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EMERGENCY FLOODING & DISASTER GUIDE

EMERGENCY FLOODING & DISASTER GUIDE

If you have just been through a flooding, fire, or natural disaster and you have damage caused to your home or your belongings, it can be a traumatic emergency event. You feel anxious and worried. You may even feel helpless and overwhelmed. Who do you call? How do you even begin fixing the problem? How will you recover all the damaged or ruined documents? Who will replace/repair all the affected belongings? Are you protected by your insurance? This and many other questions might be going through your head right now. It is easy to feel stressed and overwhelmed.

 

Stop. Relax. Take a moment to read through this Emergency Disaster Guide and make sure you are ready to tackle what may seem like an overwhelming task. We are here to help you. So, first things first, where do you start?

By utilizing the guide, you will be able to avoid dangers and other risks you are not yet aware of. If you feel overwhelmed, we are available to consult you and help you get through this traumatic event. As you work through this guide, take the time to check off each task as it is completed. You may skip any items that do not apply to your situation. If you get lost or stuck, call our emergency helpline for a free consultation and/or assessment.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE. HELP IS ALWAYS AVAILABLE.

Often when we feel stressed, we begin to make poor decisions. Some common symptoms you may feel right now are stress, anxiety, worry, anger, frustration, sadness, and hopelessness. These are all common reactions to disasters. They are also the primary reason we make mistakes when dealing with such an overwhelming situation.

Let’s start with the emergency checklist below to ensure you are not in immediate danger. What you need to do immediately after a disaster:

AIRBORNE CONTAMINANTS WARNING SIGNS:

  • If the air has an unusual smell of rot or spoil, do not stay indoors.
  • A rotten egg smell means you may have a gas leak. DO NOT ENTER THE PREMISES.
  • Dark coloured still standing water is probably contaminated with very harmful bacterias. Do not handle, and do not breathe in. 
  • If you have been away from a flooded area for more than 24 hours, it likely already has mould growth which can be dangerous to your health. Do not handle.
  • The smell of burned metal, wood or fabric likely means a sparking live electrical wire. Do not enter the premises until the main power has been disconnected from the property.

If you have children, it’s important that you are aware of how they are reacting to the situation. They often have longer lasting trauma from emergency situations. Keep them out of the premises and focus on keeping them calm. Do not show panic as it may aggravate their situation even worse. Signs of children under stress include them becoming more withdrawn or trying to show extreme bravery, but really all they need now is reassurance. Focus on getting yourself and your family back into a safe situation. Most insurance policies include vehicle rentals, hotel accommodations, daily spending money due to inaccessibility to your belongings, and meal coverage while your home is uninhabitable. Take a moment now to read through your policy and make sure you understand what coverage you have. Check the insurance section below to better understand your options. Our Emergency Disaster Consultants can help you navigate your policy and give you a simplified detailed explanation of your coverage and options.

Do the following things as soon as possible after your property has been damaged or destroyed by the loss. Do them immediately and before you leave the property (where it’s safe to do so):

 

If you rent or lease the property, contact the building owner or manager.

  • Get your family settled.

If your property is unlivable, make arrangements with either family or friends for immediate accommodations. If you have insurance coverage, consider temporary housing, such as a hotel or motel. If your budget doesn’t permit, there are Emergency Social Services available. Call our Emergency Recovery Specialists and discuss your coverage options with them and what needs to be done first to help process your claim.

 

  • If you are insured, do not contact your agent, broker or insurance company yet.

There is no rush to initiate a claim. Our Emergency Flood Recovery Team will be at your property within an hour. We will work with you and your insurance company to ensure you have no immediate out-of-pocket expenses or claim denials. Most policies cover the cost of shelter, food, and clothing for the reasonable time needed to repair or rebuild your dwelling (up to policy limits).

 

  • Remove valuable and essential items

Do NOT enter the home until you know it is safe to do so. Once it is safe to enter the premises, here are the important things you should remember to gather immediately:
– Important legal documents
– Identification
– Vital medication
– Eyeglasses and hearing aids
– Credit cards and debit cards
– Cash, jewellery
– Set of clothes to last you at least 24 hours (recommended 2 pairs of everything)

 

  • Secure the property.

