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Frequently Asked Questions
Avoiding Fraud (9)
The Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General has created and is distributing the Oklahoma Disaster Scam Prevention Packet. Packets are available online.
The Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General has received reports of criminals called "Travelers" in tornado affected areas. With several tornado damaged areas opening up this weekend, AG investigators are very concerned that these fake contractors will begin targeting affected areas.
These con-artists travel from state to state, preying on storm victims' vulnerability. While several residents will want to clean their property, trim trees or begin to rebuild as quickly as possible, Attorney General Pruitt warns them to be alert of these criminals who pose as contractors. Do not agree to pay cash up front for the entire job and use local reputable businesses.
- Ask for referrals from people you trust
- Try to do business with local companies
- Request to see proof of certification and insurance
- Check out the repair service with the AG's Public Protection Unit and the Better Business Bureau
- Ask for customer references
- Get written estimates from several companies
- Don't do business without a written contract
- Get all guarantees, warranties and promises in writing
- Agree on start and completion dates, and have them in the contract
- Fraudsters often take advantage of the chaos following a disaster. When choosing a contractor to make repairs, check licensing and references before hiring. Always insist on a written estimate before repairs begin and do not sign any contracts before the adjuster has examined the damage. In some cases the adjuster will want to see the estimate before you begin making repairs.
- Do not pay a contractor the full amount up front or sign over your insurance settlement payment. A contractor should expect to be paid a percentage when the contract is signed and the remainder when the work is completed.
- If the contractor finds hidden damage that was not discovered in the original assessment by the adjuster, contact your insurance company to resolve the difference. For any disagreements that cannot be resolved, contact your state insurance department about your recourse.
Information available on the Public Protection Unit part of the Office of the Attorney General website includes a Disaster Scam Prevention packet.
You may call the Oklahoma Attorney General's Public Protection Unit at (405) 521-2029 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Donate only to charities that you know and trust
- Be wary of charities that seem to have been formed specifically in response to a particular disaster
- Contact the Oklahoma Secretary of State to find out if the charity is registered in Oklahoma. Contact the SOS at (405) 521-3912 or search charitable organization listings online at www.sos.ok.gov/charity/.
- Ask for written information regarding the solicitor’s charity
- Listen carefully to the name of the charity. Scam artists often claim to be associated with a charity that mimics the name of a well-known organization
- Be wary of solicitors that use high pressure or aggressive tactics, ask for donations in cash or promise prizes
- Ask for referrals from people you trust
- Use local contractors
- Obtain written estimates and references
- Check out contractors with the Public Protection Unit or Better Business Bureau
- Make sure roofers are registered with the Construction Industries Board. You may contact the board at (405) 521-6550.
- Insist on a written agreement that includes all relevant details for the project
- Be wary of contractors who:
- Solicit door-to-door
- Require substantial up-front payment or request payment in cash•Use high pressure or aggressive sales tactics
- Resist the use of a written contract
In counties where the Governor or the President has declared a state of emergency:
- During the declaration of emergency and for 30 days thereafter, price increases of 10% or more on most goods and services are prohibited.
- During the declaration of emergency and for 180 days thereafter, price increases of 10% or more on dwelling units, storage space and goods related to home repair or restoration are prohibited.
- Common complaints:
- Food and Water
- Hotel Rooms and Apartments
- Rental Cars
- Building Materials
Donation Tips (2)
At the national level, many voluntary-, faith- and community-based organizations are active in disasters, and are trusted ways to donate to disaster survivors. In addition to the national members, each state has its own list of voluntary organizations active in disasters. If you’d like to donate or volunteer to assist those affected by the Oklahoma storms, these organizations are the best place to start.
Cash offers voluntary agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and pumps money into the local economy to help businesses recover. Remember, unsolicited donated goods such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, and mixed or perishable foodstuffs require helping agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing services to sort, package, transport, warehouse and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.
FEMA Disaster Assistance (16)
Please call 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585) or go online at www.disasterassistance.gov. You can call as often as you like to get your questions answered. You can also ask about the location of disaster recovery centers, where you can meet face to face with disaster specialists.
