Disater Recovery

The primary resources for financial assistance immediately following a disaster are your homeowners insurance, FEMA Individual Assistance, and an SBA Loan.  Always contact and submit a claim with your insurance company immediately after the disaster.  Check out the information below on registering with FEMA and submitting an application for an SBA loan.

​​What to do After the Storm

Immediately After the Storm

Stay inside until the storm has completely passed. 
It is critically important that you do not attempt to go outside until the winds have calmed down significantly.  Keep in mind, that unlike the start of the storm, there is now a ton of debris out there that can fly around a lot more easily.  Your battery-operated radio functional is important, so you can hear from forecasters and local officials about when the threat has passed. 

If you evacuated, do not return until local officials say you can. 
Depending on the severity of the storm, you may be better off staying where you are for a while. There’s a good chance you won’t be able to make it back with all the trees and power lines down.  Some areas, such as barrier islands, may have specific re-entry requirements.  Be sure to have your identification and proof of residency with you. 

Conduct an initial damage assessment of your immediate area. 
When it is safe to do so, take a look around your immediate area to make sure there are no hazards such as live power lines, gas leaks, etc.  If a hazardous condition exists, leave that area immediately and seek a safer location elsewhere.  Know where shut-off valves are for electricity, natural gas and water are and turn them off if needed. 

Stay somewhere safe, refrain from sight-seeing. 
Even after the storm passes, there are many additional hazards that can harm you.  Many people are injured or killed walking or driving around after the storm.  Live power lines, gas leaks, dangling tree branches, flooding, damaged roadways and dangerous wildlife (e.g. snakes, alligators) can be life-threatening.  Do not go sight-seeing unnecessarily; the added traffic may prevent essential personnel for getting people who need their help. 

Attempt to contact your family or friends outside the area. 
As soon as possible, contact your family or friends outside the impact area to let them know your condition. 

Stay tuned to local media and emergency officials. 
This will be a critical time for information about ongoing threats, conditions, and sources of assistance.  Continue to follow the advice of emergency officials at this time. 

Do not drink or prepare food with tap water until notified. 
Contamination of the water supply, particularly if you have an on-site well, is possible.  Do not drink or prepare food with tap water, if functional, until notified by officials or until your well has been professionally inspected and tested.  If there is low water pressure, refrain from bathing or using the water for any other purpose.  Water supplies should be reserved for fire fighting. 

Help your neighbors, but refrain from venturing too far. 
Americans are very resilient and known for their willingness to help others after a disaster.  Keep in mind that this may still be a very dangerous time. Refrain from venturing too far from your safe space until authorized by local officials. However, if you are able, check in on your neighbors and lend assistance, if possible.  Be careful to not exceed your knowledge, skills and abilities.  Many well-intentioned volunteers have been injured or killed conducting tasks they are not qualified to do. 

Do not grill or operate gasoline-powered machinery indoors. 
Carbon-monoxide poisoning sickens or kills many people long after the storm has passed.  This is often the result of using generators, charcoal grills, or other gasoline-power equipment in poorly ventilated areas. 

Stay out of flood waters. 
Playing in flood waters might seem like fun.  However, they are many hidden dangers present. There could be raw sewage, hazardous chemicals, bacteria, dangerous wildlife and underwater hazards that could severely injure or kill you. 

Do Not Drive Through Flood Waters.
Turn around and don’t drown.  There may be deeper water than you can see and holes may have opened up beneath the still waters.  There may be hazardous materials that could damage your tires and they may even be unseen live electrical lines. 

Refrain from using candles. 
Using candles is very dangerous, for obvious reasons.  Remember, the fire department may not be able to respond to put any fires out. 

