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Author’s Note: This morning I am following the fires in California. It is almost impossible to comprehend the destruction. As I listen to those who have evacuated repeatedly they have regrets for the things they did not grab before they left. PLEASE share our Facebook post on your Facebook page as this is far from over. These are last minute tips for evacuating for those who have not created a plan. Thank you for your help. You may never know how far your post travels or how many you have helped. 

Disasters are not fun to think about. The aftermath is even less fun to contemplate. Preparation to deal with the aftermath of a disaster is nevertheless essential. Over the past few weeks thousands of homes have been lost to disasters, most due to fires. Unfortunately, this can, and statistically will, happen to you. Following a disaster life will never be the same but in time it can be even better if handled well.

There are several things you can do to help restore calm and optimism to yourself and especially your family immediately following a disaster. First deal with any physical injuries to you or your loved ones. Once this has been taken care of emotional healing can begin.

I know you may feel this next one should come later but many headaches can be avoided by filing insurance claims immediately. Following a widespread disaster first come is first served. If your house is damaged or destroyed during the night call as soon as you are in a safe location. Your agent may not answer but will return your call in the order received. Get the process started as soon as possible as it is a long process.

Now, get some rest. You may not be able to sleep but find a quiet spot, close your eyes and rest. Stay with family and friends if possible as those familiar with your family will help distract members and relieve the pressure on you.

Drink water to stay hydrated. Be careful as city and well water can be contaminated. Contact your local or state public health department for accurate information concerning water safety.

Eat regular meals. During a time of stress you need more calories to keep up with the demands, not less. This is not the time to worry about calories. Familiar food can also be a great comfort when everything seems in chaos.

Stay informed. Sign up for updates from local media and community sources including ward and stake Facebook and email groups. Befriend a HAM radio operator now or better yet become one. They will often have more accurate information than media outlets.

Limit your exposure to the news media, such as TV and radio. Updates are important but too much news can leave you feeling hopeless and anxious. News conferences, photos, videos and reports of homes lost and deaths are very disturbing to adults but even more disturbing to children, distract them and do not let them watch.

Serve. Help people who require special assistance such as the elderly living alone, people with disabilities and children. Help those who have also lost homes or are in shelters. Volunteer to serve meals, sort clothing, watch children for those meeting with FEMA or insurance adjusters. Serving others always puts our trial into perspective.

Ask for help. Accept the help that others may offer. Admitting you need help can be hard. You need help. Call family, friends, community organizations you belong to and your church family. Disasters are similar to deaths as people want to help but they just don’t know how to help or what to say.

Create a routine. Spending quality time with your loved ones is crucial to moving forward in a healthy way for all family members. Do those things that you all enjoy, take hikes, play games, attend church and scouts, watch movies, and celebrate birthdays. Resume your mealtime and bedtime routines. Read books and say prayers before tucking kids in, just as you did before the disaster. Keep dinnertime routines; someone sets the table, someone loads the dishwasher, etc.

Friends are critical. Maintain contact with friends and family in order to maintain your support system and a sense of normalcy. Plan play dates for the kids and lunch and movie dates for the adults.

Get professional help. Processing all that has happened after a disaster can be very overwhelming. You may want to, or need to, talk with someone about your feelings and thoughts concerning the disaster. If those around you advise you to talk with a counselor do so. Often our loved ones can see the pain and burdens we are carrying earlier and more clearly than we can. It is a wise person who seeks help. If you have a loved one who has suffered loss encourage them to speak with someone.

Just a few words about government help. First realize it will be slow in coming, especially if the disaster you have experienced is widespread. Don’t give up. Make plans and move forward but don’t give up. The financial help may be minimal but something is better than nothing.

You may be eligible for a SBA loan for up to $40,000. This is a loan but may give you the ability to get stared with rebuilding. If a better option comes along you may turn down the loan so go ahead and apply as a safety net just in case.

Appointments are difficult to schedule so be sure you are on time once you have an appointment. Once you meet get a written copy of any promises or directions for future meetings or processes. Get everything in writing.

Items needed for submitting a claim to FEMA for financial help or a loan:

  • Social Security number
  • Address of the location where the damage occurred (pre-disaster address)
  • Proof of occupancy at the above address (utility bill, mortgage or lease)
  • Proof of ownership (Title, mortgage, tax receipts)
  • Current address
  • Current telephone number
  • Insurance information including how much the insurance will or will not cover (even if you don’t know what the settlement from the insurance will be begin the process)
  • Total household annual income
  • Routing and account number of your checking or savings account (this allows FEMA to directly transfer disaster assistance funds into your bank account)
  • A description of your disaster-caused damage and losses (before and after photos really help)

Be aware of fraud. Ask for official identification from all persons claiming to be from the insurance company, FEMA or other agencies.

FEMA will not:

  • Ask for money from you
  • Ask for credit car information
  • Determine your eligibility
  • Take the place of an insurance inspection

We purchased medical, home and auto insurance hoping we will never need it. Hopefully you will never need the information shared here. Just in case print this article and place it in a preparedness binder. This binder should be a resource you take as you evacuate.

If you know someone now beginning the challenge of moving forward after a disaster share this article and show them your love and support.

Carolyn continues to post each week on her Facebook page at Totally Ready. Show her your appreciation and support by liking her page and sharing her information.