After the Disaster
Every disaster takes a toll in the form of loss. Some losses are minor, and can be repaired or replaced quickly, such as a broken fence. Some are major, requiring considerable time and expense to fix, such as a collapsed bridge. Some cannot be replaced or fixed, such as the loss of a life. During and after any incident, the safety of you and your family is of paramount importance.
In the wake of the initial event, these tips can help keep you safe:
- Stay informed about changing conditions
- Heed the advice of local officials
- Do not return to your home or business until it has been deemed safe by an appropriate authority
- Watch out for fallen power lines, road damage, broken gas lines, and other hazards
- If the power is out, use flashlights rather than candles, and unplug electronic devices
- Avoid driving (for your own safety and to keep roads clear for emergency vehicles)
Recovering from an emergency of any kind takes time, effort, and resources. Just as preparation and planning are key elements to the initial response to an emergency, so they are of primary significance to recovery. Last month, in our feature entitled Preparation is Power, we highlighted the necessity of creating a plan and having the right resources at the ready to help you and your family make it through a disaster. The same is true for how well and how quickly you recover.
Properly insuring your property is the best way to know you will have the financial resources to repair, rebuild, or replace what is damaged or lost. And having appropriate documentation in hand can make all the difference in how quickly and correctly your needs are met.
Rosemary Anderson, Emergency Services Manager for Santa Cruz County, emphasizes that recovery starts the moment an incident or disaster occurs. “As people are leaving their homes, they should have all the information and documentation that they might need to provide to an insurance company or a helping agency already packed in their go-bags or emergency kits.”
What information would you need, whether you have to evacuate, or are able to stay in your home? In addition to insurance policies and credit card and banking information, you will want an inventory of your property and other assets. Documents can be stored in a number of ways, including on a flash drive, or printed. Some people keep duplicates with friends or relatives. (See the resources at the end of the article for a Home Inventory App and a Home Inventory Spreadsheet you can download.)
Once the immediate danger is over, your continued safety and well-being may depend on your ability to cope with new circumstances, and you may need assistance. Resources to help with a variety of needs are made available by the jurisdiction where the event took place, such as a county, city, or special district. Usually the jurisdiction will host a recovery website and other means of communication to connect you with agencies that can help, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American Red Cross, and social services.
Many people think of recovery as the process of returning a community to normal. But in some cases, things will never be the same, as seen in the Paradise wildfires. However you define it, recovery and rebuilding can be a lengthy process. As a recent example, Rosemary Anderson points out that we are now just in our first year of a 6 – 7-year recovery cycle from our 2017 winter storms. And last summer, almost thirty years after the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, the last hole from the destruction in downtown Santa Cruz was filled.
In Santa Cruz County the Office of Emergency Services is responsible for overseeing the coordinated county response to disasters, including the recovery process. And just as it is crucial for you to document your property, the Office of Emergency Services, the Department of Public Works, and all other agencies involved in recovery must diligently document and maintain records of everything that was done during the disaster response and recovery in order to receive the state or federal funding for which we are eligible. If we can’t produce documentation for something that was done during a disaster, whether it’s travel expenses for firefighters or repairing a dam, it’s as if it didn’t happen, and we will not be reimbursed. Final payments for the 1994 Northridge earthquake were just made two years ago, so you can see that the recovery process is a big responsibility that can be long and complex.
We hope that none of us experiences a disaster, but remember, Preparation is Power! Explore these resources for tools and ideas to prepare and protect yourself and your family.
Documenting and Insuring Your Property
Free Home Inventory App and Inventory Spreadsheet Tool
Extensive array of recovery tips and resources from the Red Cross
FEMA Accessible Video for disaster assistance program: eligibility and documentation for the Individuals and Households Program
Recovery resources from FEMA
Emergency Alerts and Warnings
CodeRED, the regional reverse 911 emergency notification service for Santa Cruz County, keeps residents informed and prepared in the event of an emergency. Examples of notices include evacuation notices, bio-terrorism alerts, missing person reports, and severe weather alerts. Cell (mobile) phones and VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phones must be registered to receive alerts. Click here to register. Note: Traditional landline telephones are already in the notification system.
Nixle is a free notification service that keeps you up-to-date about emergency weather events, road closings, public safety advisories, disasters, and other relevant information from public safety departments and schools. Click here to sign up for alerts from local agencies. If you live or work in different counties, or if you have relatives or friends in other areas from which you want to receive information, you can sign up for alerts in other areas.
Santa Cruz County Citizen Connect
Download the app to report local issues such as potholes, abandoned vehicles, trash, dead deer, and environmental health complaints.
You can also register to vote, view or pay property tax bills, explore the county’s parks system, and conduct other business.
Be prepared--download the FEMA app for your mobile phone for free on the App Store and Google Play. Learn what to do before, during and after emergencies with safety tips and receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five different locations anywhere in the United States. Get safety reminders and customize your emergency checklist.
Click the images below for resources and information.