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Hurricane season is here. Get these documents in order before a storm hits.

Kezia Setyawan
A woman sits on a balcony of the Lake Houmas Inn after the roof caved in and floodwaters cover the parking lot on Aug. 30, 2021 following Hurricane Ida.

Hurricane season is here, and we’re likely to see heightened activity in the tropics again this year.

To save yourself stress when severe weather arrives, now’s as good a time as ever to gather important documents you may need after a storm.

Saving copies of these items in a safe place — on a flash drive to stash in your go-bag if you need to evacuate, or in a waterproof container to keep with you at home — can help alleviate the headache of filing insurance and FEMA claims down the road.

This information is gathered from Ready.gov, Ready.nola.gov, as well as Southerly’s Disaster Glossary.

  • It’s a good idea to take photos of the inside and outside of your home before severe weather strikes, so you have a reference point for damage caused by a storm afterward.
  • Make sure to have a way to identify yourself: keep a government-issued ID with you, like a driver’s license. 
  • Keep birth and marriage certificates on hand.
  • FEMA aid is generally limited to citizens and “qualified aliens.” Keep documents proving citizenship or legal residency with you, like a passport and green card. (And, if you’re undocumented but have a child who is a citizen, your household could still be eligible for assistance from FEMA).
  • Keep Social Security cards for each member of your household with you.
  • Keep important medical records with you, as well as your health insurance card, if you have one. These may help if you need to seek care away from home or get a prescription filled while evacuated. FEMA also may cover medical bills that stem from the disaster.

  • If you own a car, make sure to have your car title, registration documents and insurance information handy.
  • Keep a copy of your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy with you, as well as your flood insurance policy.
  • If you own your home, you’ll want to keep a copy of your deed and mortgage information with you. In recent years, FEMA has expanded the types of documents you can use to verify home ownership: you can use a property tax receipt or bill, a will naming you the heir of the property and a few other documents to do so.
  • If you rent your home, you’ll need to be able to prove occupancy to get certain kinds of assistance. Keep a copy of your lease with you. It’s also a good idea to have utility bills or pay stubs showing you live at the address.
  • It’s a good idea to keep financial records with you, too, like a tax return and a voided check.
  • If you’re in the position of needing to file an appeal on a FEMA or insurance claim down the line, it’s best to keep receipts for things like hotel expenses, gas and repairs. 

WWNO and WRKF are here for you during hurricane season. Have questions as we gear up for severe weather? Submit them at our form, and they’ll help guide our coverage.

Carly Berlin is the New Orleans Reporter for WWNO and WRKF. She focuses on housing, transportation, and city government. Previously, she was the Gulf Coast Correspondent for Southerly, where her work focused on disaster recovery across south Louisiana during two record-breaking hurricane seasons. Much of that reporting centered on the aftermath of Hurricanes Laura and Delta in Lake Charles, and was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.

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