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 family.

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 hometown. 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 recovery.

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 family.



First 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 essence!

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 assistance.

Day 1:

●  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: https://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php

Day 2:

●  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.

●  Buy 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.

●  If 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.

●  If 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.

Day 3-7:

●  Take photos of the damage to your home and/or vehicle. If possible, take photos of the roof before tarping it, otherwise the insurance adjuster will have to guess about the level of damage when doing the initial inspection.

●  If 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.

●  Keep 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.




Sponsored by Cedar House Keepsakes

Contact: angela@catastrophesupport.com