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Our Surviving a Natural Disaster Experts

Cody Lundin

Cody Lundin

Survival expert and author of When All Hell Breaks Loose

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Dr. William  Waugh Jr.

Dr. William Waugh Jr.

Professor of public administration and urban studies at Georgia...

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James Lee Witt

James Lee Witt

Former FEMA director and author of Stronger in the Broken...

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Weathering the Storm

Disaster Recovery: The Morning After, and 29 More


Of course, even the most thorough preparation won’t stop the wind from blowing, the fire from spreading or the earth from moving under your feet. And while the nature of the disaster varies, the effect is much the same.

Though Bill’s house survived the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, it couldn’t survive the devastation that followed when the levees broke. His home was flooded, his business was badly looted, family heirlooms and important documents were destroyed; his life was upended, every shred of normalcy was gone. For Bill, nothing was natural about that disaster.

“It was terrible. It was emotionally very difficult to see everything you grew up with destroyed,” he says. “It was a terribly tough thing to see.”

Dealing with the damage can seem overwhelming. But in the first 30 days, you can take decisive action to get back on your feet as quickly as possible.

Remember that disaster insurance you got “just in case?” Before you do anything, contact your insurance agent. The sooner you begin your claim, the quicker the response and the better your experience. Once you return to your home, photograph the damage before cleaning, repairing or moving anything and keep meticulous records of all your costs.

Whether you’re returning home after several days or emerging moments after a storm, you’ll be anxious to see your house —but it’s crucial to take some safety precautions.

“You have downed power lines, weakened trees, obstructions,” Mitchell explains. “There’s a lot of clean-up work that needs to happen before the environment is safe. You need to take extra precautions and treat everything like a potential hazard.” If you suspect any danger in your home, leave immediately and have it professionally inspected.

Posted: 7/22/08