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Office of Emergency Management
Recovery Resources

In the face of devastating and life-altering damage, it is not uncommon for families to feel frustrated and concerned. The road to recovery takes time.

Everyone has an important role to play in repairing and rebuilding our communities, and there are steps you can take to ensure the safety of you and your family as you move forward through this transition.

It's also important to know you are not alone. Your community, local and state governments, and the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) are here to support you and provide information, resources, and needed assistance.

After a disaster call 703-792-6000 for information on shelter locations, how to report damage, and assistance with unmet needs such as food or debris cleanup.


  • Whether you have insurance or not, reporting your damage as soon as possible allows your local government to include your losses in its damage assessments. The greater the financial loss/damages, the more likely your locality is to qualify for federal assistance, which benefits those impacted.

  • Document all storm damage sustained to your home and belongings. Take photos before and after cleanup and after repairs are completed.


  • Record all damage sustained and create lists of damaged items including model numbers, estimated value, and photos, if possible.

  • Do not begin repairs prior to filing your insurance claims.

  • Keep your receipts for any disaster-related expenses you have made, such as lodging, medical, repair and cleaning supplies, etc.

  • Since flood damage is not always covered by homeowners insurance, flood insurance is important for people living in high-risk flood zones.

    • If you are a renter, also contact your landlord to report flooding or structural damage. Landlords are typically only responsible for your building, not your personal belongings.

  • If possible, take steps to avoid additional property damage. Insurance companies usually require policyholders to take reasonable steps to prevent the original damage from getting worse.


Safety First

Beware of potential structural damage and debris before re-entering your home. And stay away from all downed power lines–for safety purposes, always assume that a fallen power line is live and dangerous.


Cleaning and disinfecting your household after an emergency is important to help prevent the spread of illness and disease. Ensure you take proper steps to clean up any flood damage and debris:

  • Make sure you remove any wet items from your home and clean all affected surfaces with detergent and water to prevent hazardous mold. Controlling moisture in your home is the most critical factor for preventing the growth of mold, especially within the first 24-48 hours after flooding.

  • When in doubt, throw it out! Remove all items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried, such as carpeting, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, floor and ceiling tiles, insulation material, etc. These items can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from the home. Additionally, throw away any food that has come in contact with floodwaters or food that has spoiled due to power loss.

  • Check for signs of water damage or mold growth, which can be indicated by discoloration in walls and ceilings or a bad odor. If you have damage to report or require additional assistance, call 2-1-1 for information and resources. It's important to know that flood insurance and FEMA assistance do NOT cover mold remediation.

  • If you are provided with a clean-up kit and are unable to use it due to a disability or medical issue, contact your local government or call 2-1-1 for assistance.


You can prevent future damage to your home and property while making repairs. If your house was flooded, consider the following options to avoid loss in the future:

  • Elevate your water heater off the floor.

  • Move your main electrical panel to a better location.

  • Elevate your home above flood level.

  • Build floodwalls or berms to protect your home against floodwaters.

  • Seal the building to keep floodwaters out.

  • Local building codes usually require a building permit before you start to repair or alter your home. And residents may want to put their belongings into storage or keep them outside until repairs can be completed.

  • Tarps can be used to prevent additional rainwater from entering and damaging the home.

Virginia Department of Emergency Management's Eight Steps to Recovery

Step 1: Take care of your family and yourself first

  • Keep your family together.  Arrange for temporary shelter, food and clothing.  The American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and church groups can offer a variety of assistance.

  • Get enough rest and eat properly.  You are more likely to make the right decisions.

  • Talk to others who are going through the same thing.

  • Make a list of jobs and tackle them one at a time.  Set a realistic schedule to clean up and rebuild.

Step 2: Assess the damage

  • Make sure it is safe to go back to your home.

  • If you had to evacuate, local radio or TV will tell you when you can go back to your home.

  • Make sure the building is safe and structurally sound before you enter. If you see obvious damage, contact your community's building inspector or a contractor to check the house.

  • Call your insurance agent. Take photographs or video the damage before you begin a cleanup.

    • Homeowner's insurance does not cover flooding.

  • You may be eligible for federal assistance to cover what your insurance policy doesn't.  You may be eligible for funds to prevent damage in the future. Learn how to apply for federal assistance.

  • Keep receipts related to the disaster and your recovery.  You could be reimbursed by your insurance and other assistance.

Step 3: Give your house some first aid

  • Make sure the power is turned off.  Practice generator safety.

  • Turn off the gas.  If you suspect a leak or smell gas, leave immediately and call the gas company.

  • Drain your basement carefully.

  • Shovel out as much mud as possible first.  With the power off, hose the house down and start the clean up.

Step 4: Dry out your home

  • Air out the house – open doors, windows, closet and cabinet doors.  Use fans and dehumidifiers.  Drain and dry the ceilings, walls and floors.

  • Use products like kitty litter, chemical dehumidifier packs and calcium chloride pellets to remove moisture.

  • Sort contents and discard debris.

  • Because of the risk of serious illness, throw out water-soaked food, cosmetics, medicines and medical supplies, stuffed animals and baby toys.

  • Call a contractor for work that you can't do yourself.

Step 5: Restore the utilities

Call a professional to restore power, water and gas to your home.

Step 6: Clean up the mess

Every flooded part of your house should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Follow these general rules:

  • Make sure your work area is well-ventilated.

  • Use one bucket for your cleaning solution, one for your rinse water and replace the rinse water frequently.

  • Use cleaning products with caution.  Bleach should not be mixed with other household products, especially ammonia, because a poisonous gas will form.

  • Wash exposed skin frequently and wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.

  • Wash with chlorine bleach or a disinfectant.  Add one tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach to one gallon of water.

Step 7: Rebuild and mitigate

You can prevent future damage to your home and property while making repairs.  This is called mitigation.  If your house was flooded, consider the following options to avoid loss in the future:

  • Elevate your water heater off the floor.

  • Have the main electrical panel moved to a better location.

  • Elevate your home above flood level.

  • Build floodwalls or berms to protect your home against the floodwaters.

  • Seal the building to keep floodwaters out.

Local building codes usually require a building permit before you start to repair or alter your home.

Step 8: Prepare for next time

  • Make an emergency plan .

  • Get an emergency supply kit .

  • Be aware of all the threats that could affect your area.

  • Buy flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.  Call your insurance agent, or call the NFIP at 1-800-427-4661.

Hiring Contractors

Inspectors with the Federal Emergency Management Agency may visit neighborhoods following a disaster, and all FEMA inspectors will have proper photo identification. Be aware that FEMA and Small Business Administration inspectors never charge applicants for disaster assistance or for inspections.

  • Ask to see state or local permits or licenses of anyone approaching you about services related to the disaster.

  • Try to use established local contractors recommended by people you know and trust.

  • Get receipts for all repair payments, including cash.

  • Be especially alert for door-to-door solicitors who ask for large cash deposits or for entire payments in advance.

  • Do not make a check payable to a person other than the owner or the company name.

  • Be wary of contractors who promise to speed up the insurance or building permit process.

  • Get written estimates before you sign a contract or make down payments.

If you have been victimized or you are concerned about people representing themselves as contractors, contact the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation or the Better Business Bureau.

Taking Stock of Losses



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