CHECKLIST FOR THE BUSINESS SIDE OF DISASTER RECOVERY
Your house, car, or business has been flooded. Now what?
This blog post seeks to help those in the Columbia, SC, area who've suffered flood loss and aren't quite sure what to do next.
I've created a checklist and links to resources to get you STARTED in the right direction regarding the steps needed toward the “business and paperwork” side of recovering from natural disaster. For additional assistance and guidance in the coming days, seek the advice of a trusted business advisor.
As soon as you can, after you and your family are safe, begin the process of documenting your loss and applying for insurance and assistance. The main thing is that the sooner you begin the process of compiling and organizing your documentation of loss, and applying for assistance, the better. This list will help you get started in that process:
ITEMS RECOMMENDED FOR YOUR PERSONAL DISASTER RECOVERY KIT
- A notebook for keeping track of conversations, contacts, etc..
- A plastic folder safe storage of multiple receipts
- Another folder for storing and organizing the papers you receive.
- A USB storage device for storing electronic data information such as photographs.
- A calendar for keeping up with important dates and meetings
- A camera for documenting your loss through photos
- An expanding file folder to keep everything in.
DOCUMENTING YOUR LOSS
- Place all receipts into your plastic receipts folder. Keep receipts of EVERYTHING, restaurants, plastic garbage bags you buy, hotels, etc. (whatever)
- Take photographs of everything, even stuff you throw away, as well as damaged items. Take pictures of trash in front of homes, flood damage inside, valuables lost. (Even if am insurance adjustor takes photos, survivors should do it also.) Store the photos on a USB that you keep in a safe place. Make a backup of your photos, as well. Keep the backup in a separate place or with a friend.
- Keep a journal that has notes of everyone you talk with, date and time of the conversation, topic of conversation, what was said, follow up actions, name and ID number of the person you talked to, everything.
- Create follow-up dates on your calendar, as a reminder. Write milestones and achievements on your calendar, as well. It will serve later as a reminder of your journey and how far you have come!
FILING A HOMEOWNER’S INSURANCE CLAIM
- Locate your policy (if possible): Renters, Homeowners, Auto, Flood
- Contact your Agent and file a claim (they may deny coverage, but the letter will be needed later)
- Your policy may cover water damage, even if it does not cover flood damage. The two are different! Fundamentally, flood damage is from water that results from a flood. Water that comes from other source, such as a roof leak or an exploding hot water heater, may be covered by your homeowner’s policy. Exact coverage will depend upon your policy.
FILING A FLOOD INSURANCE CLAIM
- In general, individual home insurance companies do not offer flood insurance.
- If you are fortunate enough to have purchased flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, a sixteen page booklet with instructions for filing your claim can be printed from the following web site: https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/preparation_recovery/file_your_claim.jsp
APPLYING FOR FEMA ASSISTANCE
- Items you will need during the application process:
- Social security number, Insurance policies (homeowners, flood, auto etc), Direct deposit info for your bank
- Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible up to $40,000 to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed personal property. Interest rates are as low as 4 percent for businesses and 2.625 percent for nonprofit organizations 1.875 percent for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.
GETTING LEGAL HELP
- The S.C Bar has recruited and trained attorneys to provide free assistance to those who cannot afford legal services. Flood victims facing legal issues who are unable to afford a lawyer may call 1-877-797-2227 ext. 120 (toll-free) or(803) 576-3815 (local) between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, to request assistance. When connected to the hotline, callers should identify that they are seeking disaster-related legal assistance, brief details of the assistance needed and in which county they are located. Individuals who qualify for assistance will be matched with South Carolina lawyers who have volunteered to provide free legal assistance. Flood victims may also request assistance online by e-mailing DisasterInfo@SCBar.org.
- The type of legal assistance available includes:
- Assistance with securing FEMA and other government benefits available to disaster victims;
- Assistance with life, medical and property insurance claims;
- Help with home repair contracts and contractors;
- Replacement of wills and other important legal documents destroyed in the disaster;
- Assistance in consumer protection matters, remedies and procedures;
- Counseling on mortgage-foreclosure problems; and
- Counseling on landlord-tenant problems.
GETTING HOUSING HELP
- People with need for immediate assistance with housing may contact the Cooperative Ministry, phone 803-451-7398. Their criteria for intake, for people displaced by flooding, have been temporarily relaxed due to difficulty for some of supplying the necessary documentation. Try to have your driver’s license, passport, social security card or other government issued ID, and as much other documentation as possible concerning your need.
- Some people who are renting lower income housing in low lying areas may need assistance dealing with landlords and getting repairs done to their homes. Contact South Carolina Legal Services at 888-346-5592.
GETTING TAX RELIEF
- Tax deadlines have been extended for people living in affected counties:
- “The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. For instance, certain deadlines falling on or after Oct. 1, and on or before February 16, 2016 have been postponed to February 16, 2016. This includes the Oct. 15 deadline for those who received an extension to file their 2014 return. In addition, the IRS is waiving the failure-to-deposit penalties for employment and excise tax deposits due on or after Oct. 1, as long as the deposits were made by Oct. 16, 2015.”
- For more information, see http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Relief-for-Victims-of-Severe-Storms-and-flooding-in-South-Carolina
GETTING SPIRITUAL HELP
- Trauma is real. The effects are real. And, like it or not, trauma affects us all very deeply and takes a long time to recover from. Most people find it helpful to talk through issues and challenges with a trusted spiritual friend, a friend who will walk beside them in the journey.
- Many churches have trained Stephen Ministers, who are lay people committed to walking beside a person in need. Speak with your pastor or other trusted spiritual advisor about receiving spiritual care on an ongoing and long term basis.
- The Columbia Pastoral Counseling Center, located at 600 King Street, Columbia, SC, is a ministry of Trinity Presbytery that offers pastoral counseling on a sliding fee scale. Their phone number is 803-256-1033.
- Some internet resources for coping and recovery:
GETTING HELP FOR YOUR CHILDREN
- Check with your child's school Guidance Department for resources
- Guide to Helping Children After a Natural Disaster: http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/naturaldisaster_ho.aspx