Again and again, whether by fire, flood, or natural disaster, individuals and families face the challenge of starting their lives from scratch when their homes have been destroyed. Piles of debris are all that remain of homes and lifetimes of memories. In the initial hours and days following such a disaster, what do you do? Where do you start when everything has been lost?
In a crisis, it’s easy to lose perspective and fear causes us to, quite literally, not think clearly. A “To Do” list is needed. Here are a few tips from my book.
- You need help! Check to see if a relative or a friend can provide temporary housing for your family. This is no time to be proud. You need help, and your true friends will be more than willing to do anything they can to help.
- Wherever and whenever help of any kind is offered, take it!
- Churches will be first on the ground with practical help. Let your church know right away that you need help, and if you aren’t a church member, reach out anyway.
- If a Red Cross or FEMA shelter isn’t an option, you’ll have to stay in a hotel or a tent. If you’re a timeshare owner, this might be a good time to use up some of those banked weeks!
- Access your important documents in your Grab-n-Go Binder, or the one you have stored with a trusted friend, and begin to contact your insurance companies.
- Move quickly to rent a car, file with your insurance, or get a hotel. Within hours, these resources will be flooded with people in the same desperate situation.
- Acquire heavy duty gloves, closed-toed boots and work clothes to wear as you sift through debris. This will be hard physical labor, but it will also be emotionally draining to see the ruins of what was once your family’s home. Take plenty of breaks as you search for salvageable belongings and be ready to call it a day when fatigue begins to set in.
- Kids are going to have a particularly rough time of it. If possible, designate an adult to keep watch over the kids in a location away from your ruined home and keep them distracted with videos, read-alouds, and playground time. This would be an ideal time for a longer-than-usual visit to grandma’s house.
- It will take time, perhaps a lot of time, before the insurance company evaluates your losses and cuts a check, so be prepared to wait.
- In the meantime, there will be dozens of decisions to be made. Where will you stay for the duration? Will the kids be able to continue with their schooling or will you need to homeschool for a while? Do you know of reputable disaster recovery companies? Reputable contractors? Roofers? Electricians? If you don’t have these names and phone numbers in your Grab-n-Go binder, now would be a good time to add them.
- Quickly access any funds you have in your banking account(s). Remember, in an emergency “Cash is King!” If the power is out, chances are that your debit and credit cards will be useless, and vendors may not be willing to accept checks.
- Use your cell phone or digital camera to begin documenting the damage to your home, vehicle, and property. E-mail the photos to yourself, so you’ll have easy access to them in the future and will be able to forward them to your insurance agent.
- Depending on the time of year and weather conditions, elderly family members, infants, and anyone with chronic health issues should probably relocate somewhere less stressful, where medical facilities are easily accessible. Summer heat and humidity affect them more than anyone else.
- Now, more than ever, spend time with people who lift you up and always seem to see the silver lining behind every cloud.
Above all, guard your mental and emotional health. Be willing to seek out a pastor, counselor, or mental health professional and understand that it’s okay to cry and grieve. Recovery, in every sense of the word, is going to take time.
You really need to become a prepper
Becoming a prepper may have never crossed your mind. Perhaps, thanks to shows like Doomsday Preppers, you associate being prepared for a worst case scenario with paranoid mouth breathers, basements filled with freeze-dried food, and families scrambling for hazmat suits.
Well, I’m a prepper. I homeschool our kids, am an avid bicyclist, and love Mexican food and Lord of the Rings! Almost no one in our circle of friends knows that we prep because we are just like them — busy with kids, sports, yard work, and job. What makes us different, though, is that, over the past 7 years, we have become better and better prepared for life’s curve balls.
That hardly makes us paranoid nuts!
If you’re not sure where or how to begin to create a home and family that is prepared and resilient, consider joining the online membership group, Survival Mom Sisterhood and get monthly mini-classes, live Q&A sessions, exclusive community groups, and a lot more.
Just one real life example of losing everything
This video, from the immense wildfire that hit the town of Fort McMurry in Alberta, may change your mind if you’ve never heard of prepping, have slowed down with your own preparedness (after all, life does have its many distractions), or have thought prepping just wasn’t for you.
This cozy living room, complete with a pristine fish tank and cozy pillows and blankets, could be yours or mine and yet, within minutes, it was consumed by fire. I can’t imagine the heartbreak the homeowners felt as they watched this video.
Getting started with prepping is as easy as buying a few extra cans of soup or tuna the next time you’re out grocery shopping. Take that first step!
This article was originally posted in March 2012, and updated.