||Welcome to the Catastrophe Support site. I’m
sorry for whatever losses you’ve suffered, be it your house, car, pet,
loved one, or all of the above. My heart goes out to you and your
I'm Angela, and my mother is a Joplin tornado survivor. While we were
very fortunate that
neither she nor my grandmother were injured in the storm, their home
sustained extensive damage.
I grew up in Joplin and will always consider it my
I spent a week there after the tornado hit, so I saw firsthand the
incredible devastation left behind. It was truly a surreal experience, and one that
the human mind cannot easily comprehend.
It has been devastating to see the destruction to
my childhood home, church, high school, and many other places I held
dear. My heart aches for the families who have lost loved ones and
for the numerous individuals who have suffered serious injuries.
After the storm hit, we quickly had to move into action. But where to
start? There was so much to do, and our minds were spinning. I
desperately wished that that someone would tell me what to do next. That’s
where this list comes in—it will get you started down the path to
The information below is not professional advice. It is simply a
compilation of tips based on my family's experiences in the first days
after a major tornado struck. I hope
you’ll find it helpful as you move forward. Best wishes to you and your
Steps After Disaster Hits
If you or a loved one
has just been struck by
disaster, please take time to review these essential steps. There is a
lot to do in a short amount of time, so don't hesitate to enlist the
help of others. Time is of
The following list assumes you are not dealing with injuries or
fatalities in your family. It also assumes you have homeowners
insurance. If you are not insured, contact the Red Cross for immediate
● Find temporary shelter with friends
or family, at a local church, or at a Red Cross facility.
● Submit a claim to your insurance company for your home and/or vehicle.
The insurance adjusters typically meet with disaster survivors on a
first-come, first-served basis. Day or night, you should be able to call
your insurance company to submit a claim, even if your agent isn’t
available. Consider having a family member submit the claim for you
online so you’ll be listed early in the queue.
If you're able to reach family members outside
the affected area by phone or text message, ask one of them to register
your name on the "Safe and Well" website:
● Contact your local insurance agent to request emergency funds. If your
home sustained major damage, ask for the highest advance they can give
you (probably $2,000 - $5,000). Ask for details on what these funds can
be used for, and be sure to keep receipts as you'll have to account for
these funds later.
● If your home is uninhabitable and it will take many months to
repair or rebuild, find a rental unit right away!!! (Try Craig's
List for rental listings.) If the destruction is widespread,
rental housing will become difficult to find, as we quickly found in
Joplin. If you cannot find a rental apartment, you may be able to stay in a hotel or
motel on a long-term basis, but first discuss how to handle this with your insurance
company since the costs will mount quickly. It is in the insurance
company’s best interest to help you find a rental unit in order to keep costs
as low as possible.
● Reserve a storage unit
for your salvaged belongings. Act quickly, because storage will also be
in high demand after a major disaster. Get a larger unit than you think you'll need so
you'll have room to move around inside while looking for your items
later. Double-check with your insurance company, but they will most
likely cover storage rental fees.
a large 3-ring binder, section dividers, and loose-leaf paper so you can
keep all your notes and paperwork organized. It’s also helpful to
include a zippered pouch inside the binder to store your receipts.
your home is damaged but still standing, purchase supplies for temporary
repairs: tarps, nails, hammers, plywood, flashlights, headlamps, work
gloves, etc. Your insurance company will likely expect you to make
reasonable repairs to prevent further damage to your home. Consider
asking a friend or family member to take charge of purchasing supplies to lessen your burden.
When things settle down a bit, be sure to collect all receipts for
submission to insurance.
needed, purchase packing supplies to salvage your belongings: moving
boxes, packing tape, markers, newsprint, bubble wrap, etc. You'll also
need bottled water, garbage bags, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and
plenty of hand sanitizer since water lines will likely be cut off.
Again, a friend or family member can gather these supplies so you can focus on other tasks at hand.
● Take photos of the damage to your home and/or vehicle. If possible,
take photos of the roof before tarping it, otherwise the insurance
will have to guess about the level of damage when doing the initial
there’s a chance your home can be repaired, tarp the roof and board up
windows for insurance purposes. You’ll need to show that you made a good
faith effort to prevent further damage. If you aren’t able to do this
yourself, request the help of a contractor or skilled volunteer. Insurance will
likely reimburse you for this cost regardless of who does the work.
● Salvage and move whatever belongings you can
into storage. It isn’t advisable to
keep upholstered furniture, because broken glass cannot be thoroughly
removed. Make sure you clearly label the moving boxes so you can find
the items later. You may also find it helpful to include labels like “immediate”
or “long-term” so you'll know what boxes to open first.
track of how much time your friends and family spend salvaging
your contents. You’ll want to submit this information to insurance later for
reimbursement of your labor. If you are not able to salvage and move the
items yourself, ask your insurance company whether they will cover the
cost of professional packers and/or movers.
● Get mentally prepared for what lies ahead. The recovery process is not
easy, but you will get through it. Take it one day at a time.