If your property has been damaged in a natural disaster—tornado, flood, earthquake, fire, etc.—there are some important steps you can take in the immediate aftermath to ensure your safety and minimize financial loss. Consider the following actions:

  • Enter with caution. Damaged homes or buildings could be structurally unsafe; use extreme caution when navigating those areas, and don’t enter unless absolutely necessary. Debris and other hazards are unsafe.
  • Secure the property. In cases of significant structural damage or security concerns, determine whether the damaged area needs to be secured with temporary fencing or another type of barrier to keep out unwanted guests.
  • Notify your insurer. Call your insurance company to inform them there’s been a disaster and to file an official claim. Take down the claim number and any relevant contact information for whomever will handle your claim. If your vehicle sustained damage, contact your automobile insurer.
  • Notify utility companies. If property damage includes disruption to water, gas or electric utilities, contact the companies right away to shut off service. Failing to do so could pose a safety risk to you or emergency responders in and around the disaster area.
  • Take photos of the damage. Beginning with the property’s exterior, take photographs of the damage. If it’s safe to enter the structure, take photographs of interior damage as well. These will come in handy for insurance purposes.
  • Take inventory of your damaged belongings. Make a list of your damaged personal items and ensure you have photographs. Include the price of large appliances or valuable items with your list and, if possible, surviving receipts.