Cleaning up after a flood? FEMA has some suggestions:

  • Check for damage. Check for structural damage before re-entering your home. If you suspect damage to water, gas, electric or sewer lines, contact authorities.
  • Remove wet contents immediately. Wet carpeting, furniture, bedding and anything else holding moisture can develop mold within 24 to 48 hours. Clean and disinfect everything touched by floodwaters.
  • Tell your local officials about your damages. This information is forwarded to the state so state officials have a better understanding of the extent of the damages.
  • Plan before you repair. Contact your local building inspections or planning office, or your county clerk’s office to get more information on local building requirements.
  • File your flood insurance claim. Be sure to provide: the name of your insurance company, your policy number and contact information. Take photos of any water in the house and damaged personal property. Make a detailed list of all damaged or lost items.

There are also questions about when Federal Assistance is available after a disaster. In simple terms, here’s the process:

A disaster happens. Local officials and first responders respond. These officials see that their communities need assistance in dealing with it. They ask the state for help. The state responds. Sometimes, the state sees that the response is beyond its resources. That’s when the state reaches out to FEMA for assistance.

Typically, before asking for a Major Disaster declaration, the state asks for a preliminary Damage Assessment. This is done by teams composed of state and federal officials. They arrive in the disaster damaged area and local officials show them the most severely damaged areas that they can access.

Among the items considered are:

  • The amount of damage
  • How widespread the damages are, and the number of insured and uninsured properties involved
  • Special needs populations
  • Other disasters the state may be working.

Governors use this information to decide whether to request a disaster declaration. Once a governor decides to request a declaration, it is processed as quickly as possible.

If the President decides there’s a need, he signs a Major disaster declaration for either Individual Assistance, Public Assistance or both, for designated counties.

Individual Assistance means:

Individuals and business owners may be eligible for rental assistance, grants for repairs, or low interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)for damages to uninsured or underinsured property.

Public Assistance means:

Government entities and certain private non-profit agencies may be eligible to be reimbursed for the cost of repairs to uninsured or underinsured facilities, as well as some costs for labor and materials.

If there is a Major Disaster declaration, survivors may register for assistance at, or by calling 1-800-621-3362 or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585.

The Preliminary Damage Assessment teams often take photographs of damaged areas. After a Major Disaster declaration, photographs of your damages are accepted as documentation, in addition to your receipts.