The First Thing You Should Do When Your House Has Been Damaged by a Storm

If your house has been damaged by heavy rain, hail or strong winds, what’s the first thing you should do?

First and by far the most important is safety. Make sure that your family is safe. If it was a major incident like a tornado and you smell gas, get your family out of the home and immediately call the local emergency number or gas company.

Make sure that your personal property is safe – if you have a leak, move items away from it, put a bucket down, etc. Also, check in with your neighbors, especially the elderly. A friendly knock on the door to make sure everyone is safe or if they need help just takes a moment. If it is a major event and an elderly neighbor doesn't answer, call your local police department. In a post-catastrophe situation, they will have plans in place to deal with this type of situation, and it is better to discover that they were on vacation than to find out later that they were really hurt.

Take a walk around your home and visually inspect it. Do you see any visible damage? You may not be able to see the entire roof, but if half of the siding on your house is gone, you definitely know there is an issue. Then call your insurance agent or your insurance company and let them know what is going on.

The next step is to have someone look at your roof. You’ll need to figure out what happened, how much damage there is and what it's going to take to fix it. Having a qualified person investigate the issues may reveal nothing more than a repair that costs a few hundred dollars. They may also recommend to contact your insurance company if the repair is going to be thousands. Find someone you trust and have them look into the issue.

Have your contractor meet with the adjuster. Adjusters are highly trained in identifying damage and knowing what the insurance company is responsible for covering, but they may not fully understand the construction process. Having your contractor meet with the adjuster gives the two of them an opportunity to discuss how things need to be put back together to return it to a pre-storm condition. Contractors also know local building codes and can help the adjuster understand what is required.

And finally, save all the paperwork. Whether it is a contract with your roofer, an insurance scope or a lien waiver, be sure to save copies of all of the paperwork. Hopefully you won't ever need it after the job is done, but it is helpful for times like when you sell your home.