Post Disaster: What to Do in the First Hours
The immediate aftermath of a disaster is a chaotic time. From assessing damage to your home and possessions, notifying and making contact with family and friends, and beginning to address insurance matters, there are seemingly innumerable things to do in the aftermath of a disaster. The difficulty in prioritizing responses after a disaster is one of the major impediments to recovery and one of the biggest challenges facing anyone involved in a disaster. Here is a quick look at some of the top things you should do within the first hours following a disaster.
Assess Damage and Notify Emergency Services
The most first and most natural thing to do in the aftermath of a disaster is to assess the damage to your property and notify the proper emergency authorities. Depending on the nature of the disaster, evacuation may have been necessary, so upon returning, take an account of damages and call emergency services if necessary. You will want to assess the state of the surrounding homes, buildings, and neighborhood as well. Look for anyone in need of emergency assistance, keep an eye out for damaged utility lines, and notify the appropriate utility companies regarding damages.
Call Loved Ones
In reality, this will likely be the first thing you do in the first hours after a disaster. Make sure all of your immediate family is safe and then contact relatives and friends to notify them that you are safe and update them on the situation. After a disaster, no matter how severe, it is important to make contact with friends and family. If anyone was separated, make every effort to get in contact with the person and notify emergency personnel immediately.
Contact Your Insurance Company
You want to notify your insurance company to begin a claim as soon as possible. You don’t necessarily have to do this within the first hours of a disaster–within the first couple of days is usually fine–but the sooner you can notify them of about damages, the better. During the process of assessing damages to your home and possessions, try and detail everything that was affected for the purpose of the claim–even if you have not yet called the insurance company.
The more detail and documentation you have regarding ownership and what was damaged or destroyed, the smoother the claims process should be. The first hours are likely to be a frantic time, so prioritize these things and try not to worry about long term restoration and recovery matters until the immediate concerns are sorted out. The best thing to do is be patient and take everything in stride.