September 2, 2005

Disaster Advice

I received this via a homeschool list and thought it was worth posting. Hope it helps someone.

No. 33, September 1, 2005
Special Edition

Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
I've been asked how to best help the folks reeling from the aftermath
of hurricane Katrina. I'm departing from this week's Freedom Letter to
render what advice I can offer for those eager to help with
assistance. The following is only my personal opinion from my
experience after hurricane Charley and it is not any type of
professional, legal, or financial advice.

Phase I
The recovery from hurricane Katrina is in phase one. It is the stage
when you are numb from being smacked by a hurricane. Every modern
convenience has been taken from you. All community services
(hospitals, sanitation, water, electricity, fire protection, phone,
etc) are gone. Right now the need is getting emergency water and food
to the victims.

During phase I after hurricane Charley, the President of the United
States was giving out water and ice just a couple of miles from my
home. The entire nation was focused on helping us. Our local parish
had so many items trucked in from other parishes and from Catholic
Charities that they had a hard time distributing all the emergency

Although people are literally dying of thirst as I write, within 48 to
72 hours they are going to be inundated with water and emergency food
supplies. What these people need is on the way already. My suggestion
(and this is only my suggestion) is that you concentrate your support
on phase II of recovery.

Emergency Phase I Repairs
For the homes that were temporarily flooded and no longer have water
in them, the best practical assistance is helping to get all the wet
building materials out of the house this weekend.

You wouldn't believe the disgusting molds that can grow on wet drywall
and insulation in humid climates like the areas hit by hurricane

The best practical Phase I help we received was getting our roof
temporarily repaired and getting the wet ceilings, walls, and
insulation out of the house. The weekend after hurricane Charley my
contractor friend, Thom Jordan in Tallahassee, gathered his crew and
drove hours to Port Charlotte to remove wet ceilings, walls, and
insulation from our home. It is imperative to get everything wet out
of the house ASAP. If you know of a family with a wet, but not still
flooded home, then either hire a contractor to go there and remove the
wet building materials, or gather some friends and drive there and do
it for the family you know.

Phase II
Phase II begins after the initial emergency period. It is when the
realization of what happened starts to sink in along with the
awareness that it is going to take a very long time for things to

At this stage, families start making their recovery plan. I could tell
phase II began here in Port Charlotte when I heard lots of families
cussing at each other while shopping in a re-opened Wal-Mart. The
shock is wearing off and the stress really begins.

I am going to be very blunt with my advice. From the news reports I've
seen, I would advise most families in the worst disaster areas to
relocate, not rebuild. It is extremely difficult to rebuild after such
widespread devastation. I've had workers in my home this week and
hurricane Charley was over a year ago. There are homes and businesses
that haven't even begun to rebuild here and Katrina's damage is much
more severe. My advice is simple: get out, unless you have a
compelling reason to stay and rebuild.

Therefore, my advice to those of you wishing to assist those hit by
hurricane Katrina is to focus your giving on helping families to
relocate. This would involve:
U-haul rental, if there is anything left to move
Transportation to the new location
Used automobile (if auto has been destroyed)
First and last month's rent on a furnished apartment, house, or condo
First month's utilities and utility deposit
Food money for at least a month
A few sets of clothing for the family and some toys for the kids
Tools needed for a new job
Helping the breadwinners to locate a new job ASAP

I don't know of any organization focusing something like the above,
but you can start this type of assistance immediately by getting
friends, family, and your parish to sponsor a relocating family. Just
find someone who knows a family that wants to relocate and help them.
This plan is not perpetual welfare, but a simple, short-term plan to
get a family back on its feet.

The poor who were dependent upon the federal government for assistance
before the hurricane, are probably going to have to depend upon the
same after the hurricane. What happened here is that FEMA set up a
mobile-home mini-city for those who could not find or afford temporary
housing. The look of the FEMA city is a bit haunting with no colors,
no landscaping, just rows and rows of mobile homes. Yet at least they
are clean, dry, and livable facilities for poor families.

The Nightmare of Dealing with Insurance Companies
During phase II, many families will discover that their insurance
companies are rotten scoundrels. (Remember, this is my personal
opinion.) They will be late in paying and will estimate way below
repair or replacement cost. Dealing with Liberty Mutual in the months
following hurricane Charley was my biggest nightmare. If I received
only what they initially offered me to repair my home, we couldn't
have afforded to fix it. We would have lost our home. They were very
late in paying for repairs and we had to sell assets to pay
installments on repairs. For the five months before we moved out of
our rental home in July, Liberty Mutual didn't give us a cent for
temporary housing. The rent check finally arrived after we had already
moved back in our home.

There were a few insurance companies in our community that were fair
and timely with meeting their obligations, but they were in a

The single best thing I did after hurricane Charley was to hire
independent insurance adjusters that did battle with our insurance
company for us. I emphasize that you need honest adjusters. The first
set of adjusters we hired were unlicensed. They were arrested at
gunpoint by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The second adjuster we hired, Ron Delo with Insurance Claims
Consultants, was an angel sent from heaven. I can't begin to describe
his help in getting a fair adjustment from our insurance company. I
just called Ron before writing this letter and he is heading to
Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. If you are interested in what he
offers, call 800-572-7914. If you really need to reach Ron in an
emergency situation, call him on his satellite phone at (254)

I am not making any type of formal, legal, or financial recommendation
for Ron. I am just telling you how he was an incredible help to our
family and to the Family Life Center in our recovery from Charley. Ron
is the type of person I would recommend to a family member that had
been slammed by another hurricane.

If the family you know is planning to rebuild, or if they want to move
on and relocate, they will probably come out way ahead with their
insurance company if they use a licensed and reputable insurance
adjuster. Help them find one.

I apologize for the length of this letter, but I felt that the
seriousness of the situation following hurricane Katrina demanded that
I offer what little advice I could.

Yours in His Majesty's Service,

Steve Wood

P.S. If you are sending a care package to a family, include a few cans
of stuff to fix flat tires. Flats have been a major headache all year
long following hurricane Charley. They are a super headache when there
aren't any tire repair shops open.

Copyright © 2005, Family Life Center International Inc.

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