If your home has suffered damage and/or your possessions have been lost, damaged, or destroyed as a result of a hurricane or other damaging storm, there are specific actions to take that will expedite the insurance claim process and help you receive the proper recovery based on policy coverage.
Your active involvement in the claims process is vital, and several of these steps rely upon actions taken before the hurricane or storms occur. It is distressing enough to experience storm-related damage; preparation will help make the recovery process as smooth as possible.
The first step is to perform an assessment of your property. In cases of evacuation or where there was significant damage (or fire), the local authorities may be involved in the timing of when you can return to your home. Even with their involvement, you should undertake an independent assessment of the damage.
- Make sure the building is structurally safe to enter or reoccupy.
- Walk the property, watching for and avoiding downed tree limbs or power lines.
- Do not use electricity until it is safe to do so. Look for broken electrical fixtures or exposed wiring. Report any downed wires or exposed wire to the utility company.
- Ensure that natural gas sources are safely secured.
- Check for damaged plumbing connections and pipes or standing water. The main water supply shutoff valve is typically located in the basement, crawlspace of your home, or outside of the home near or on the water meter itself.
- Secure the exterior to prevent further water intrusion. This can include boarding up broken windows, making temporary roof repairs, sealing cracks or tacking down plastic sheeting against open gaps in walls or roofs.
Upon Entering Your Home
After determining your home is safe to enter, a thorough examination is necessary. If you have a home inventory, now is the time to take it out and carefully go through the contents of each room (not just the rooms with apparent damage).
- Report any loss to Kettle Creek Insurance or your insurance carriers as soon as possible.
- Provide a general description of the damage and, if possible, have your policy number handy.
- Make a note of the claim adjuster’s name, telephone number and inspection schedule.
- If possible, keep damaged items or portions of these items until the claim adjuster has visited your home.
- Consider photographing or videotaping the damage as you found it for further documentation to support your claim.
- Prepare a room-by-room list of damaged or lost items for your adjuster.
- Validate values with the purchase receipts for those items.
- Verify room inventory by referring to photos and notes taken before the disaster.
- Keep your receipts if you are unable to live in your home or must relocate while repairs are being made.
When it is safe to begin cleanup:
By taking immediate action, you can help limit the damage and increase the chance of salvaging usable materials. Immediate action can also help reduce the amount of rust, rot, mold and mildew that may develop, and lower the likelihood that the water will lead to structural problems.
- Disconnect all electronics/electrical equipment and relocate belongings to a safe, dry part of the house.
- If there is standing water in the house, sweep as much of it to the outdoors as possible.
- If possible, place water-damaged clothes, rugs, or furniture into a sunny or breezy location.
- Begin to remove water-damaged materials immediately and take photos or save samples or discarded items (such as carpets) for insurance purposes.
- Carpeting that’s been wet for less than two days may be able to be salvaged by using a wet-vac or commercial carpet cleaner. But quick action is critical. In any case, the carpet padding will almost certainly have to be replaced.
- If possible, run the air conditioning and/or dehumidifier, or use blowers or fans to help dry out the interior.
- In the aftermath of high water inside your home – especially if the wallboard has been saturated, cutting four-inch diameter holes through the walls about one foot above the floor, will help the house dry out.
Tips for the Care of Water-Damaged Family Items
Please let us know immediately if there are any heirlooms, collectibles, or high-value items that are water-damaged. These may require attention by specialists trained in conservation and recovery. In general, however, the following guidelines can help:
- If the object is still wet, rinse with clear, clean water or a fine hose spray.
- Clean off debris and silt with a soft brush or dab with damp cloth.
- Air-dry objects including textiles and leather indoors if possible. Sunlight and heat may dry certain materials too quickly causing splits, warping, and buckling.
- Remove heavy deposits of mold growth from walls, baseboards, floors, and other household surfaces with commercially available disinfectants. Avoid the use of disinfectants on historic wallpapers.
- If objects are broken or begin to fall apart, place all broken pieces, bits of veneer, and detached parts in clearly labeled open containers. Do not attempt to repair objects until completely dry.
- Documents, books, photographs, and works of art of paper may be extremely fragile when wet; use caution when handling. Free the edges of prints and paper objects in mats and frames, if possible, and allow to air dry. Rinse mud off wet photographs with clear water, but do not touch surfaces.
- Sodden books and papers may be kept in a refrigerator or freezer until they can be treated by a professional conservator.
- Furniture finishes and painting surfaces may develop a white haze from contact from water and humidity. These problems do not require immediate attention.
- Rinse metal objects with clear water and dry immediately with a clean, sort cloth. Allow heavy mud deposits on large metal objects, such as sculptures, to dry. Caked mud can be removed later.