Taking Stock of Losses

Lost Documents

Replacing irretrievably damaged or lost documents takes time and patience.  Replacing such items as driver's licenses, birth certificates, social security cards, land deeds, car titles, banking documents, and credit cards means calling different federal and state agencies and private businesses.  Allow enough time to accomplish these tasks - it will take more than a few days in most cases.

  • Driver's license, car title: Any Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles branch office will be able to replace your driver's license and car titles. 
  • Credit cards, checking accounts: For credit card and banking concerns, your local bank will be able to handle your requests for information.  They will work with you to obtain the replacement documents you will need. 
  • Social Security: If you or your children need social security cards replaced, go to one of the agency's local offices for new cards.  The Social Security Administration will accept proof of identity in the form of report cards, doctor's records, school records, paycheck stubs, banking statements, military discharge papers and other kinds of documentation. 
  • Medicare: Elderly or disabled people can call the Social Security Administration's toll free number to replace lost Medicare cards.  A customer representative will take handle your request. 
  • Deeds: Land deeds and other records related to land ownership will be stored at your local county or city courthouse. 
  • Personal documents: The Virginia Department of Health's Office of Vital Records and Health Statistics has birth certificates and marriage licenses.  You must call this state agency to arrange obtaining these documents. 
  • Voter registration: Contact your local board of elections. 
  • Passports: Contact the Department of State to report a damaged or missing passport. 
  • Citizenship papers: Contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service to report damaged or missing citizenship papers. 

For the future, consider using a safety deposit box at your bank for valuable papers. 

Heirlooms and Other Valuables

A disaster may ruin family heirlooms, antiques and irreplaceable memorabilia.  Some are beyond repair, but experts can help recover and restore water-damaged belongings.

The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works and the National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property have developed the following recommendations on the recovery of water-damaged belongings:

  • Rinse wet objects with clear, clean water or a fine hose spray.  Clean off dry silt and debris with soft brushes or dab with damp cloths without grinding debris into objects. 
  • Air dry objects indoors if possible.  Sunlight and heat may dry certain materials too quickly, causing splits, warping and buckling. 
  • Reduce humidity to inhibit growth of mold and mildew.  Increase airflow with fans, open windows, air conditioners and dehumidifiers. 
  • Remove heavy deposits of mold growth from walls, baseboards, floors and other household surfaces with commercially available disinfectants. 
  • Place all broken pieces, bits of veneer and detached parts of damaged items in clearly labeled open containers.  Do not attempt to repair objects until completely dry or, in the case of important materials, until you have consulted with a professional conservator. 
  • Use caution when handling documents, books, photographs and works of art on paper that may be extremely fragile when wet.  Take prints and paper objects out of mats and frames or free their edges if possible.  Allow prints and paper objects to air dry.  Rinse mud off wet photographs with clear water, but do not touch surfaces.  Sodden books and papers should also be air-dried or may be kept in a refrigerator or freezer until a professional conservator can treat them. 
  • Let textiles, leather and other organic materials air dry. 
  • Remove wet paintings from the frame but not from the stretcher.  Let them air dry, face up, away from direct sunlight. 
  • Rinse metal objects exposed to water, mud or silt with clear water and dry immediately with a clean, soft cloth.  Allow heavy mud deposits on large metal objects to dry.  Caked mud can be removed later.  Consult a professional conservator for further treatment. 

Furniture finishes and painted surfaces may develop a white haze or bloom from contact with water and humidity.  However, these problems do not require immediate attention.  Consult a professional conservator for treatment.