
- Do I have the right coverage for the other perils I face, such as windstorms?
- Does my coverage include: Home structure AND contents? Detached structures?
- Am I insured for Replacement Cost instead of Actual Cash Value (ACV)?
- Do I have enough coverage if: I need to live somewhere else for an extended period of time while my home is being repaired?
Financial Resources for Recovery
The primary source of funding for the recovery process is any applicable insurance coverage you may have. By law federal disaster assistance cannot provide funds for losses covered by insurance.
There are two primary programs for federal assistance:
- FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP) which provides limited grant funding for housing and other basic needs not covered by insurance
- Small Business Administration’s Disaster Home & Property Loan program which provides low interest (3.3% over 30 years), long term loans to help repair/replace damaged property (home, contents, vehicles)
Insurance Claims Tips
- Contact your insurance company ASAP and document everything
- Get written estimates from 2-3 contractors as soon as possible
- Work closely with your claims adjuster
- Don’t feel rushed to agree to a settlement or to select a contractor
- Spend settlement money only on repairs and replacing damaged items
Staying organized, keeping good records, being proactive about checking up on your insurance claim and all of the work that your contractors are doing, and asking questions are all things that will help get you and your family back home as quickly, efficiently, and safely as possible.
FEMA Individuals & Households Program (IHP)
IHP provides financial help or direct assistance to individuals and families for eligible disaster-caused needs not covered by insurance. Even if you do not have insurance, you may be eligible for some types of assistance. IHP is designed to help meet essential needs and bring homes back to a livable condition, not pre-disaster condition.
FEMA's Temporary Shelter Assistance program. This program can cover the cost of lodging and living expenses, even for those with insurance, if coverage gaps exist. This is not something that survivors apply for, rather, FEMA will reach out to advise that they are eligible, either via text, call, email. They must apply for FEMA first. Those that receive TSA must use it at a TSA approved lodging.
What is SBA?
The Small Business Administration (SBA) does support small businesses, but in times of disaster also provides loans for homeowners and renters.
In order to apply for FEMA, they may ask you to first apply to SBA for a loan. You will not be required to accept the loan, but this assessment helps FEMA to determine how much assistance you are eligible to receive.
These are low interest loans that can be helpful in covering your immediate needs but will eventually need to be paid back.
Homeowners and renters can apply, however it cannot be used for secondary homes or to upgrade homes, unless the local building code requires it.
If You Only Do One Thing:
Preparedness can feel overwhelming at times. We asked Dulcie what the biggest thing disaster victims say they wish they had done ahead of time. The response? Collect, organize, and make copies of the key documents. Without ready access to things like the deed to your house or proof of insurance, filing claims or applying for assistance can be nearly impossible.
If you can only do one thing today to get more prepared, let it be collecting those important documents, making copies, and keeping a set in your emergency kit!
Want to learn more?
Natural disasters aren’t preventable, but by increasing resilience before disasters occur and streamlining the post-disaster recovery process, SPB is able to fortify people against unnecessary stress and trauma.
Here are some additional resources to consider:
- SBP Protects: An incredibly in-depth module that you should review and bookmark to dive deep on topics like insurance, contractor fraud, and more.
- Redfora Guides: Our own guides, checklists, and plans that help you get ready for anything from wildfire evacuation to hurricane preparedness.
- Webinar Recording: If you have about 30 minutes, check out the recording of our webinar. Use the code Pr3p@redness if prompted for a code.