Days Afterward

Be prepared for road closures and blockages. 
Although city, county and state transportation officials have plans to clear major roadways quickly, it may still take a few days to get most roads open.  Secondary side streets may take a even longer.   
Be prepared for extended power outages. 
Even a weak to moderate tropical storm can cause extensive trees and power lines down.  The stronger the storm, the longer we are likely to be without power in our community. 
Practice food safety. 
It is important to know that perishable foods that have not been adequately refrigerator can cause severe health problems.  Items in a full freezer will stay frozen for about two days with the door kept closed; in a half-full freeze for about one day.  Refrigerated foods can keep for up to four hours.  Discard any perishable refrigerated foods that have been above 40°F for more than two hours.  Discard any food with an unusual odor, color or texture.  
Contact your insurance company.  Take lots of pictures.
Most major insurance companies will likely send representatives and set up special claims centers for larger events.  If not, attempt to contact your insurance company to start a claim as soon as possible.  Take as many pictures of your personal damage as possible to help justify your claim. 
If it’s too bad to stay, leave or seek help elsewhere. 
In some situations, people may find that they underestimated the impacts that a hurricane may have on their homes or lives.  If it’s too bad to stay, don’t be afraid to leave the area for a while and come back when it’s more stable.  You may need to seek shelter or assistance from disaster relief agencies for a while.  This is especially true if you have kids, elderly, people with special needs, or pets in your care.
If there is a federal Presidential Disaster Declaration, contact FEMA as soon as possible. 
If you sustained damage and need assistance from a storm that receives a federal Presidential Disaster Declaration, you are encouraged to contact FEMA as soon as possible to request assistance.  Call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or register online .
Use only licensed professionals for repairs. Beware of scams.
Many people will come out of the woodwork after a disaster trying to make a buck.  Be sure to use only state licensed contractors. If you need help finding a contractor, try the Disaster Contractor’s Network .  Beware of fraudulent “up-front” loans that promise immediate cash for repairs while you await a FEMA or insurance claim.  Beware of contractors going door-to-door looking for work, that offer you discounts for finding other customers, “just happen to have” materials left over from a previous job, ask to be paid up-front for a substantial or full amount, or request to be paid in cash.  Obtain at least three written estimates, as required by most insurance companies. 
Be safe when cleaning up and making small repairs. 
Always use proper safety equipment such as heavy gloves, safety goggles, heavy boots, light-colored long-sleeve shirts and long pants when cleaning up debris or making small repairs. Tie back long hair. Wear a hat and sunscreen. Lift with your legs, not your back.  If you can’t tell what it is, don’t touch it.  Assume all downed wires are live electrical wires until proven otherwise.  Use the right tools for the job and don’t use anything you don’t know it works.  Follow manufacturer’s instructions on all equipment.  
Stay healthy and safe cleaning up after the storm. 
The biggest thing you need to do after the storm is stay hydrated.  Drink plenty of non-sugary, non-caffeinated, and non-alcoholic fluids throughout the day, but especially when working in the heat.  Rest and take breaks when needed.  Ask for help when the task it too big for you to handle.  Beware of raw sewage, standing flood waters, insects and wildlife.  Use insect repellent. Wash your hands often and use antibacterial hand sanitizer.  Use caution with cleaning chemicals; never mix bleach with ammonia.  
Take care of your pets and beware of stray animals.   
Continue to take care of your own pets with plenty of food, water and medical attention.  Beware that many animals, especially strays, may be very agitated and scared.  They are more prone to attack, bite or scratch.  Use extreme caution when approaching stray animals, no matter how innocent they look.   
Talk to kids. 
A natural disaster is a traumatic experience, but especially for kids.  Take the time from your own situation to talk to kids about their experience and listen carefully to what they have to say.  There is a great Kids Corner on this site with helpful videos for your kids!
Properly dispose of damaged or destroyed property or debris. 
Check with local officials for cleanup instructions before disposing of debris.  You can help get your garbage picked up faster if you separate it into different piles:  yard debris (trees, bushes, leaves, etc);  building materials (shingles, plywood, glass, screens, carpets, etc.);  appliances and electronics;  furniture; and regular bagged garbage (including food). 
Prevent mold and mildew growth. 
First step is to prevent things from getting even more wet; cover openings and prevent leaks.  Eliminate puddles of standing water.  Tear out any carpet and padding that was significantly saturated.  If water soaked up into drywall, you may need to have a professional cut parts of it out and replace it.  Get the air moving with fans.  Allow as much sunlight in as possible.  Turn up the air conditioning, if possible.  Dry all wet clothing.  Dispose of any furniture or items with “stuffing” that got wet inside or porous surfaces that cannot be completely cleaned or dried out (e.g. bean bags, couches, and mattresses).  Harder materials such as glass, plastic and metal can be cleaned and disinfected.

