Disaster Recovery: Important Documents (VIDEO)

Hello, my name is John Lawless, staff attorney with Bay Area Legal Services’ Disaster Relief Project and the Florida Disaster Legal Aid Helpline. I’m here with my colleague Jason to discuss some simple steps anyone can take to avoid common issues while recovering from disaster.

Today, we’re here to discuss some important documents you will want to have available after surviving a disaster. In order to receive post-disaster aid, many programs will require you to prove it is your property that has been damaged. Additionally, your hazard and flood insurance companies will want to hear from you as soon as possible about any damage done to your home.

Some important documents you will want to be sure to have on hand are:

  • Government-issued ID including your address
  • A copy of your deed
  • A copy of your rental agreement
  • Declarations pages for your insurance
  • Originals wills and trust agreements

Now, with a little help from the "J-Viewer" (patent pending) let’s see how Jason does with picking the right documents.

Which document will Jason choose first?

You missed that one. Try another.

No, Jason.

Maybe Jason is a little confused about the reasons the right documents are so important. Let’s talk about those reasons.

Government-issued ID including your address will have important information for applying for relief. This may also be the only way for you to access your home in the wake of a disaster if law enforcement has restricted access.

Copies of your deed or rental agreement will help you in applying for relief from agencies such as FEMA or the Small Business Administration. There is no guarantee that you will have access to power or the internet, so physical copies could help you get relief faster.

Declarations pages for your insurance company will include the name of your insurance company, your basic policy information, and contact information for making a claim. Having this on hand will make it easier for you to begin the process of recovering as soon as you are able to assess and make a record of the damage done to your property.

Planning documents such as wills and trusts may not be necessary right after a disaster, but the fact is that having originals of these is important. You don’t want to find out years later that you or your family has a problem because originals went missing and nobody thought to protect or replace them.

How does that sound, Jason?

Great. Now, if you and your family keep these tips in mind, you’ll be a lot more resilient in the aftermath of disaster, and a lot less like Jason. 

We appreciate you taking the time to listen. For more information on what to do in the wake of a disaster, please visit the following resources.

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