Eight Steps to Recovery

Step 1: Take care of yourself and your family
  • Keep your family together. 
  • Arrange for temporary shelter, food and clothing.
  • Get enough rest and eat properly.
  • Communicate with others in similar situations.
  • Focus on what needs to be done to recover from the disaster. 
  • Make a list of jobs and tackle them one at a time. 
  • Set a manageable schedule to clean up and rebuild.
Step 2: Assess the damage
  • Make sure it is safe to go back to your home by tuning in to your local radio or TV stations or check your newspaper to find out when you can go back to your home and survey the damage.
  • Before going in, check your home to see if the building is safe and structurally sound.
  • For insurance claims, take photographs, or make a videotape of the damage to the building and its contents before you begin cleanup.
  • Walk around the outside of your home and check for loose power lines and gas leaks. 
  • Check for broken or leaking water pipes. 
  • Check the foundation for cracks and other damage. If you see obvious damage, contact your community's building inspector or a contractor to check the house.
  • Call your insurance agent.
  • Make sure it is safe to work in your home
  • Decide what you can and can't do in terms of home repair
  • Decide if you need any financial assistance
  • Check with your mortgage holder
  • Use your credit cards carefully
  • Keep receipts of all expenses related to the disaster and your recovery. You may be able to get reimbursement from your insurance coverage and other assistance.
Even if you have insurance, you may be eligible for additional help to cover unmet needs. If the president has declared your community a disaster area, contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency toll-free at 1-800-462-9029 to register for assistance. The TTY number for the speech or hearing impaired is 1-800-462-7585. 

Step 3: Give your house some first aid
  • Make sure the power is turned off. The electricity must be turned off at the main breaker box or fuse box. Contact the power company or an electrician if you are in doubt.
  • If using a portable generator: Connect appliances one at a time to the generator.
  • Never a hook generator directly to your household wiring yourself. Only a qualified electrician can do this.
  • Use generators outdoors only to avoid the deadly carbon monoxide fumes.
  • Avoid using extension cords with generators. If you must use them, make sure they have adequate capacity and check them often to make sure they have not become hot.
  • Turn off the gas. If you suspect a leak or smell gas, call the gas company and then go to a neighbor's house. Leave your door open. If the gas meter is outside, turn off the gas from there. 
  • Air out your house completely as there may be explosive gas.
  • Drain your basement carefully. If you try to drain your basement too quickly, the pressure outside the walls will be greater than the pressure inside the walls once the water is drained. This unequal pressure may cause the walls and floor to crack and collapse. 
  • Pump the water level down two to three feet. Mark the level and wait overnight.
  • Check the water level the next day. If the water went back up (it covered your mark), it's still too early to drain your basement. Wait 24 hours and then pump the water down two to three feet again. Check the level the next day.
  • When the water stops going back up, pump down another two to three feet and wait overnight. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all the water is pumped out of the basement.
  • Shovel out as much mud as possible first. With the power off, hose the house down and start the clean up. 
  • As you repair and rebuild, take any steps you can to reduce or eliminate damage from future disasters. In many cases, the steps are easy and inexpensive. If a water heater is ruined, install the new one off the floor so it is not vulnerable the next time. While you're at it, have the main electrical panel moved to a better location.