How to keep food safe during power outages

By Ron Hurtibise, Sun Sentinel 
With power outages likely during and after Hurricane Dorian strikes Florida, it’s time to think about how to keep food safe in your fridge and freezer for as long as possible — and when it’s best to throw it away.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends planning for the outage before the winds start to blow by setting your freezer temperature at or below zero degrees and your refrigerator temperature at or below 40 degrees.
Before the storm
You should get fridge and freezer thermometers if you don’t already have them.
Freeze containers of water to make ice that will help keep food cool in both the fridge and freezer. Any plastic container will work: water, soda and sports drink bottles, or prepared food containers with lids.
Air-tight freezer bags should work as well, but make sure you store them on the bottom of the freezer, or in a shallow box or baking pan. Don’t put bags of water on wire-rack shelves, or they could be difficult to remove after freezing.
If you have an ice maker, set it to make as much ice as possible. Relocate cubes as necessary so you can keep making more. Freeze any gel packs you might have.
Water expands as it turns into ice, so make sure you don’t fill any container more than three-quarters.
Have some coolers on hand to store what you plan to eat or drink during the outage.
Buy dry ice or block ice if you can find it.
Freeze anything in the refrigerator that freezing won’t destroy, such as milk, fresh meat and poultry and leftovers.
Arrange the food items close together in the freezer so they stay cold longer.
When the power goes out
Keep the fridge and freezer doorsclosed as much as possible to keep the temperature cold.
Food should be safe in a half-full freezer for up to 24 hours, and up to 48 hours if full.
After power is restored, check your freezer thermometer. If you don’t have one, check each package to determine safety. If the food is 40 degrees or below or still contains ice crystals, it’s safe to cook or refreeze.
The fridge will keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened. If it looks like the outage will last longer, move perishable items into the coolers and surround them with ice to keep the temperature at or below 40 degrees.
Perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed.
Items that should be discarded if exposed to temperatures greater than 40 degrees for more than two hours, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ foodsafety.gov site, include:
Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood, or soy meat substitutes. Lunch meat, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, or dried beef.
Soft cheeses such as cottage, cream, bleu, Roquefort, Brie, shredded cheeses, Monterey Jack, mozzerella, and ricotta.
Fresh eggs or foods cooked with egg. Dairy products, including milk, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, soy milk, heavy cream, yogurt and eggnog.
Opened baby formula, custard, puddings, quiche.
Sliced fruits, cooked vegetables, tofu, pre-washed greens.
Casseroles, soups, stews, potato salad, cheesecake, custard pie, refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough.
Cooked pasta, fresh pasta, cooked rice, cooked potatoes.
Fish sauces (oyster sauce), creamy-based dressings.
Open mayonnaise, tartar sauce, and horseradish if above 50 degrees for more than eight hours.
Not all refrigerated foods mush be discarded, though. Foods you can keep include:
Fresh mushrooms, fresh uncut vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices.
Breads, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas.
Opened vinegar-based dressings, Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, and hoisin sauces.
Opened fruit juices, opened canned fruits, dried fruits, raisins, candied fruits, dates.
Peanut butter, jelly, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, olives, pickles.

Helping Children Cope Following a DIsaster

​Disasters can leave children and teens feeling frightened, confused and insecure. Their responses can be quite varied. It’s important to not only recognize these reactions, but also help children cope with their emotions.

Generator Powered Gas Stations click here


FEMA Assistance

First, file with insurance & apply with FEMA
If you haven’t already done so, file a claim with your insurance company. If you have uninsured or underinsured losses, contact FEMA for federal assistance by going online to disasterassistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585).

Don’t wait to start the clean-up process. Be sure to photograph/video damage and keep all receipts for repair work.

