Recover and Rebuild

The road to recovery may have many turns.  The first step is to take stock of the situation to determine how best to proceed.  Where confusion and chaos reign, a clear head will prevail.  The steps below will help to lay the groundwork for this transition.

Focus on the Job Ahead

Make a list of what needs to be done and tackle it one step at a time.  Focus on the top two or three items that need your attention - what is most important for me to do right now, what can wait until later.  Adjust the list as conditions warrant.

Your safety and that of your family comes first.  Your home and possessions are valuable, but most things can be replaced.  Food clothing and shelter are essential for survival.  You may need to make short-term housing arrangements until your home can be repaired.

Remember, you are not alone.  Help is available from a number of sources.  Talk to family, friends and neighbors who are dealing with similar problems and share information and ideas.

Check local television, radio and newspapers to see if the president has declared your community a disaster area (see also State of Emergency).  You may be eligible for certain kinds of basic federal and state financial recovery aid even if you have insurance.

Register for assistance

Contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance number, 1-800-462-9029 or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY number for the speech or hearing impaired) as early as possible to register for assistance.  You can also register online at

After your area has been declared a disaster area, one or more Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) may be opened to provide information on available loans and grants, legal matters and a host of other concerns related to the recovery process.  Your local television, radio and newspapers will have the locations of the DRCs and the hours of operation.  Before you go to a DRC or phone for assistance, you need to assemble the following documentation:

What to do after a disaster

  1. Contact your insurance agent as quickly as possible to make a claim against your homeowner’s, flood insurance, or car insurance policy when a disaster has occurred.  Federal disaster assistance grants, when available, cannot duplicate benefits received from insurance.
  2. If there is a federal declaration for your area, register with FEMA for assistance.
  3. Take action, if possible, to protect your property from further damage.  Insurance companies usually require policyholders to take reasonable steps to prevent the original damage from getting worse.
  4. Keep receipts for goods and services you purchased to recover from the disaster.
  5. Document damages by taking pictures or by making a video, if you have the ability to do so. 

Assistance following a disaster

Dial 2-1-1 or telephone your local American Red Cross chapter ( if you have needs immediately following a disaster.   

  • Virginia 211 can connect you with voluntary and state agencies that can assist you. 
  • American Red Cross assistance may take the form of small emergency cash grants and free temporary lodging.  The ARC also makes referrals to other nonprofit, government and faith-based agencies that provide assistance beyond what the ARC can provide. 

Prepare to return home

When you get the okay to return to your home, give it some first aid to make it safe while you make necessary repairs, clean up the mess and salvage what you can.  Make notes on what needs to be done and organize the tasks.  You will most likely need assistance in restoring flood-damaged utilities.

As you repair and rebuild, take any steps you can to reduce or eliminate damage from future disasters.  In many cases, the steps are easy and inexpensive.  If a water heater is destroyed, install the new one in an elevated position so it is not vulnerable the next time.  While you're at it, have the main electrical panel moved to a better location.

Additional Resources

Clean Up Safety

 Debris Removal GuidelinesDebris removal guidelines