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Document losses, expenses as first step in financial recovery after a flood

Media Contact: Catherine Dehdashti, U of M Extension, (612) 625-0237,

ST. PAUL, Minn. (9/29/2010) --Flood victims can begin to address the financial issues that accompany disaster soon after securing safe shelter. Documentation is a key to recovery. "You may think you will remember important conversations and details, but chances are you won't be able to remember all of them," says Phyllis Onstad, a family resource management educator with University of Minnesota Extension.

A notebook and calendar are helpful tools. "Record the date of each entry and the crucial details of the conversation, appointments or meeting," says Onstad. Include actions to be taken or next steps and who will do them. Record the complete name and contact information of the person and agency you are dealing with.

Here's an example:

June 18, 3:30 p.m.: Contacted Peoples Natural Gas Co. (phone number), requested gas shut off as soon as possible. Spoke with Tony Hernandez in Customer Service-Ext 3. They expect to do within 24-48 hours. Call back Customer Service to confirm before going into home. Billing authorized to stop on June 18.

If you have homeowners or renter's insurance you will need to provide proof of property ownership, estimated value and damage incurred. If you do not have insurance, you may be able to use the property loss as a deduction on your income taxes.

When it is safe to enter the property, document proof of all property loss with photos and written details: manufacturer, model, serial number, age, value new, approximate current value and damage incurred. Remember to also document damage outside of the home. This may be the time to recruit family, friends and co-workers to assist you.

Keep receipts and record all expenses related to recovery or rebuild efforts. They may be covered by insurance, assistance programs or be deductible on taxes. For examples, remember receipts for lodging, clean-up supplies, eyewear replacements, doctor bills related to disaster injury, and other related expenses.

If you cannot stay in your home community, decide who will be your local communications contact. Onstad emphasizes that staying in communication and obtaining timely and accurate information about disaster recovery and assistance programs is another key to your financial recovery.

Immediately after a disaster it is important to receive accurate community recovery information. Attend or send a representative to all community meetings, often conducted by local officials or County Emergency Management. Potential information shared at these meetings include: if cleanup supplies are available, programs available and disaster recovery updates.

Find more educational disaster recovery information on Extension's website at

Extension's AnswerLine (800-854-1678) can provide answers to household and family-oriented questions, and is staffed Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.

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