If you’re insured for the damage to your home : FEMA may not send an inspector right away. You’ll need to submit insurance documentation to show your coverage is insufficient to meet your disaster-related needs or you have exhausted the Additional Living Expenses provided by the insurance company. FEMA cannot pay for damage covered by insurance or duplicate benefits from another source.

Next, comes a call
A FEMA inspector will contact you to schedule an appointment 7 to 10 days after registration, if you weren’t insured for the damage to your home. During that call, write down:

  • The inspector’s name;
  • Date of call;
  • Date and time of appointment; and
  • Inspector’s telephone number.

Then, inspection day
The inspection is free. It generally takes 30 to 40 minutes, and consists of inspecting all areas of your home and a review of your records. Inspectors can only verify your loss. They do not decide the outcome of your claim or condemn a property. FEMA inspects damaged property for disaster recovery program purposes only.

The inspector will ask to see:

  • Photo identification;
  • Proof of ownership/occupancy of damaged residence such as: structural insurance, a tax bill, mortgage payment book or utility bill;
  • Insurance documents: home and/or auto (structural insurance/auto declaration sheet);
  • List of household occupants living in residence at time of disaster; and
  • Disaster related damages to both real and personal property.

Your inspector will have FEMA identification in the form of a badge with a photo that states FEMA and Contractor. If the inspector does not show you photo identification, do not proceed with the inspection.

It’s important to note: you may also receive a visit from more than one inspector during the recovery process. In addition to FEMA contracted housing inspectors, representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), as well as state and local officials may also visit neighborhoods in affected areas.

Finally, a decision will be sent to you
Survivors should receive a determination letter with their eligibility decision and the reason for it by regular mail or electronically, typically within 7 to 10 days after the inspection.

For those who are eligible, the letter states the dollar amount of the grant and how the money must be used. If you disagree with FEMA’s decision, the letter explains how you can appeal the decision.
Read your determination letter carefully. FEMA may need additional information or documentation from you—such as an insurance settlement showing you may not have been covered for all of your essential needs—before you can be reconsidered for federal assistance.

SBA Loan – what is it?

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) is the federal government’s primary source of funds for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA offers low-interest disaster loans to businesses, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters.

The SBA Process:
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) may send you a loan packet after you apply for assistance at 1-800-621- FEMA (3362) or www.fema.gov. It is very important to complete the forms in this packet and return them to the SBA as soon as you can. If you do not fill out and return the SBA application, you may not be eligible for other types of assistance.

Face-to-Face Help

  • You can receive face-to-face help in filling out the SBA loan packet at any Disaster Recovery Center. For the nearest location, call the toll-free SBA Disaster Helpline at 1-800-359-2227.
  • SBA low-interest loans are available to renters, homeowners, business owners, and non-profit organizations that suffered losses due to this disaster.

Loan Limits

  • Homeowners may be eligible to borrow up to $200,000 for real estate repairs.
  • Renters and homeowners may borrow up to $40,000 for replacement of disaster damaged personal property.
  • Business Loan Ceiling – The $2,000,000 statutory limit for business loans applies  to the combination  of physical,  economic injury, mitigation and refinancing, and applies to all disaster loans to a business  and its  affiliates  for  each  disaster. 
  • If a business is a major source of employment,  SBA has the authority to waive the $2,000,000 statutory limit
  • SBA loans are made for the repair or replacement of real estate or personal property. You may also increase your loan up to 20 percent to spend on protective improvements that may help prevent damage from happening again.
Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) Program

TSA helps you if you cannot return to your home after shelters have closed because of loss or damage. This program provides temporary assistance and helps pay for the cost of a hotel room while you look for long-term housing. To learn more about the program and whether you may qualify, go to: www.fema.gov/transitional-shelter-assistance. ​

Mortgage Forbearance

Mortgage Forbearance may be available if you live in an area affected by a hurricane (or other disaster) and you are having trouble making your mortgage payments. This means that you may be able to temporarily stop making mortgage payments without going into foreclosure. The payments are generally postponed, not forgiven. In addition, late fees may also be waived. Call your mortgage servicer (the company you send your mortgage payments) to see if they can work with you.

