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After a Disaster, How Can the “Helpers” Help?

After a Disaster, How Can the “Helpers” Help?

When a disaster occurs, especially a large natural disaster where many people are impacted, people from all over come out to help. As Mr. Rogers is often quoted, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

If you have lived through a natural disaster like Moore’s 2013 tornado you can relate to this. In 2013 Brown O’Haver of Oklahoma was only 6 years old and I personally had a two-year-old (who turned two days before the tornado) and a nine-month-old. To say that it was stressful running a public adjusting firm with two little ones, one of who was still nursing, would be an understatement.

It was a scary time. Children had died in their school and adults died as well. People had nowhere to live and the national guard was on our corner. There were looters and people being barred from going back in to their homes. Times were tough.

At the same time there were people driving in from all over the country to help. My own aunt from Kentucky drove in to help volunteer with clean up. People donated clothes and bottled water. So much bottled water! Bottled water lined our streets. Businesses donated services and time. If you looked for helpers, you found them. Truly, you didn’t really have to look too hard.

When a disaster happens and so many people come to help it feels unappreciative to ask for people to help in a different way than what they expected but is important for the helpers and the people accepting help to understand what is really needed and what is not.

Many volunteer groups volunteer to clean up. This is a simple and easy way to help. Cleaning up after a disaster is a mistake and should not be done. In order to properly measure and document a loss the damaged and destroyed items need to be retained. The insurance policy requires that the insured allow the insurance company the opportunity to view the claimed loss. As unbelievable as it seems just because a home is a total loss does not mean that the insurance company will automatically pay policy limits on the claim. Even when there is no standing walls or roof on a house you must line item and claim every single item in your house to be paid for your loss.

Volunteer groups would be much better utilized if instead of having them clean up and throwing away debris from a loss helping a person document their loss. The pastor and his family at my church at the time lost his home and they took this advice. They had many volunteers coming out to help. Their original idea was to have the volunteers dig through the rubble and clean and throw away the devastation. Instead they had the volunteer crew help with the personal property inventory.

As you can see in this picture, the family took cans of upside down spray paint (cans that can be sprayed when holding them upside down) and designated a section to an individual volunteer. In that section the volunteer would handwrite a list of each item they searched and found. The volunteer would then take a picture of every single item they listed. This would ensure that if by chance that item was looted or somehow discarded there would still be evidence for the insurance company. At the end of the day every volunteer turned the list into the family. The family then inputted the compiled list into a spreadsheet and added the price of the items. Eventually this family was paid policy limits on the loss.

On the contrary, I had many other families who had volunteers that came out and threw away all of their personal property in the attempt to help. When the family would attempt to make a list of damaged items for the insurance company they forgot many of their items and were unable to come up with a list of their full policy limits. This caused much more work forcing them to have to go through old receipts, pictures before the loss, etc. In some instances, they were never able to compile a full list.

Following a disaster, helpers and volunteers can be vital in helping you work through the initial shock and document your claim efficiently. If you experience a loss or volunteer to help someone after a loss, remember these tips and tools to ensure that volunteer efforts are utilized in the most effective way.

Brown – O’Haver public adjuster stands ready to help you with your loss and to assist in helping you comply with the terms of your policy.

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