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Facing Harvey: You Flooded. You're Safe. Now what?

Rain from Hurricane Harvey inundates the Cottage Grove neighborhood on Sunday in Houston (Scott Olson/Getty Images).
Rain from Hurricane Harvey inundates the Cottage Grove neighborhood on Sunday in Houston (Scott Olson/Getty Images). (Getty Images)

HOUSTON – Hurricane Harvey’s torrential and persistent rains have flooded thousands of Houston area homes and vehicles. If this is the first time you have flooded, there are some things you need to do quickly to make the recovery process as smooth as possible.

Consumer expert Amy Davis spoke with former flood victim Anthony Garcia to get his advice on the steps you should take now.

1. Get a notebook.
Keep every piece of information concerning this project (home and or vehicle damage claims) in this notebook. Put the date and time of every conversation and who you spoke with about these claims.

2. Call FEMA and get into the system now.
Visit DisasterAssistance.gov to apply for assistance online.  If you experience difficulty applying online, you may also call (800) 621-3362 / TTY (800) 462-7585 to apply during standard hours of operation (7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time), 7 days a week.  Garcia said victims need to “get in line;” and you’d rather be closer to the front than the back.

HOW TO FILE FOR FEMA

3. Alert lenders.
Contact your mortgage company and the bank that holds your car note. In major emergencies like these, they may waive any late fees or give you an extension to make payments. Do not assume they will do this. You have to let them know what is going on. Ask for extensions and late fee waivers. Keep a record of who you speak with, the date and time and what they say.

4. Be leery and cautious of contractors that come to your home.
You will be approached by contractors as soon as you get back into your home. They will try to play on your emotions. Tell them you are not interested. Find a legitimate contractor on your own that you solicit once you have checked out their credentials and business.

5. Document your damages.
Take organized pictures and videos of every room. Say the date and time on each video and what room you are in.

6. Rent a car now.
When you call, ask to be connected to the Houston location or branch office. Garcia discovered the hard way when he reserved a rental car through the 800 number of the business that the local office did not have all of the vehicles that had been reserved. Go or call as soon as you can.

7. Create email folders for home and car claims.
Save all email correspondence in these folders as you receive them. This will make the communications easy to find when you need them later.