Receiving such a letter does not necessarily mean that you are not eligible for disaster assistance, even when the letter states “ineligible” or “incomplete.” It can be an indication that further information is needed, or that your insurance claim needs to be settled first before disaster assistance can be granted
Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or a qualified alien to be eligible for FEMA assistance. However, assistance may be available to a household if someone registers on behalf of a minor child in the home who is a U.S. citizen or a qualified alien under 18.
No. The funds are grants that do not have to be repaid.
No. State and FEMA disaster assistance will not affect your Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, supplemental nutrition assistance or similar benefits you receive.
After you register, your completed application is reviewed, and an inspector may call to schedule an inspection at your damaged dwelling.
If you are eligible for assistance, FEMA’s Households and Individuals Program will send you a U.S. Treasury/state check or a direct deposit to your bank account if you signed up for it. Other types of assistance may be provided later, based on specific eligibility and need.
FEMA leaves the rental choices to survivors. For example, you may use your rental assistance to rent an apartment, a house or a recreational vehicle (RV). RVs can include travel trailers or other prefabricated dwellings.
Yes. If you are a renter and your house was made unlivable by a disaster, you may be eligible for disaster grants for rental assistance and other serious disaster-related needs.
You can go online to www.disasterassistance.gov.
If denied FEMA assistance, follow these steps:
- Read the letter carefully. There will be a reason for denial stated in the letter and normally, what the individual has to do to correct any problems
- Take the letter to the nearest Disaster Response Center, let the staff know you are registered and that you need assistance in correcting a problem with your request
- At this stage, a lot of denials are because the individual either hasn't had time to get their insurance policy copy to FEMA or haven't gotten other insurance documentation (settlement statement) to FEMA
- Individuals may also attempt to resolve the problem by calling 1-800-621-3362 or at www.disasterassistance.gov.
Individual Assistance may include:
- Grants to help pay for temporary housing and home repairs
- Grants to help pay for personal property replacement or disaster-related necessary expenses—such as uninsured medical and dental costs, damaged vehicle replacement, lost work tools, and moving and storage fees related to the disaster
- Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
FEMA registrants must use the name that appears on their Social Security card. Applicants will be asked to provide:
- Social Security number
- Address of the damaged home or apartment
- Description of the damage
- Information about insurance coverage
- A current contact telephone number
- An address where they can get mail
- Bank account and routing numbers if they want direct deposit of any financial assistance
Yes. FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments, but under-insured applicants may receive help after their insurance claims have been settled. Also, registering with FEMA is required for federal aid, even if the person has registered with another disaster-relief organization such as the American Red Cross, or local community or church organization.
Individuals and business owners in the designated counties can register online at www.disasterassistance.gov or via smartphone at m.fema.gov. Applicants may also call 1-800-621-3362 or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585. If you use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., 7 days a week until further notice.
Disaster Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, and for other serious disaster-related needs, such as medical and dental expenses or funeral and burial costs.
Health and Safety (4)
The Oklahoma City-County Health Department works closely with local municipalities to assist with public health issues if needed and offers the following tips:
When returning to your home after a flood, be aware that floodwater may contain sewage or other hazards. Protect yourself and your family by following these steps:
- Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup is completed
- Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected area
- Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as, mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, wall coverings and most paper products)
- Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters
- Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, counter tops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent
- Help the drying process by using fans, air conditioning units, and dehumidifiers
- After completing the cleanup, wash your hands with soap and warm water. Use water that has been boiled for 1 minute (allow the water to cool before using).
- Or you may use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (solution of teaspoon [~0.75 milliliters] of household bleach per 1 gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use a solution of teaspoon (~1.5 milliliters) of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.
- Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.
- Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill
- If you are cut or have a puncture wound while working in the floodwater or with items that were exposed to the floodwater, be sure your tetanus immunization is up to date
- Be particularly careful to thoroughly disinfect surfaces that may come in contact with food, such as counter tops, pantry shelves, refrigerators, etc. Areas where small children play should also be carefully cleaned.
- Wear sturdy shoes or boots with no open toes.
