Storm veterans share disaster recovery tips

Storm veterans share disaster recovery tips

When it comes time to prepare for a storm or recover, consider listening to people who have lived through a disaster. 

Take Oklahoma for example. The state has averaged 55 tornadoes a year since 1955, so most residents are storm veterans.

Though there are many tips on how to prepare your home for a storm, the best advice one resident can give is to simply put safety first. “The only thing I would protect is myself,” says Donn Lipscomb, owner of Moore’s Roofing & Insulation in Oklahoma City. “My house is just made out of wood and shingles and whatever, and it’ll all be taken care of.”

But if your house is destroyed in a storm, remember it won’t be rebuilt overnight. Take your time when researching contractors to make sure you're hiring the best person or company for the job. “It could be as fast as five months, it could be as long as a year, depending on the size of the house, what has to be done to clear it and once we can actually get started on it,” says David Fonzi, sales and service manager of highly rated A-List Construction in Oklahoma City.

Angie's List member Kelly Worner says she was desperate after a F5 tornado destroyed her Oklahoma home in 1999 and admits she rushed the rebuilding process and didn't vet her contractors. “Building supplies were going fast. Good contractors were taken. My contractor forged his credentials, forged his recommendations. I would not make that mistake again,” Worner says. “I would definitely go to Angie’s List and read recommendations and not panic to get it done tomorrow. I would be patient. You know if you have temporary living, it’ll happen. Just don’t rush things."

In addition to checking Angie’s List, ask your contractor for local references and call and speak with previous clients. Make sure your contractor is properly licensed for the trade in your state, and make sure the company carries the required insurance. “This protects the homeowner, and it protects the roofer,” Lipscomb says. “I want to be able to sleep at night, so I make sure that all my licenses and insurance is up-to-date.”

Make sure your own homeowner's insurance is current. Angie’s List member Valerie Kelley says she's glad she switched insurance companies in October – seven months before her house was hit by the May 20 EF5 tornado - because her new policy covered more of her losses. “Don’t go with the cheap, cheap insurance company. That will make all the difference in the world,” Kelley says.

It’s important to be familiar with your policy and know what’s expected of you in times of disaster. Fonzi says many insurance companies will expect you to prevent further damage and schedule services like roof tarping and window boarding. It’s important to note, however, that money for such services should not be paid out of pocket. “Insurance companies pay for temporary repairs,” Lipscomb says. “They don’t want the conditions to get any worse.”

When disaster hits, tax season isn’t likely on your mind, but Kelley says it should be.” I found that that was hardest thing in ‘99 was trying to do my taxes that year, because when you file for disaster, they want you to list everything individually – and that is so hard to come up with everything in your house,” she says.

Kelley recommends taking photographs or video of each room and its contents. She also says it’s a good idea to keep those photos or video and any important paperwork – insurance policies, birth certificates, banking information, digital backups of photographs, etc. – in a safe place outside the home, such as a safety deposit box at the bank.

Click here for more recovery tips.

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