Follow the direction of state, local, and tribal officials. (Español)
After the Hurricane
- Avoid debris, downed power lines, and flood water, which may be electrically charged and hide dangerous debris or places where the ground is washed away. Avoid downed power or utility lines as they may be live with deadly voltage. Stay away and report them immediately to your power or utility company.
- Emergency workers may be assisting people in flooded areas or cleaning up debris. You can help them by staying off the roads and out of the way as much as possible.
- If your home has flood water inside or around it, don’t walk or wade in it.The water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage.
- If you have a flooded basement in your home, never attempt to turn off power or operate circuit breakers while standing in water.
- If your power is out, safely use a generator or battery-operated flashlights.
- Never use a generator inside a home, basement, shed or garage even if doors and windows are open.
- Keep generators outside and far away from windows, doors and vents. Read both the label on your generator and the owner's manual and follow the instructions.
- Avoid plugging emergency generators into electric outlets or hooking them directly to your home's electrical system – they can feed electricity back into the power lines, putting you and line workers in danger.
Tips for Clean-Up
Below are a few simple guidelines to follow that will make the clean-up and salvage process safer and easier:
- NFIP Policyholders Must Follow the Guildelines of Their Flood Policy When Cleaning Up
- Homeowner's and renter's guide to mold cleanup after disasters (EPA)
- Public Assistance: Contracting Requirements Checklist
- Public Assistance: Alternative Procedures Pilot Program for Debris Removal
- Public Assistance Debris Removal Tips Fact Sheet
- Public Assistance: Private Property Debris Removal Fact Sheet
- After the Flood: Advice for Salvaging Damaged Family Treasures
- Test your well water before drinking it. For more information, go to TCEQ's hurricane response page.
- Always wear protective clothing including long-sleeved shirts, long pants, rubber or plastic gloves and waterproof boots or shoes.
- Before entering your home, look outside for damaged power lines, gas lines and other exterior damage.
- Take photos of your damage before you begin clean up and save repair receipts.
- Your home may be contaminated with mold, which raises the health risk for those with asthma, allergies and breathing conditions. Refer to the Center for Disease Control for more info on mold: www.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/pdf/flyer-get-rid-of-mold.pdf.
- Open doors and windows so your house can air out before spending any length of time inside.
- Turn off main electrical power and water systems and don’t use gas appliances until a professional can ensure they are safe.
- Check all ceilings and floors for signs of sagging or other potentially dangerous structural damage.
- Throw out all foods, beverages and medicines exposed to flood waters or mud including canned goods and containers with food or liquid.
- Also, throw out any items that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or disinfected (mattresses, carpeting, stuffed animals, etc.).
- Beware of snakes, insects, and other animals that may be on your property or in your home.
- Remove all drywall and insulation that has been in contact with flood waters.
- Clean all hard surfaces (flooring, countertops, appliances, sinks, etc.) thoroughly with hot water and soap or detergent.
Road conditions, traffic, severe weather, and gas are all factors to consider after Hurricane Irma. If you evacuated for the storm, check with local officials both where you’re staying and back home before you travel.
Here are a few more travel tips:
- Let friends & family know before you leave and when you arrive
- Charge devices and consider getting back-up batteries in case power-outages continue
- Fill up your gas tank and consider downloading a fuel app to check for outages along your route
- Bring supplies such as water and non-perishable food for the car ride
Survivors should expect and prepare for significant, ongoing impacts, and disruptions to daily activities, and remember that returning home before storm debris is cleared is dangerous.
National Flood Insurance Program
Information about Loss Avoidance. NFIP flood insurance policyholders may be able to get up to $1,000 to help with protective measures taken to avoid flood damage when a flood is imminent.
- Visit FEMA’s How do I File My Flood Claim? site that explains the claims process and steps to follow as you file and work with your agent and adjuster. The more you know, the smoother the process will go.
- Download and print this guide for insured-survivors on What to Do After the Flood
- Report your loss immediately to your insurance agent and ask them about advanced payments: NFIP's Write Your Own insurance companies
- Read more about what to do after your inspection.
- NFIP Policyholders Must Follow the Guidelines of Their Flood Policy When Cleaning Up. Read the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection Agency’s Homeowners' and Renters' Guide to Mold Cleanup After Disasters.
- How to file your NFIP flood insurance claim infographic.
Steps to File a Claim
FEMA’s How do I File My Flood Claim? page offers more details on each of the steps below, along with more information for Hurricane Irma survivors who have flood insurance with the National Flood Insurance Program.
- STEP ONE: File a Claim
- Who to call
- What information to provide when reporting your claim
- How to register for FEMA assistance online
- STEP TWO: Prepare For Your Inspection
- How to document damage
- How to remove your flood damaged items
- Who to contact as you make repairs
- STEP THREE: Work with Your Adjuster
- What you should expect from your adjuster visit
- What to know, do, and discuss with your adjuster
- What to do after your inspection
- STEP FOUR: Complete A Proof of Loss
Note for Hurricane Irma Survivors: Although ordinarily required within 60 days from the date of loss, completing a Proof of Loss (POL) will be waived for a period of one-year. The insurance company will accept the adjuster’s report to pay your claim. You will need a POL if you find additional flood damage or if you disagree with what the insurance company pays you.