- Wear heavy gloves
- Apply lots of sunscreen
- Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated
- Keep a first aid kit nearby
- Get a tetanus shot
Review the guidelines in the Oklahoma City-County Health Department's Food Safety and Power Outages document.
Anyone who has not had a tetanus booster within the past 10 years should get one before picking through debris.
Insurance Claims (8)
Call the Oklahoma Insurance Department’s consumer hotline at 1-800-522-0071.
- Once you have re-established your home following the disaster, take time to do a home inventory. You can download a home inventory spreadsheet to help get started. You can also download the free NAIC myHOME Scr.APP.book app for iPhone. The app guides you through capturing images, descriptions, bar codes and serial numbers, and storing them electronically for safekeeping. The app even creates a back-up file for e-mail sharing.
- Once you have completed the home inventory, talk with your agent to make sure your homeowners or renter's policy is adequate to cover your new investments.
- When you file a claim you will be asked to make a list of everything damaged or destroyed. This process can be easier with a good home inventory. If you do not have a home inventory, sit down as a family and make the list room by room. If you forget something in your initial list, you can add to it at a later date.
If there is a disagreement about the claim settlement, ask the company for the specific language in the policy that is in the question. Find out if the disagreement is because you and the insurance company interpret your policy differently. If this disagreement results in a claim denial, make sure you obtain a written letter explaining the reason for the denial and the specific policy language under which the claim is being denied.
Also, don’t rush into a settlement. If the first offer made by an insurance company does not meet your expectations, be prepared to negotiate to get a fair settlement. If you have any questions regarding the fairness of your settlement, seek professional advice.
- Your insurance company will send an insurance adjuster to survey the damage at no cost to you. Public adjusters may offer the same services, but you would be responsible for any related fees. Check to be sure they are licensed with the state insurance department and ask for references and qualifications before retaining an independent adjuster.
- Do not feel rushed or pushed to agree on a settlement. If there are disagreements, try to resolve them with your insurer. If you cannot reach an agreement, your state insurance department can help you decide if arbitration or mediation is an option.
- Your full claim may come in multiple payments. The first will likely be an emergency advance and may include additional living expenses. The payment for your personal property and any additional living expenses will be made out to you. Payments for the structure may be payable to you and your lien holder if there is a mortgage on your home. Lenders may place that money in an escrow account to pay for repairs as the work is completed.
- Most insurance companies have a time requirement for filing a claim. The process will go faster if you can locate a copy of your policy and home inventory.
- Call the company or visit a mobile claims center to start your claim.
- You will be asked to list all items destroyed, damaged or missing. If you do not have a home inventory, begin making a list of items going room by room from memory. Include as much detail as possible, like where and when the item was purchased, the cost, brand name and model.
- If your car is damaged while in your garage/carport, it is covered by your automobile policy—not your homeowners policy. If you are insured by two separate companies for these coverages you must file a claim with both companies.
If your area has storm damage, it is likely your local agent is dealing with the same issues. You should have a copy of your policy or insurance card with your disaster preparation materials, but if you do not, an insurance company representative should be able to help you find this information. Often insurance companies will mobilize disaster response teams to come to you following large-scale disasters. A disaster response team that comes to your area can help you figure out what damages are covered, can start your insurance claim and will often cut you a check toward that claim to help you start the recovery process.
The Oklahoma Insurance Department will also help you find contact information for your insurance company following a widespread disaster. They can also help answer questions about your coverage or assist if you are having problems with your claim.
If your home has damage, once it is safe, it is your responsibility to make sure that the damage is not made worse because you did not take action. That means if you have a part of your roof missing, it is your responsibility to make the effort to cover the hole. As part of your claim, your insurance company will typically reimburse the expense of these temporary repairs—assuming the loss was caused by a covered peril—so keep all of your receipts. Before making any repairs, take photos of the damage. If you remove personal property from the home, do not dispose of it until an adjuster from your insurance company has reviewed it for your claim. Many policies include reimbursement for storage costs.
The days following a natural disaster can be confusing and stressful, but it is important that you focus on filing your insurance claim(s) as quickly as possible to help protect your financial future.
The first step to getting your home restored is to contact your insurance company and/or agent with your policy number and other relevant information. Be aware that your policy might require that you make this notification within a certain time frame.