It’s your responsibility to make sure the property is secured against further damage. If you rent, the landlord or property manager should be responsible for this. This includes turning off electricity, gas, and water lines to the property and securing doors and windows that have been left open/broken. When dealing with structural damage, the open, exposed area must be secured as soon as possible.​

WARNING: Many of these steps should be handled by trained professionals. Depending on the severity level of the catastrophe, either Flood Tech Emergency Disaster Recovery Specialists or the fire department will assist you with securing the property. In some cases, the Fire Department will be securing the property for you (especially in cases of fires where potential re-ignition of flames are a risk).

Take care of your pets.

If you have a missing pet, contact the SPCA or local pound. Pets may be injured and can suffer stress too. Do not neglect your pets. Make sure you have suitable amounts of water and food access to your pets during this time of crisis. If you are required to stay in a hotel or other lodging where housing pets is restrictive, elicit the help of family members where you can, or contact a local shelter for housing your pet. Most insurance policies will cover all living expenses, including those incurred by pet expenses. Be sure to review your policy BEFORE encountering a disaster.

Long-term relocation.

If you cannot live on the premises due to an emergency and will be relocated for more than a few days, be sure to notify all your important contacts. Notify the post office, banks, schools, employers, credit card companies, utility companies, and any other family or friends who need access to your new address.

If you were forced to leave the property due to a disaster, you would eventually want to return to retrieve your possessions and take proper stock of the damage. By dealing with an emergency restoration company like Flood Tech, they will make sure to document everything before and during the emergency service. This is important when dealing with the insurance company. There must always be properly documented proof readily accessible to validate your claim. Our documentation process will help expedite the claim and help avoid any processing delays.

Stay out of damaged buildings.

If the building has severe structural damage, re-enter can often be unsafe. Even the slightest pressure of walking on compromised beams can cause them to collapse, often leading to more damage or even risks to your health. Return only when professionally assessed and deemed safe to return.

Before going inside, allow our Emergency Disaster Recovery Specialist to do a property walkthrough for an inspection.

They will check for signs of damage or danger and look for fallen trees or objects that may cause further damage. They will also make sure to check the foundation, roof, chimney and steps for any signs of stress damage and look for broken or cracked basement walls.

Do not go inside if there is standing water around the property. The water could be carrying electricity.

You must ensure you have taken pictures of the property BEFORE anyone enters it. The best option is to contact an Emergency Disaster Recovery Specialist from Flood Tech and have us document these things for you, as we know what the insurance company will need when it comes time to submit the content and emergency reports for claim processing.

If you must enter the building, use extreme caution.

Do not all enter at once. Have only one person enter and carefully walk the house one level at a time. Building damage may occur where you least expect it. Keep your inspection to a bare minimum. The less you walk around, the less likely you are to create more damage. Photograph anything that looks out of place, or you suspect may have been affected by the emergency. You will need to provide this to the Emergency Disaster Recovery Specialist so they can help you properly submit a complete and thorough claim to your insurance company.

If you smell gas or hear a hissing / blowing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building.

Do NOT remain inside. EVEN IF YOU HAVE BELONGINGS, YOU STILL WANT TO GRAB THEM! Contact the gas company and other emergency services immediately. Notify your next-door neighbour so that they may stay a safe distance in case of an explosion.

Examine doors, walls, windows, staircases and floors to make sure the building is not in any danger of collapsing.

This step should only be done by a trained professional who understands engineering and foundation integrity. If you decide to go inside, you should constantly watch your step and not attempt to walk on any floors or stairs that have been directly affected by the disaster, as their integrity could be heavily compromised.

Signs of electrical system damage.

If you see sparks or broken/frayed wires, or smell burning insulation or wood, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. Accessing the main circuit breaker requires walking through any wet or underwater areas. STOP AND WALK AWAY. There is an EXTREMELY high risk of electrical shock. Contact the electrical company and have them disconnect the electricity on the outside of the house at the main junction box.

Keep track of all your expenses.

If you spend any money directly due to the emergency service (insurance coverage often includes all living expenses as well), keep the receipts in a separate folder and mark that folder “emergency incident expenses.”

The first thing you need to decide is how you plan to cover the emergency service expenses. This is the perfect time to review your insurance policy and understand what your coverage entitles you to. Here is what you need to know about your insurance coverage before making an informed decision:

  • Overall Coverage Limit:
  • $ ________________________
  • Dwelling Coverage Limit:
  • $ ________________________
  • Loss of Use (Incurred Additional Living Expenses) Coverage Limit:
  • $ ________________________
  • Liability Protection Coverage Limit:
  • $ ________________________

 

  • Coverage for the Following
    o Overland Flood Coverage
    o Sewage Line Coverage
    o Sewer Back-Up Coverage
    o Ground Water Coverage
    o Content Insurance Coverage
    o Rider Insurance for Jewelry and other expensive items

 

  • Deductible for Water Damage:
  • $ ________________________
  • Deductible for Fire Damage:
  • $ ________________________
  • Deductible for Wind Damage:
  • $ ________________________
  • Deductible for Hail Damage:
  • $ ________________________

What to Do with Fire or Water-Damaged Documents

In case your Ontario ID or Personal documentation is damaged by flooding or fire, The following list below are government and miscellaneous resources for replacement.  

Birth / Marriage / Death Certificate    
Insurance Policies

Your Insurance Company

Auto Registration
Social Insurance Card

Service Canada

Passports

Service Canada

Medical Records

Your Family Doctor

Bank Cards

Issuing Banks

Credit Cards

Issuing Companies

Canada Pension Plan Papers
Resident Cards

Citizenship and Immigration Canada
1-888-242-2100

Citizenship Cards

Citizenship and Immigration Canada
1-888-242-2100

Wills

Your Lawyer that Drafted up the Will

Income Tax Records
Land Titles

Provincial Land Titles Office

Military Discharge Papers

Library and Archives Canada
1-866-578-7777

Medical Service Plans

Work / Group Insurance Policy Issuer

Bank Books

Issuing Bank

Emergency Disaster Relief and Recovery – Red Cross Services 
Canada Savings Bonds

1-800-575-5151
Web Link

Stock Certificates

Issuing Company or your Lawyer

Need help understanding your insurance policy?

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Must-know Facts about opening an insurance claim:

  • Never make an uneducated or uninformed claim to your adjuster. Many exclusions in the policy exist to prevent insurance claims from getting processed. Giving wrong information as to how the damage occurred or where it originated from may end up causing your claim to be outright denied. Worst of all, many times these uneducated claims are false and valid insurable properties get declined for coverage. Work with an Emergency Disaster Recovery Specialist to make sure the proper source of damage is identified and documented before contacting the insurance company.
  • When contacting your insurance company, they will send an adjuster out to inspect the property and damage. The adjuster will also bring in a “preferred vendor” to give an estimate on the work. It is important that you remember that adjusters are independently employed by the insurance company to help reduce the cost of the claim. Their interest is in the bottom line of the costs of the claim. This often can result in shortcuts being taken at the expense of your property or belongings. By hiring your own independent Emergency Disaster Recovery Company, you are in control of the decision making. You are entitled, by law, to decline their preferred vendor and use your own service provider. Often, it is in your benefit to do so, as you end up having the Emergency Disaster Recovery Company work with you to maximize your claim and make sure everything is done in the best way possible to utilize the insurance you have rightfully purchased.

When filling an insurance claim for flood, fire or wind damage, emergencies are broken down into separate claim categories.

 

Emergency service:

It covers the dwelling and the service costs to mitigate and remediate the damage, and clear out any flood, smoke, and wind damage. Once it is cleaned up and ready to reconstruct, the emergency service is complete the rebuild assessment and estimation process commences from either the insurance-preferred contractor or your own contractor.

Content loss:

This involves any content that got destroyed or damaged/contaminated. Some items get salvaged and restored, while others are given a replacement value and paid out in the form of financial reimbursement.

 

Additional living expenses:

It covers expenses incurred due to an interruption in your life directly caused by the incident. For example, additional food expenses, lodging, and any other abnormal expenses you incur due to the incident are covered.

 

Repair and restoration:

This involves rebuilding the damaged property. Each of these categories has a claim limit per incident. There is also an overall incident limit for the entire claim. Depending on the extent of the damage, you should always be aware of what limitations you face before making any claims.  Often, it is necessary to consider what is worth claiming and what is not worth claiming.

 

Inventory All Your Belongings:

 

To get paid out for an insurance claim, the adjuster will have to have photographs of everything that was affected by the damage. Sometimes getting photographs can be a challenge, and other times impossible due to the damage being too severe. It is important that proper information is detailed and formatted as per your insurance company’s requirements. This step is very important as often, content is not properly handled, and this leaves the owner with out-of-pocket losses. It is highly advisable that this step be handled by a professional content-handling team. We will make sure to prepare the proper documentation to ensure every last item is accounted for and properly compensated for. Your insurance will cover the expense of this as well as the cost of handling the content.  From furniture to clothing and electronics. Insurance companies reduce the value of the content due to depreciating value. This is why proper handling and documentation can help maximize the proper and true value of your belongings. If you have old items that were in immaculate condition, you deserve the proper reimbursement value. This is where our content specialists can help you recover a significant portion of your losses that often get undervalued at the end of the claim process.

 

Keeping Track of Valuables:

 

When dealing with items of higher value, it is important to keep a “catalogue” of valuables stored in a safe place. This can be a small box which stores some of the following:

  • Itemized list of expensive items
  • photographs of collectibles and other rarer items (paintings, statues, memorabilia)
  • Original purchase receipts
  • Serial numbers
  • Certificates of authenticity (jewelry, memorabilia, etc)
  • photos of the dwelling before the disaster

Without having some or all of these things, it can be challenging to prove that you owned these items if they get destroyed during the disaster.

Insurance companies send out adjusters to review and authorize the claim you submit to your insurance company. Their primary goal is to help validate what happened, what is covered, and what the insurance company is going to pay you out for. What most people often are unaware of is that the adjuster works for the insurance company, not the insured. Their job is to reduce the costs to the insurance company. They are required to bring in a “preferred vendor” to provide a cost estimate for the service. You are always entitled to bring your own vendor in to do the work if you wish. Be warned, though, the preferred vendor helps set a budget on the job, and your own vendor will be required to work within those limits. When you bring your own vendor, you now become the person hiring the specialist, and they work for your interest, not the insurance company. Having your vendor hired by you directly, your interests are prioritized, which means you get the proper treatment and proper payment for your loss.

When it comes time to repair the property, the insurance company covers the expenses to bring it back to its previous state only. They will only authorize the same materials you have had in the past. Often this leaves outdated and hard to find materials that may not be suitable after so many years. If you had carpeted floors, then expect the same or close to the same to be reinstalled. This should be your moment to stop and consider how the living space served you before the incident, and how it can better serve you now. Upgrades and modifications to the previous space are usually the most common request from property owners when looking to restore major damage. Most insurance-assigned vendors will be reluctant to alter the scope of work. By bringing in your own contractor, you can work with them directly on a budget and most times they will be willing to help provide newer and better materials at their vendor-reduced pricing to help “upgrade” your space for virtually the same budget you have from the claim payout. You always have a right to decide how your property gets rebuilt. Sometimes there can be additional expenses incurred for upgrades, other times, it’s as simple as moving electrical outlets or light switches around to better suit your needs. Regardless of your choice, always ensure that the work being done meets your personal needs, not those of the insurance company. Most importantly, remember that damage to water, sewer, power, or natural gas installations must be repaired under a permit and inspected by the appropriate agency in order to be insurable in the future.

The damage is repaired, the construction is done, and you are now ready to move forward with your life and put the incident behind you. It is always advisable to consult on future preventative measures. Speak to one of our Emergency Disaster Recovery Consultants about the area you live in and what you need to know about the potential threats you may encounter. Flooding, bad plumbing, high water table, main water issues in local municipalities. These are all issues you need to be aware of and take preventative actions to protect yourself. Review your insurance policy and the coverage you have. Consider waterproofing your property, among other reliable and effective preventative measures. If you are on a budget, talk to a professional, and prioritize the most critical actions you need to take to protect your property and loved ones. The most important thing to remember when dealing with emergencies: Take care of your health and always have a plan of action so that you are not caught in a dire situation in the future.

To check if your country is in a declared disaster area visit Disasterassistance.gov

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