While navigating a global pandemic, one cannot imagine adding a natural disaster into the mix, but that is the reality for many who have recently experienced tornados touching down in their hometowns.
If you and your loved ones have found yourselves in the path of a tornado, you are not alone and there is help out there for you. Experiencing a natural disaster, especially during the midst of an unprecedented crisis, can bring on a host of emotional, physical, and financial hardships. During such a stressful time, it is essential that you stay safe, educate yourself, and advocate for the support you need.
Make sure everyone is safe.
If you and your family have experienced a natural disaster, such as a tornado, the first step is to make sure everyone in the home is accounted for and safe. It is important to remember that everything else can wait. Seek the help of first responders if you or someone around you has been injured or if people or pets from your household are missing.
Use caution after a disaster.
A natural disaster can create new safety hazards both inside and outside of your home. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a study of injuries after a tornado showed that 50 percent of the storm-related injuries were suffered during rescue attempts, cleanup, and other post-tornado activities.
It’s important to watch out for post-storm issues such as broken glass, exposed nails, unstable structures, electrical wiring, and contaminated water. Inform local officials if you see downed power lines, washed out roads, or additional changes that could pose a threat to the community.
If your home has been damaged, a good rule of thumb is to shut off all electrical power, propane, and natural gas to avoid explosions, fire, or electrocution.
Protect your valuables.
If you must leave your home, pack up essentials like important financial documents and priceless keepsakes to take with you. Your insurance plan may also cover the cost of a storage unit for larger belongings.
Secure your home and document damage.
If possible, make sure to secure your property against any further damage. Take photos and extensively document damage caused by the storm. If you make any immediate repairs, save all receipts in a designated envelope to later submit to your insurance company. During this time, be especially wary of home repair scams.
Contact your insurance company.
Reach out to your insurance representative to file a claim immediately following the event. Due to the fact that many around you were likely affected by the natural disaster, it may take insurance companies longer than usual to process claims and to dispatch adjusters to the scene.
If you can no longer reside in your home, check to see if your homeowner or renter insurance policy provides limited coverage for a hotel and additional expenses like food and gas.
Register for federal disaster assistance.
Visit https://www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362)/1-800-462-7585 (TTY) to register for disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Keep in mind during this time that your home insurance policy will be your primary source of coverage.
Consider seeking mental health support.
Returning to the scene after a tornado can be traumatic and anxiety can persist for long periods of time. Seek professional help if you are having trouble coping. Natural disasters can be especially disorienting for children. Encourage young members of your family to freely express their feelings and offer them ongoing comfort.
Experiencing a natural disaster can disrupt each and every area of one’s life and cause devastating levels of loss. Reach out to those around you for support and seek out a local shelter if you need a place to stay, along with other essentials such as food or water. Above all else, focus on keeping yourself and those around you safe during this challenging time.