What to do when your home is damaged in a storm
Middle Tennessee gets its share of severe weather, so most of us are probably well-versed in what to do if possible tornadoes are forecast (if not, be sure to read these tips from our health partner, The American Red Cross, and if you haven’t already, consider signing up to receive emergency notifications – Williamson County residents can learn more or sign up here). Few of us, though, are fully prepared for the immediate aftermath.
What do you do when the storm has passed and your house or apartment is damaged or uninhabitable?
Here are a few suggestions to help you begin the recovery journey:
- Be safe
Report any downed power lines to your utility company, making sure to avoid going near them.
- Contact your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance company
Notify your insurance company as soon as possible to report any damage and begin the claim process.
- Report damage
Contact your local county emergency management agency (such as Williamson County Emergency Management Agency) to report the damage so officials can coordinate local response efforts and determine overall severity of the storm. If you are a renter, also notify your landlord of the damage.
- Review your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy
Make sure you’re familiar with the types of coverages you have (such as flood damage, theft, etc.), any applicable limits, and documentation requirements for claims. Your insurance policy may cover basic living expenses while your home is being repaired, so if your home is uninhabitable, make sure you understand the types of expenses covered and any limits. (Most insurance companies now make policy documents available through an online portal on their websites. If yours does not, however, consider saving PDF copies of your policy documents in a cloud storage service such as Google Drive, Apple iCloud, or Microsoft OneDrive so you can quickly access them even if the physical copies are destroyed.)
- Assess and document any damage
Roofs, windows, siding, and outdoor appliances are most susceptible to damage during storms. When you assess for damage, be alert for any structural damage and shards of debris that could pose safety hazards. If you have your cellphone available, take photos and/or videos of any visible damage to your home or possessions. If you’re not sure what to look for, the National Storm Damage Center, a consumer advocacy organization, offers a wealth of information.
- Secure salvageable property and/or possessions to prevent further loss or damage
Wherever possible, try to secure your home and/or possessions to prevent theft or additional damage from exposure to the elements.
- Seek temporary lodging
If your home is uninhabitable and you need help finding temporary lodging, contact the Red Cross to let them know your situation and they can often connect you with available resources. If you’re a renter and your home is uninhabitable, the terms of your lease could be affected. Consider speaking with an attorney for a legal perspective on how to best proceed. If you can’t afford an attorney, organizations such as our financial stability partner Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee & The Cumberlands may be able to help.
- Dial 2-1-1 for more resources
If your home has been damaged or destroyed by a storm, that will likely have far-reaching impacts in your life – more so than you’ll immediately realize. But there are resources available to help you navigate the immediate crisis and rebuild your life. To be connected with available help in your area, dial 2-1-1 to speak with one of United Way’s helpline operators.