FEMA 101

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) assists homes and businesses in Puerto Rico with Hurricane Maria hardships and helps victims recover from the natural disaster by offering victims the following emergency services:

Temporary Housing–FEMA emergency financial assistance entitles Hurricane Maria victims to receive at least one month’s rent to pay for temporary housing on dry land while contractors make repairs to their homes. Hurricane Maria victims can also file FEMA claims to replace water damaged chattels such as furniture, electronics, valuable personal property, and even vehicles.

Hardship Services–Hurricane Maria victims may seek FEMA reimbursement for all medical or dental expenses, burial expenses, transportation expenses, and other hardship needs caused by the storm.

Claim Compensation Advances–FEMA may advance storm victims’ partial compensation due to their insurance providers to help them get back on their feet. This means policyholders don’t have to wait for insurance adjusters to pay claims to carry out needed repairs. However, FEMA will not pay for insurance deductibles, and policyholders will have to pay back the FEMA compensation advance soon after receiving insurance money for the losses covered by their policy.


Hints for Taking Prudent Post Hurricane Action


Hint 1: Don’t Wait to File a Property Damage Claim

If you have a home or business wind, flood, or all-inclusive hurricane insurance coverage, file a claim with the underwriter as soon as one to two days after the storm. It takes time for insurance companies to process hurricane damage claims, and disaster law imposes strict deadlines on policyholders who pursue private or federal insurance compensation on property damages.

Take detailed photographs or video to document special damages for POL and COL evidence. Sometimes images will be the only evidence you’ll have that proves damages and loss exist.

Keep safe copies of claim documents and communications from your insurance provider. Give internal and third-party adjusters sincere answers when queried you’re about your claim and ask for a business card if insurance representatives inspect the damage site. Also, note the names of the parties who contact you regarding your claim along with the date and time of the conversation.

Hint 2: Consider Hiring an Expert Hurricane Insurance Claim Attorney

Insurance adjusters sometimes work in bad faith by delaying, denying, or underestimating a victim’s lawful claim. Policyholders should consider hiring a disaster law attorney to dispute bad faith claim processing and should petition FEMA to pay for the litigation. Professional insurance claim lawyers have access to expert teams that can reassess your property damage objectively and help you set up airtight POL-COL statements and loss valuations.

Hint 3: Safeguard Damaged Property

Make sure you hold on to damaged chattel during claim processing. Many hurricane victims instinctively throw away damaged property after registering their claim. This is a mistake because you may need to present loss evidence to independent appraisers if you end up disputing your claim.   

You should also never repair damaged property or make mitigation repairs without first receiving written approval from your insurance provider or from your attorney. Hurricane victims who do perform emergency repairs to mitigate damages must document the work by taking pre-repair/post repair photographs and must safeguard invoices received from contractors who repair breaks.


What to Do During and After a Flood

You should not try to walk through moving water during a flood nor should you attempt to drive a vehicle through floodwater. If you’re in an automobile when floodwaters rise, LEAVE THE VEHICLE and safely find higher ground before it’s too late. Do not handle electrical wires and stay away from runoff water because of contamination concerns. Flood water often comes into contact with untreated sewage and hazardous material as it moves inland. Hurricane Maria victims should further sanitize items that come into contact with floodwater by cleaning them with soapy water and alcohol and should assume tap water is unsafe for drinking unless authorities have publicly stated otherwise.


Federal Flood Insurance Explained

The catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Maria devastated thousands of homes and businesses in Puerto Rico. Many hurricane victims who do not have a flood insurance policy may not understand how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood insurance works or how to proceed with filing water damage claims with the federal government.

FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) covers partial or complete flooding of (i) two or more properties; or of (ii) two or more acres that normally rests on dry land; from overflow of inland waters, hurricane runoffs and mudflows or surface waters from multiple sources.

The NFIP will compensate for water damage to both urban and rural property, and the flood insurance becomes active once federal agencies declare the flood site a natural disaster. Victims who file FEMA NFIP claims must further register accurate POL statements with supporting documentation within SIXTY days of the loss to take compensation for flood damages.


FEMA Emergency Assistance

Hurricane Maria victims may apply for FEMA assistance online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.

FEMA further offers mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows devices for the immediate claim processing.

Victims without internet services can call FEMA toll-free at 1-800-462-7585 from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST to apply for emergency aid.

When opening a claim, FEMA representatives will ask for your: tax ID information; contact information; insurance information; loss description; bank account numbers; and income information based on tax returns.