Please keep in mind that even after you receive an initial payment for your flood claim, you have the option to request additional payment. You will need to submit a POL by one year from the date of loss if you request additional payment(s).
Unsatisfied With Your Claim Payment? If after you receive a denial letter (for all or some of your flood insurance claim) from your insurer you are unsatisfied with the dollar amount being offered for flood-loss repairs or replacements, you may explore other options. These options are only available for policyholders who have received a denial letter.
Helping Children Cope
Children may cope more effectively with a disaster when they feel they understand what is happening and what they can do to help protect themselves, their family, and friends. Here’s how you can help them cope and a Fact Sheet:
- Talk about the concerns about the storm with your children. To not talk about it makes it even more threatening in your children's mind. Start by asking what your children have already heard and what understanding they have. As your children explain, listen for misinformation, misconceptions, and underlying fears or concerns, and then address these.
- Explain - as simply and directly as possible - what is happening or likely to happen. The amount of information that will be helpful to children depends on their age and developmental level, as well as their coping style. For example, older children generally want and will benefit from more detailed information than younger children. Because every child is different, take cues from your own children as to how much information to provide.
- Encourage your children to ask questions, and answer those questions directly. Like adults, children are better able to cope with a crisis if they feel they understand it. Question-and-answer exchanges help to ensure ongoing support as your children begin to understand the crisis and the response to it.
- Limit television viewing of disasters and other crisis events, especially for younger children. Consider coverage on all media, including the internet and social media. When older children watch television, try to watch with them and use the opportunity to discuss what is being seen and how it makes you and your children feel.
- Reassure children of the steps that are being taken to keep them safe. Disasters and other crises remind us that we are never completely safe from harm. Now more than ever it is important to reassure children that, in reality, they should feel safe in their schools, homes, and communities.
- Consider sharing your feelings about a crisis with your children. This is an opportunity for you to role model how to cope and how to plan for the future. Before you reach out, however, be sure that you are able to express a positive or hopeful plan.
- Help your children to identify concrete actions they can take to help those affected by recent events. Rather than focus on what could have been done to prevent a disaster or other crisis, concentrate on what can be done now to help those affected by the event.
- Play games and do activities together to create meaningful dialogue and offer a distraction.
- If you have concerns about your children's behavior, contact your children's pediatrician, other primary care provider, or a qualified mental health professional.
Beware of Fraud & Price Gouging
After a disaster scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals may attempt to prey on vulnerable survivors. The most common post-disaster fraud practices include phony housing inspectors, fraudulent building contractors, bogus pleas for disaster donations and fake offers of state or federal aid.
Survivors should keep in mind:
- FEMA does not authorize individual contractors to solicit on its behalf. Beware of any individual contractors contacting you directly on behalf of FEMA to sign you up for debris removal or remediation services.
- If you have any concerns about individuals representing themselves as FEMA or would like to report fraud, please contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866) 720-5721 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Federal and state workers never ask for, or accept money, and always carry identification badges
- There is NO FEE required to apply for or to get disaster assistance from FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration or the state
- Scam attempts can be made over the phone, by mail or email, text or in person
Price gouging occurs when a supplier marks up the price of an item more than is justified by his actual costs. Survivors are particularly susceptible because their needs are immediate, and have few alternatives to choose from. If you find price gouging, contact you the Florida State Office of the Attorney General.
Report Price Gouging
- Call: 1-866-966-7226
- Price Gouging Complaint form
Dealing with Contractors:
Survivors should take steps to protect themselves and avoid fraud when hiring contractors to clean property, remove debris or make repairs.
Simple rules to avoid becoming a victim of fraud:
- Only use contractors licensed by your state
- Get a written estimate and get more than one estimate
- Demand and check references
- Ask for proof of insurance
- i.e., liability and Workmen's Compensation
- Insist on a written contract and refuse to sign a contract with blank spaces
- Get any guarantees in writing
- Make final payments only after the work is completed
- Pay by check.
The best way to avoid fraud is to arm yourself against it by having a checklist to remind you of what you need to demand when hiring a contractor.
How to Help
- Cash is best. Financial contributions to recognized disaster relief organizations are the fastest, most flexible, and most effective method of donating. Organizations on the ground know what items and quantities are needed, often buy in bulk with discounts and, if possible, purchase through area businesses which supports economic recovery.
- Confirm donations needed. Critical needs change rapidly – confirm needed items BEFORE collecting; pack and label carefully; confirm delivery locations; arrange transportation. Unsolicited goods NOT needed burden local organizations’ ability to meet survivors’ confirmed needs, drawing away valuable volunteer labor, transportation, and warehouse space.
- Connect to volunteer. Trusted organizations operating in the affected area know where volunteers are needed, and can ensure appropriate volunteer safety, training, and housing.
Thank you for your interest in helping the survivors of Hurricane Irma, there are other ways to help. When disaster strikes, America looks to FEMA to support survivors and first responders in communities all across the country. We are currently seeking talented and hard-working people to help support the response and recovery.