Crap, Something happened to your property during the hurricane!!

Last year we had a tree hit our house.

 I wish future me could give scared, confused me some pointers. Because in this last year I've learned some shit that would've be helpful. This is assuming you and your people and pets made it though safe, you just have damage to deal with. If not, my sincere prayers go out to your and yours.

This post assumes you are coming out of wherever you were safely sheltered for the storm. 

First, make sure it is safe before you enter. My husband and I went into our house with the tree still on top. It was stupid and unnecessary. Not one damn thing in my house was worth us taking that risk like a bunch of yahoo morons. 

We thought a picture and a set of plates was worth the risk. We wanted to save something.  The tree could have collapsed the house at any second. So screw it. Seriously. You're in shock and likely to make asshole decisions. You're talking, walking but things have altered who you are a little.

I don't know much about flooding, because although we had water damage it was from above, not below. My opinion on that is that water is some scary crap. Picture it as a huge, electric eel that wants to kill your ass. No possession is worth it. No not your wedding band, not your flat screen, nothing. So don't freaking go in. There will be people to help you with that and make educated decisions about when it is safe.

In the aftermath, you will have to make some fast decisions. Some of mine were good, some not so much.

Here’s my best advice: First save every receipt you have.  Everything. Find a bag and stick all of the receipts in it. You will have time to note which ones matter later. Take pictures if it is safe to do so.  Right down the mileage on your vehicle.  (Later you may be compensated for gas/miles. I did not do this and wish I had.)

Call your insurance. Be prepared for a wait. Depending on your damage, you may be dealing with an out of state agent and and then another person or two later on. I started a daily journal of who I talked to and what their names were, and times we talked, but I did not continue it past the first month, I wish I had.

I was able later to staple the receipts from each day to the log I was keeping (Until I stopped.) Your insurance, if your policy allows, should be setting up all the situations you might need (assuming major damage, ask questions about small damage.) Rental place, contractor, etc. I did not know there was a company that my insurance hired to do these types of things. Now they were out of towners and might have set me up digs in a hard part of town, so don’t just blindly trust their choices.

Hare are some helpful questions, or at least a place to start:

1.     What is my coverage?
2.     How soon can you get me money to use for living outside of my house? ( I learned they will put this off for as long as possible and in check form which will require a waiting period for some banks to cash.) Don’t be embarrassed, clearly layout how this damage is effecting your weekly budget. They have ways to get you money sooner.
3.     Make sure you know what part of your policy the money is coming from. I was given money that was ultimately out of my possession expenses.
4.     Keep that log running, even if it’s messy, even if you miss days. It would have been so much better for me now if I had it.
5.     Every person that calls you or that you call about damage and repairs, program them into your phone. You never know when you’ll need that number in the future.
6.     Keep your receipts! I said it before and I will say it again. Keep them all. I wound up having huge zip lock bags holding mine.They are as good as cash becasue you can be reimbursed for some things.
7.     Before hiring any contractor run their name and business name through your local judiciary search. You’d be shocked how much you can find out. Google their name, google their business, google their email and phone number. Each search should be separate) (Call or contact someone with power and a computer to do this for you if you can’t.) I'd have saved myself HUGE headaches had I done that.
8.     Ask questions. My insurance dude was amazing. He answered every question. If he was out of office, his boss would deal with my crazy ass. Note the response in the log. Don't be shy, now is not the time.
9.     You will not remember dates, times and facts like you think you will. At the end of this process I’ll have made easily 500 phone calls regarding different issues. The events, names and facts will blur. So stick them in your log.
10. Insurance claims are like blood in the water for sharks when it comes to criminals. A true, good contractor will be willing to give you references, show you pictures, and be willing to wait for you. Don’t be pressured into anything.
11. Some stuff has to move quick. We had to get the tree off our house ASAP. I didn’t have time to research. I went with the guy that answered his phone and showed up. Cut yourself some freaking slack, do you best.
12. Speaking of which, while your reading this pull up a number for a tree person or two and a Serv-pro type company so you have those handy. Just web surfing on my phone in the aftermath took FOREVER. Pull your insurance policy up too so you know what you’ve got.
13. See how jumpy this list is? That’s how much happens at once. It’s crazy. You will have to prepare yourself to have patience, be tenacious and try to organize your shit. Don’t be afraid to set deadlines. I was way too worried that I was being a good customer and felt grateful for everything that was done for me. I still am, of course, but insurance money is not free, you pay for your policy and the people coming in the next month (or year!) work for you.
14. If you lose your house like I did, you will know that not a single bit of what you own is worth you or your families lives. Watch little ones carefully. They may roll with the punches or have anxiety. And anxiety can look a whole lot like misbehaving. Make sure your priority when moving around are the little ones, the elderly and your pets getting from point A to point B safely.  (I’m talking after the storm, not just during it!) And I found it was better to keep everyone together, pets too. Even the cats.
15. Kiss your privacy goodbye for a long time. And it could be a very long time. (Maybe it’s better not to know this.) Take pictures of checks, names and business cards on your phone. Your camera on your phone can be a crude but effective way of documenting all kinds of things. And make sure you get an instant copy of all documents you sign. 
16. It will end. Eventually, the headaches and the builders will leave. You will get back to your life. All things have an end as my grandfather used to say. 

Can anyone else that’s had insurance claims think of anything I missed? Add it in the comments.


  1. Be tenacious, baby, not tenuous. There is no question that you were the former, not the latter!

  2. I saw on Twitter that you escaped this one. Glad as is well Debra. I was reading this and your previous one and I think I'll share them with my dh. We don't live in a hurricane prone area, but smack dab in the middle of Tornado Alley. Your advice strikes me as good for any disaster.



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