6 STEPS TO FOLLOW WHEN A DISASTER HITS YOUR HOME OR BUSINESS.

apartment fire photo

Flooding. A fire. Awful smoke damage. Few homeowners, tenants or business managers have had any experience with these scenarios, whether major or minor.

It is a rare property owner who prepares in advance to deal with a disaster of any kind. What really needs to be done when all of a sudden all or part of your home or business becomes uninhabitable, unusable, unsafe, maybe even unrecognizable?

Suppose you’re now facing the worst day of your life and after frantically dialing 911 and standing back when the first responders arrive, what do you do next? Several important steps done right away will make your recovery experience easier. These could also be the basis of an advance planning discussion with family at home or the staff at your business.

1) Be sure that everyone is in a safe place.

A fire, smoke or serious flooding may place lives in danger, so your number one priority should be making certain that everyone in and around your property is safe and accounted for. Circumstances may require evacuating people or pets to another location or simply directing them to another safe area of your structure or property for temporary shelter. Barriers or fencing may be required to keep onlookers away.

Be sure to swiftly get an accurate headcount of your staff and visitors so you can account for everyone onsite when the event happened or alert emergency personnel about anyone who might be missing.

2) Be sure to take time to breathe!

As a disaster unfolds the situation can overwhelm most mortals unprepared for the stress. Pause occasionally, take some deep breaths and remind yourself and others that material things can be replaced. Prevent yourself and others from getting overstressed or injured while attempting to save replaceable stuff or structures. Allow emergency responders to do whatever is necessary to complete the first phase and make the site safer for the second responders.

3) Contact your insurance carrier or broker

You must quickly communicate a serious loss to your insurance company. This is a requirement of the insurance policy and essential to getting an insurance claim started, adjusted and properly paid. If you delay filing a claim, you are violating conditions of the policy and a settlement could be reduced or even denied. You want to cooperate to the maximum extent with your carrier’s adjusters from the start of a serious loss, whatever the cause. A claim could also be denied if an investigation is compromised.

You also need to confirm if coverage applies to the loss you just suffered. Policy coverages include the loss of property but also business income or extra expense to expedite the recovery of business operations. The insurance carrier will also expect your help to prevent all secondary damage to furnishings or business inventory.

To avoid potential questions about your claim, inform your insurance agency about the loss as soon as possible—with as much detail as possible, including but not limited to:

  • The date and time the incident occurred.
  • Cause and extent of the damage or if any injuries occurred.
  • Other relevant info such as how the property is to be secured.
  • Photos or media reports.

Be mindful of your additional ongoing risks, but also take quickest practical action toward recovery. Step 4 follows will get you heading in the right direction.

4) Contact a quality Restoration Service Company in your area. 

When a home or business is damaged, delays in protecting and restoring a property will rapidly increase repair costs. That’s why it’s so important to find a local firm such as NW Montana’s FloodCo LLC with a proven track record of helping folks quickly recover from disasters. These are the important things to consider when selecting a restoration contractor:

  1. Are they recommended by your insurance company adjuster who has used them on other similar disasters? Being able to smoothly assist your claim adjuster is hugely important to a smooth and stress-free resolution of the claim. The restoration contractor must submit detailed estimates and do the work and also document that the work is being done correctly –throughout the project.
  2. Experience level—has the restoration company successfully solved other similar claims? If so, they will likely be proficient at helping you destress and effectively navigate your situation. Experience will help avoid stressful problems and solve the challenges ahead. Difficult losses require serious experience and insurance adjusters generally prefer seasoned, trust worthy restoration contractors.
  3. Readily available—a restoration contractor is often coming to an urgent situation when board-up service or emergency power is required to prevent secondary loss and secure a site. Often a fast response can dramatically reduce the costs of repair, particularly when water is involved and a fast dry-out will prevent serious secondary damage.
  4. Be able to bring the correct equipment and manpower. Again, the insurance adjuster will often have prior experience and recommend a fully equipped and staffed restoration contractor.

5.) Alert your suppliers, creditors and customers.  

As soon as the smoke has cleared, the site is secured and restoration begins, reassure customers and vendors to protect your firm’s reputation and brand. Keep all other interested parties-such as bankers and employees- informed about what’s happening.

Customers: Let your customers and general public know that you experienced a disaster and that you are working to restore regular operations and services as fast as possible. Anticipate and address your customers’ common concerns, and also let customers know relevant details about the business operations during the recovery process. Your insurance company’s adjuster and the restoration contractor can provide important suggestions to minimize lost cash flow and expedite the recovery process.

Vendors: Vendors also need to know that you experienced a disaster and are now in recovery mode. Give them a heads up about status of orders. Strategize alternatives that might help keep parts of the business supplied and operating as usual, taking care of customers however it is doable.

6) Build and begin your recovery plan. 

Now that the wheels are in motion for a recovery, you need a solid plan for limiting business losses as much as possible until you return to full operations. It is essential to prioritize the actions that will keep your customers served and hold your staff and operation together. Unless you already pre-built a plan, you may want to contact key advisors including your insurance agent and company adjuster for help with this step. Be somewhat flexible and able to change course as unexpected issues can surely arise.

Note: Repeat Step number 2 above as needed, breathe deeply and step back when things begin to overwhelm you. Following these steps will help you remain in control of a difficult, probably once in a lifetime challenge.

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