Florida Housing Search

The housing locator service allows people to locate available housing that best fits their individual and family needs. The service can be accessed online 24 hours a day and is supported by a toll-free, bilingual call center M-F, 9:00 am – 8:00 pm EST. Individuals can easily search for housing using a wide variety of search criteria with special mapping features and receive apartment listings that provide a multitude of important information about each unit. In addition, the site connects people to other housing resources through website links and provides helpful tools for renters such as an affordability calculator, rental checklist, and renter rights and responsibilities information.
Florida Housing Search


The Mental Health Impact of Major Disasters Like Harvey and Irma

When major disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit, the first priority is to keep people safe. This process can involve dramatic evacuations, rescues and searches. 
Immediately after a natural disaster, it’s normal to experience fear, anxiety, sadness or shock. However, if these symptoms continue for weeks to months following the event, they may indicate a more serious psychological issue.   
In addition, early disaster recovery efforts often focus on physical reconstruction. Psychological recovery may end up on the back burner. 

Post-Hurricane Stress, Anxiety, Recovery, and PTSD

How hurricanes and natural disasters can cause trauma symptoms and PTSD. 
While many survive a hurricane with little to no threat to their physical self or property, there are still many individuals who are deeply impacted by the devastation of these storms; we can all turn on the television and see the destructive aftermath of these weather events. If you have personally been impacted by a hurricane or other weather event in the form of significant home damage or loss, or even the impending fear that you will lose everything, you know all-too-well just how to destructive and devastating these storms can be. 

Hurricane Irma: One Year Later

Nearly a year ago, Hurricane Irma left a mark on Southwest Florida that has been slow to fade.  
Parents and children are coping with loss in the hardest hit areas of Immokalee and Everglades City; utilities are behind in efforts to avoid a repeat of the raw sewage overflows that followed Irma’s power outage; homeowners are fleeing a flooded Bonita Springs neighborhood; roofing and fencing companies are still overwhelmed by repairs.  
And the big question: Are we better prepared for the inevitable next big storm? 

The worst isn’t over: Common ways people are often killed during a major storm’s aftermath

A natural disaster’s threats don’t end once the severe weather dissipates. Research has shown that a large number of fatalities continue to occur after the worst of the storm is over. Such as: 

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • House fires
  • Electrocution
  • Cardiovascular failure
  • Deadly falls, chainsaw accidents
  • Staying safe after a storm


​Irma Stacks Up With The Most Dangerous Hurricanes On Record

Hurricane Irma, which maintained maximum wind speeds of 185 mph for well over 24 hours, looks poised to go down as one of the most powerful hurricanes on record. 
Irma is indeed the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the National Hurricane Center. To be clear, that assessment doesn’t include measurements of hurricanes in the Caribbean Sea or the Gulf of Mexico, where Atlantic-born storms may travel and increase in strength.  
Irma also made history by maintaining wind speeds of 185 mph for 37 straight hours, which Klotzback noted is “the longest a [tropical cyclone] was that strong anywhere around globe in satellite era (since 1966).” Hurricane Haiyan held the record previously; it maintained 185 mph winds for 24 hours in 2013.   
https://twitter.com/EricHolthaus/status/905526685503803392/photo/1 ​

A year after Hurricane Irma, South Florida is better prepared for the Big One — finally

Irma did something other hurricanes hadn’t. It gave rise to a robust concept that we need to be more resilient as a community and as individuals in the face of catastrophic storms. As a community, we need to be better prepared so that we can bounce back quicker, with less damage, when a storm hits. Individually, we need to rely on ourselves and less on government help. 

​Atlantic Hurricanes Are Strengthening Faster, Partially Because of Climate Change, Study Finds

At a Glance

  • A new study concluded Atlantic Basin hurricanes have rapidly intensified more frequently in recent years.
  • Man-made climate change was to blame for these rapid-intensification events happening more frequently, they said.
  • In just the past two seasons, five storms rapidly intensified and caused tremendous devastation.