Contact your insurer
A crucial next step is to contact your insurer, even before you've got the all-clear to enter your home. In times of natural disasters, most insurers have direct lines or methods of communication for their affected customers. Insurance professionals are best placed to advise you of the next steps, including:
- organising temporary accommodation if needed
- putting in place emergency make safe arrangements at your home and property
- sending a building inspector out to assess the damage
- organising a tradesperson for any repairs, and
- guiding you through the home insurance claims process.
Check your property is safe to enter
Once you've got all clear to head home, that doesn't mean you've got the all-clear to enter your house. If your home has experienced extensive damage, a building inspector or engineer will need to access the damage - this is something your insurer can talk you through and in some cases arrange.
Some things to look out for that might not make your home safe to enter are:
- The absence of walls, floors, ceilings, roofs. If the house looks intact, conduct a quick inspection at a safe distance to if you can see any sagging. Does the roof look like it's going to collapse? Can you hear any creaking noises that might indicate the house or parts of the house's structure might collapse due to the damage?
- Can you smell gas? Have some pipes been ripped open or up?
- Are there any frayed or exposed electrical wires? Is there a burning or hissing sounds? Can you smell burning?
If the answer is yes to any of the above, it’s time to get a professional in to ensure your safety.
Record and report the damage
To assist with lodging claims, take as many photos and videos as possible and videos of the damage before touching anything.
Document all damage from where your property starts, including driveways and fences, barns, sheds, even damaged cars, to the home itself.
If it’s not safe to enter the property, don’t worry, the building inspector or engineer will take photos when they go through the property. If it's been assessed that it is safe to enter, conduct a thorough assessment of any damage to your contents that might be missed in an initial sweep. It's not just damage to the structure of the home you need to document, it's everything in and around your home damaged by the flood and or storm.
Remember, salvage and secure all important documents if you hadn't already done so before you left.