First Five Calls to Make After a DisasterHurricane and Tornado Preparedness: The First 5 Calls to Make After These and Other Major Disasters

Who should you call when a disaster strikes your home? In some cases, this depends on the nature of the catastrophe. If a major hurricane has hit Southeast Georgia and North Florida, you may be in the middle of a natural disaster that is affecting hundreds or thousands of families. In this case, landlines and cell towers could be affected, limiting who you can contact immediately. In contrast, if a tornado touched down the damage may be limited to a few homes. It’s still a disaster for you if your house was involved, but you’ll probably have access to more immediate support.

In general, here are the most important calls to make:

1. First Responders – Emergency services are likely to be overwhelmed in the event of a hurricane or tornado. Call 911 only if there is an immediate danger to your life and health or that of your family. Otherwise, contact neighbors or friends to help you out (or so you can help each other).

2. Utilities – A broken gas line or a downed overhead power line can be a serious hazard after a hurricane or tornado. Call the utility company right away to address the issue. Move to a safer area until a crew arrives and corrects the problem.

3. Loved Ones – You’ll want to contact family and friends to let them know you are OK and to check on their well-being. In the event of a major disaster, use text messaging when possible to minimize the overload on the voice network. Get in touch with at least one person who lives outside your local area. This individual may serve as an important contact point in getting you the help and information you need (such as the distribution locations for the American Red Cross or local relief agencies).

4. Shelter – If your home is unsafe or completely destroyed in a major disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may be able to provide temporary housing. The number is (800) 621-3362 to register for assistance. FEMA may also have vital information about where to find necessities like food and clothing after a disaster.

5. Restoration – Once you’ve ensured your family is safe, it’s time to start the process of rescuing your home. This involves contacting your insurance company, submitting a claim and working with a company that specializes in property damage clean up and repair. Most policies require you as the homeowner to make immediate reasonable repairs to your home following a disaster to prevent additional damage and will reimburse you for these repairs. Don’t wait for a contractor to knock on your door (there will be all kinds of fly-by-night repair companies coming through your town after hurricanes and tornadoes). Be proactive in calling a licensed restoration company that specializes in repairing the specific type of damage your home sustained in the disaster (we suggest Paul Davis Restoration/Emergency Services of Camden.).

Additional Tips:

The amount of warning you have before an event can also affect your communication strategy. Tornadoes come with a different warning time than a hurricane heading to us. You might be able to make some of your calls ahead of time rather than after the fact. For example, notify your employer that you probably won’t show up for work tomorrow because a major weather event headed your way is likely to cause damage.

And if you know someone who is experiencing a disaster in their own city, be in contact with them and let them know you’re there to help. You may be able to serve as a resource to them even from thousands of miles away.

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