HURRICANE PREPARATION & RECOVERY
Take Precautions in Your Home After a Hurricane
Look for external damage
Examine the foundation, roof and chimney for cracks or other damage. If obvious damage is found or serious safety doubts exist, contact a building inspector.
Keep generators outside
Those who remain without power should only use generators or other fuel-powered machines outdoors. Such machines emit deadly carbon monoxide fumes, which are odorless and can quickly overwhelm you indoors.
Clean safely and beware of mold
Flooding causes dampness where mold, mildew and various organisms thrive. Mold may induce respiratory problems, so it is important to use proper procedures when cleaning. Use a combination of household bleach and soap or detergent (but never mix bleach with ammonia) to wash down walls and other mold-contaminated areas. You can also open windows and doors and turn on fans to help dry out interiors. For more information about mold, go to: http://www.health.ny.gov/publications/7287/
Avoid Scam Artists
As you plan long-term repair and rebuilding projects, be aware that natural disasters can bring out criminals looking to prey on victims by offering fraudulent services. Among other precautions, get three estimates for repair work, check the credentials of contractors and consult your local Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce to learn about any complaints against the contractors.
Ways to get help:
Register with FEMA for federal disaster assistance
Survivors who haven’t yet registered should call FEMA’s toll-free helpline at 800-621-3362. Lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice, and assistance is offered in most languages. Individuals may register for help online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by smartphone or tablet at m.fema.gov. If you have a speech disability or hearing impairment and use a TTY, call 800-462-7585 directly; call 800-621-3362 if you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS).
“Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP)” Program is in effect
The STEP Program helps restore temporary electricity, heat and hot water by funding emergency residential repairs through local governments for those whose homes can be used to shelter in place while permanent repair work continues. If you live in the five boroughs of New York City, call 311 for information about STEP. If you live in Suffolk County, call 211. If you live in Nassau County, call 888-684-4267.
Expedited partial flood-insurance payments may be available
To allow National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policyholders to remain safely in damaged residences, FEMA in some circumstances is allowing claim payments to be made even before inspections and repair estimates are obtained for equipment that provides heat and hot water. The inspection and report still have to be completed later. For complete details on the accelerated NFIP payment program, policyholders must contact their insurance company or agent.
Low-interest disaster loans from SBA
U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loans are a major source of federal rebuilding funds for homeowners, renters and businesses. Completing a disaster loan application is part of the FEMA grant process. Homeowners and renters may qualify for loans of up to $200,000 for repair or replacement of damaged real estate. Up to $40,000 may be available to repair or replace personal property. Applications can be completed online via SBA’s secure website at https://DisasterLoan.SBA.gov/ELA. More information is available by calling 800-659-2955 (TTY 800-877-8339). Assistance also is available by sending an email to DisasterCustomerService@sba.gov or by visiting www.sba.gov
How to Replace Documents Lost in a Disaster
One of the dire consequences of any disaster for many people is the loss of important documents. Often, such documents are needed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state emergency services in order to process assistance applications for those who suffered losses or damage to their homes and belongings.
If papers are gone – like birth certificates, Social Security cards, drivers’ licenses, tax records, etc. – New York state and FEMA are advising residents on how to recover them:
If you were born within the confines of the five boroughs of New York City, visit or write to the Office of Vital Records, 125 Worth Street, Room 133, New York, N.Y. 10013. (A photo ID is required both by mail and in person.) The office advises the fastest way to get records is online at www.nyc.gov/vitalrecords. The phone number is (212) 788-4520. To download and print an application, log onto http://home2.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vr/birth1.pdf ; to apply online, log onto www.nyc.gov/vitalrecords. If you were born in New York state outside of New York City, log onto www.vitalchek.com or phone 877-854-4481. This will connect you to a company called VitalChek, which is contracted with the state to handle credit-card orders. There are modest fees involved.
Visit any New York Department of Motor Vehicles office. To find an office nearby, log onto www.dmv.ny.gov/index.htm and click on “Replace License or ID.”
Social Security cards:
Call the U.S. Social Security office at 800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST. For TTY users the number is 800-325-0778, or log onto www.ssa.gov/ssnumber for more information.
Federal tax records:
Call the Internal Revenue Service at 800-829-1040, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST, or log onto www.irs.gov.
New York State tax records:
For copies of returns, log onto www.tax.ny.gov/help/contact/how_to_reach.htm. Click on “Get a copy of my return” and fill in the application. You can also apply for a tax-filing and payment extension for those directly affected by Hurricane Sandy at this site.
For copies of your utility bills, bank records, insurance policies, mortgage payments and the like, call the appropriate firm and speak to a customer-service representative.
To prevent further loss of vital documents, place the originals or copies in a sealable plastic bag or other watertight container and secure that container where it is best protected and can easily be located. It is also a good idea to make copies of vital and important documents and mail them to a friend or relative you can trust to keep them safe and retrievable.