Hurricane Season Wrap-up
I recently learned about how the Saharan Air Layer was present and very intense this year, thus effecting the development of tropical storms on our side of the Atlantic, (the SAL extended 3,000 miles over the Atlantic, from the Western coast of Africa, almost to Puerto Rico). From what I can gather, this was true for the first half of Hurricane Season, resulting in a quiet summer. As most of you have probably heard, a Hurricane did develop this year, but it did not affect any land masses. As I write this final installment in my Hurricane series, most of my friends and family are feeling confident that we will not experience another catastrophic storm in 2013. While I am hoping for the best outcome, it is always necessary to be prepared for the worst situation. Lest we forget, Superstorm Sandy roared onshore at the end of October last year. So, just in case, I would like to review with you what to do after the storm: how to handle insurance, how to manage your emotional health, and how to help your community--or any community--affected by disasters.
How to Handle Insurance
Nationwide Insurance has the following tips for handling the aftermath of damage from an incident like a major storm. Note that these tips are general in nature and not specific to Nationwide policies or Nationwide's claims processes. Always refer to your insurance policy and company for specific procedures if you may have a potential claim.
- Call your insurance company. After you file a police or fire report (if required) , contact your insurance agent or company’s claims department. Your policy will likely require you to do so within a certain amount of time after the loss. When you call, have all of the details of the incident, plus your policy number.
- Complete a claims form with your agent. This form includes all the details of the incident. Be thorough – note what was damaged, when and how. For smaller claims, filing a claims report should suffice. For larger losses, your agent may send an adjuster to inspect the damage.
- Document the damages. Before you begin cleanup, photograph or record the damage and include the images with your claim. It’s a good idea to visually document your home and belongings before a loss, so you have “before” and “after” images when filing a claim.
- Make temporary repairs so your home is safe and livable. While you’re waiting for your claim to be processed, you may make temporary repairs. But review your policy for guidelines about what’s covered and be sure to save your repair receipts. Don’t start permanent, major repairs or renovations until your claim is complete and your compensation is confirmed.
- If you have to move temporarily, save your receipts. If the damage to your residence is so extensive that you must relocate for a while, your policy may help cover those costs. Save hotel and restaurant receipts – and discuss with your agent how to submit them for reimbursement.
- Make yourself available. Be reachable and ready to talk with your insurance agent and claims adjuster after you file a claim. The faster you can answer questions and provide necessary information, the faster your claim may be able to be processed.
Details vary by state and policy language. Please consult your policy for the specifics of your selected coverages. Subject to underwriting guidelines, review, and approval.
How to Manage your Emotional Health
After Hurricane Katrina, I was a mess. That's the simplest way to put it. I had evacuated, and it would be six weeks until I knew whether any of my personal belongings were undamaged. I didn't know if I had a home to go back to, or where to go after I left the Ramada Inn in Northeast Texas, or if my boss and his family (who chose to ride out the storm) were alive, or how I would survive without a job or unemployment eligibility. I had packed clothes for 3 days, all of my photo albums and valuable jewelry, my pets, and my personal documents. Knowing that was all I had, and not knowing how long I would have to wait to know more was one of the most stressful times in my life. The not knowing was the source of major anxiety for me and my family.
Here is some information on how to recognize and deal with your current feelings, courtesy of the American Red Cross. When we experience a disaster or other stressful life event, there are a variety of common reactions including:
Most of these reactions are temporary and will go away over time. Try to accept whatever reactions you may have. Look for ways to take one step at a time and focus on taking care of your disaster- related needs and those of your family.
Taking action. Getting ourselves and our lives back in a routine that is comfortable for us takes time.
Take care of your safety. Find a safe place to stay and make sure your physical health needs and those of your family are addressed. Seek medical attention, if necessary.
Eat healthy. During times of stress, it is important that you maintain a balanced diet and drink plenty of water.
Get some rest. With so much to do, it may be difficult to have enough time to rest or get adequate sleep. Giving your body and mind a break can boost your ability to cope with the stress you may be experiencing.
Stay connected with family and friends. Giving and getting support is one of the most important things you can do.
Be patient with yourself and with those around you. Recognize that everyone is stressed and may need some time to put their feelings and thoughts in order.
Set priorities. Tackle tasks in small steps.
Gather information about assistance and resources that will help you and your family members meet your disaster-related needs.
Stay positive. Remind yourself of how you’ve successfully gotten through difficult times in the past. Reach out when you need support, and help others when they need it.
If you still don’t feel better ...
Many people have experience coping with stressful life events and typically feel better after a few days. Others find that their stress does not go away as quickly as they would like and it influences their relationships with their family, friends and others.
If you find yourself or a loved one experiencing some of the feelings and reactions listed below for 2 weeks or longer, this may be a sign that you need to reach out for additional assistance.
For additional resources, contact your local Red Cross Disaster Mental Health or community mental health professional.
Please seek immediate help if you or someone you know is feeling that life isn’t worth living or if you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others. You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Let Your Family Know You’re Safe
If your community experiences a disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well Web site available through RedCross.org to let your family and friends know about your welfare. If you don’t have Internet access, call 1-866-GET-INFO to register yourself and your family.
How to Help your Community
According to FEMA, In the face of disaster, Americans come together with courage, compassion and unity and ask, “How can I help?” There are many ways to get involved especially before a disaster occurs. You can find some of these ways at: http://www.ready.gov/get-involved. For ways you can get involved after the disaster happens, reach out to your local faith-based and community organizations. You can also support major disasters by donating cash or goods which may help meet the needs of your community. After Hurricane Katrina, I found the most help from family and friends donating clothes, books to pass the time, and gift cards. Don't forget underwear and socks when purchasing new items to donate!
The Red Cross also offers programs for before and after the disaster to help your community. You can find some of these options at: http://www.redcross.org/support/get-involved. I also found support in the people who would listen to me tell my story, without passing judgment on my actions or on the actions of the politicians involved. That kind of negativity would only increase my anxiety, as opposed to diminishing my fears. Through Citizen Corps, individuals can learn about opportunities to get involved and help build capacity for first responders. With proper training and education, civilian volunteers expand the resources available to states and local communities. Many partner organizations offer public education, outreach and training for free. Learn how to get involved through Citizen Corps at http://www.ready.gov/volunteer.
Thank you for following my Hurricane blog for the last few months. I hope you learned something useful! This will be the last month for Hurricane-related blogging (unless, of course, we have a major hurricane effecting our area) until next year. If there is a topic you are interested in learning more about this winter, please email me with your suggestions: firstname.lastname@example.org.