Take photographs/video of the damage before clean-up or repairs. After you've documented the damage, make repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property (cover broken windows, leaking roofs and damaged walls). Do not have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs. Be prepared to provide the claims adjuster with records of any improvements you made prior to the damage. Save all receipts, including those from the temporary repairs.
If your home is damaged to the extent that you cannot live there, ask your insurance company or insurance agent if you have coverage for additional living expenses.
Cooperate fully with the insurance company. Ask what documents, forms and data you will need to file the claim. Keep a diary of all conversations you have with the insurance company and your insurance agent, including names, times and dates of the calls or visits and contact details.
Be certain to give your insurance company all the information they need. Incorrect or incomplete information may cause a delay in processing your claim.
If the first offer made by the insurance company does not meet your expectations, be prepared to negotiate. If there is a disagreement about the claim, ask the company for the specific language in the policy in question and determine why you and the company interpret your policy differently. If you believe you are being treated unfairly, contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department.
Legal Assistance (1)
Yes, visit the Oklahoma Bar Association's Disaster Response Legal Services web page or contact the bar association during the hours of 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at 1-866-341-8416.
Replacing Documents (6)
Contact your bank or the mortgage company where you make your mortgage payment to replace your mortgage papers. For deed information, contact your local government.
Replace your drivers license or ID. If you've lost your license or ID as the result of a natural disaster, you should report the loss to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety at (405) 425-2477.
If your Oklahoma drivers license has not expired, visit any tag agency. They can verify your identity through fingerprints, if you have them on file, and provide you with a replacement license. If your license has expired, or your fingerprints are not on file with the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, you must provide primary proof of identification. Acceptable forms of primary proof of identification may be found on the DPS website.
If you have lost documents or other materials containing personal or financial information:
- Contact your financial institutions as soon as possible
- Contact credit bureaus:
- Transunion – 1-800-680-7289
- Experian – 1-888-397-3742
- Equifax – 1-800-525-6285
Guard against identity theft. If you've been separated from vital documents that confirm your identity and if those articles fall into the wrong hands, you may have reason to be concerned about identity theft. If you suspect that someone has stolen your identity, contact local law enforcement immediately and retain the police report for your records.
If you have a “secure checking” account, remember to monitor all of your information through the ID Protect feature. Your bank will help you replace lost checks, debit and ATM cards associated with your account. If you feel that your personal information may be in immediate danger then consider placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit file. Contact the Federal Trade Commission or call the identity theft helpline at 877-438-4338 for more information.
If a natural disaster has forced you to evacuate without IDs, checks, credit and debit cards, and other documents needed to conduct your everyday finances. If you've lost important documents, you'll want to get started replacing them as soon as possible.
SBA Disaster Loans (5)
Yes. An online application is available at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.
Yes. If you received an SBA application, it’s a good idea to fill it out and return it to SBA. If you don’t qualify for a loan, SBA may refer you for a FEMA grant to help replace disaster-damaged essential personal property such as damaged or destroyed major appliances.
No. SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes (including landlords) and private nonprofit organizations for disaster damage not fully covered by insurance or other compensation.
SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and most private nonprofit organizations.
SBA disaster loans can be used to repair or replace the following items damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster: real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment and inventory and business assets.
Volunteer Tips (4)
FEMA is advising people who want to help survivors to do so through affiliation with the voluntary organizations that are active in the ongoing disaster operations. More information on volunteering and donations can be found at www.fema.gov/volunteer-donate-responsibly.
Recovery lasts a lot longer than the media attention. There will be volunteer needs for many months, often years, after the disaster - especially when the community enters the long-term recovery period.
Do not self deploy until a need has been identified and the local community impacted has requested support. Wait until it is safe to travel to volunteer sites and opportunities have been identified. Once assigned a position, make sure you have been given an assignment and are wearing proper safety gear for the task.
Volunteer with a non-profit organization and be trained before the next event to find meaningful volunteer opportunities following a disaster. There are many organizations and faith-based groups in your community that have active disaster programs and need volunteers. These groups offer a wide range of services following a disaster: