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Recovering From Windstorm Damage to Your Home Is Often Not Simple or Easy

Windstorms like derechos and tornadoes can leave a trail of destruction in their wake, often causing extensive damage to homes and properties. Once the storm has passed and it’s safe to return, it’s essential to assess the damage and take immediate action to clean and repair your home. This guide will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to tackle this challenging task while ensuring your safety, preventing mold growth, and navigating insurance and repair processes.

On this page you will find:

Personal Safety First

Before you begin cleaning and repairing your home, prioritize personal safety:

Assess the Situation: Check for structural damage and potential hazards like downed power lines, gas leaks, or weakened foundations. If your home is severely damaged, it may be unsafe to enter.

Wear Protective Gear: Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, goggles, masks, and sturdy boots. Debris and contaminated water may contain dangerous substances.

Turn Off Utilities: Shut off gas, electricity, and water at their main sources to prevent accidents and further damage.

Beware of Wildlife: Disasters can displace wildlife, so be cautious of animals seeking shelter in your home.

Assess the Damage

Once you’ve ensured your safety, assess the extent of the damage:

Document Everything: Take photos and videos of the damage for insurance claims and FEMA disaster assistance, if available. This visual evidence is crucial for your claim’s success. Keep receipts for any purchases that may be covered by your insurance.

Contact Your Insurance Company: Notify your insurance provider as soon as possible. They will guide you through the claims process and may recommend specific contractors for repairs.

Mold Prevention and Removal

Water damage from windstorms often leads to mold growth. Mold can pose health risks, so it’s essential to prevent and remove it:

Mold Prevention

Dry Quickly: Remove standing water and thoroughly dry affected areas within 24-48 hours, if possible, to prevent mold growth.

Ventilate: Use fans and open windows to increase ventilation and promote faster drying.

Dehumidify: Reduce indoor humidity levels to inhibit mold growth. This can be achieved with proper ventilation, fixing leaks and sealing windows and doors.

Remove Damaged Materials: Discard wet or mold-infested materials, such as drywall, insulation, and carpeting.

Mold Removal

Professional Help: For extensive mold infestations, especially those covering large areas or deeply embedded within walls and structures, it is highly advisable to seek the expertise of a professional mold remediation service. Here’s why:

  • Expertise: Mold remediation professionals have the knowledge, training, and experience to accurately assess the extent of the mold problem. They can identify the type of mold and its potential health risks.
  • Insurance Claims: If you’re dealing with an insurance claim related to the mold issue, having professionals handle the remediation can help provide necessary documentation and evidence for your claim.
  • Safety: Mold can release harmful spores and mycotoxins when disturbed. Professionals come equipped with proper protective gear and containment measures to ensure safety during the removal process.
  • Specialized Equipment: Mold remediation experts use specialized equipment such as HEPA air filtration devices, negative air pressure machines, and advanced cleaning tools that may not be readily available to you to effectively eliminate mold spores.
  • Thorough Inspection: Professionals conduct a comprehensive inspection of your property to locate hidden mold sources, ensuring that no spores are left behind to cause further issues.
  • Prevention: They not only remove the existing mold but also provide recommendations and solutions to prevent future infestations, including addressing any underlying moisture issues.
  • Compliance: Mold remediation must often adhere to local regulations and industry standards. Professionals are familiar with these requirements and ensure compliance throughout the process.
  • Peace of Mind: Hiring professionals gives you peace of mind, knowing that the mold problem is being addressed thoroughly and correctly, reducing the risk of health concerns and further property damage.

Though hiring experts to remove mold might involve additional expenses, it’s a good choice to protect your home and the health of everyone living there. Plus, it can stop bigger and more expensive problems from happening later if you deal with mold issues quickly and properly.

Safety First: Wear appropriate PPE, including a mask and gloves. Isolate the affected area to prevent mold spores from spreading.

Clean with Detergent: Scrub mold off hard surfaces with a mixture of soap and water. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

Use Mold-Killing Solutions: Apply a mold-killing solution (e.g., hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar, or commercial mold remover) as directed on soft and porous surfaces.

Insurance and Repairs

Navigating the insurance and repair processes can be challenging, but it’s essential to get your life back on track:

Keep Records: Keep thorough records of all communication with your insurance company, adjuster, and contractors, including photos, receipts, and contracts.

Document the damage: Write a list of everything that was damaged. Describe the damage. Take photos and videos. Collect any receipts that show what you paid for items that were damaged. Get estimates for the cost of repairs as soon as you can.

Safely store your damaged property. Don’t throw it away. Your insurance company may need to look at it. They will decide how much it costs to fix — or if it needs to be replaced.

Prevent further damage. Make temporary repairs if you need to. Keep all your receipts for this work so you have a record for the insurance company of what you’ve spent.

Review Your Policy: Understand your insurance policy’s coverage limits, deductibles, and exclusions. Consult with your insurance broker or provider with questions.  Write down questions you have about your policy and coverage and write down the answers you receive.

File your insurance claims as soon as possible: Delays in filing could cause the insurance company to deny your claim. Delays also might affect whether you can get other forms of assistance, such as FEMA aid. For some types of aid, FEMA requires you to file a claim first with your insurance company.

Prepare for the insurance adjuster: An insurance adjuster is an expert the insurance company sends to your home to look at what has been damaged and how bad the damage is. Be ready with your list of damaged items, purchase dates, receipts, and cost estimates for repair or replacement. Take notes on what the adjuster does and doesn’t look at when in your home.

Follow the steps explained in your insurance policy: Also keep copies of all the information you submit. This will help you if you want to dispute the amount of money the insurance company gives you. If you have an insurance broker, include your broker on any communications.

Check Out Your Contractors: When recovering from a disaster, individuals and businesses must carefully vet contractors to avoid being taken advantage of in their vulnerable state. If your insurance company provides a list of preferred contractors, consider using them. They often have a working relationship with your insurer.  If your insurance company does not have such a list, check with your state’s Better Business Bureau and other organizations for information on the contractor. Learn more about finding qualified contractors here.

Obtain Multiple Quotes: Get estimates from reputable contractors for the repair work in writing. Share these with your insurance adjuster for negotiation.

Be willing to challenge an insurance company’s decision. You don’t have to accept the insurance company’s decision. The company might decide not to pay for certain repairs. They might decide to give you an amount of money that doesn’t cover your costs. Learn more about insurance claims and disputes.

Stay Informed: Stay informed about local building codes and permits to ensure your repairs are compliant.

If your insurance payout falls short of covering all your expenses, you might qualify for federal assistance, which becomes accessible when a major disaster is declared in your area by the president. Discover the various forms of aid offered by FEMA or SBA to explore your options.

Remember that recovering from a derecho or tornado can be a lengthy and challenging process. Seek support from community resources and don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed. Cleaning and repairing your home after a wind storm is a daunting task, but with the right approach and support, you can rebuild and restore your life. Prioritize safety, document everything, and work closely with your insurance company and trusted contractors to ensure a smooth recovery process.

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