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After A DisasterItems You May Need After a DisasterHere is a starter list of some things you should buy or look into after a disaster. Emergency and Disaster ServicesHere are links to organizations and resources that provide assistance and information in an emergency or natural disaster.How Social Workers Help Disaster SurvivorsWe interviewed, received advice and gathered ideas from social workers around the country to give you an idea of what social workers do and how they help after a disaster or fire.Dial 2-1-1 for Community HelpYou've heard about 9-1-1 and 4-1-1, now there's 2-1-1, a number dedicated to connecting people with helpful community services and volunteer opportunities.How Disasters Are DeclaredA major disaster could result from a hurricane, earthquake, flood, tornado or major fire. The event must be clearly more than state or local governments can handle alone. Temporary Housing Data SheetDepending upon the damage, you may be staying in your home, a friend's home, a hotel, or a shelter. Should you need temporary housing, here is a brief form for you to write down your temporary housing details.FEMA Disaster Recovery CentersDisaster Recovery Centers are temporary centers set up in a federal disaster area, helping local residents through the federal assistance application process and also offer recovery advice.Water Quality and Safety PrecautionsWhen it comes to food and water, err on the side of contamination until you know better. (In other words, guilty until proven innocent.)Federal Food Safety GuidelinesHas your fridge or freezer turned off and the food is still inside? Apply the golden rule for food safety: "If In Doubt, Throw It Out." Below are general food safety and cleaning tips from the government's food safety guidelines.Contacting Others After a Disaster or TraumaThe most important thing to realize is that you are safe. Now, let others know how you are — and where you are.Disaster Assistance TimelineHere is a timeline breaking down how your local emergency management services, first responders and other organizations will respond after a natural disaster. Disaster Relief Financial Assistance OptionsExperts we've interviewed say that the severity of a natural disaster affects the time it takes to receive financial assistance.Handling Emotional and Physical Stress After a DisasterNatural disasters cause emotional and physical stress — and a host of reactions including anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, sadness, anger, fatigue, hopelessness, irrational fears, and nightmares.FEMA Common Misconceptions about Disaster AidHere are some common misconceptions about FEMA from FEMA.FEMA Questions to AskAs with an insurance agent, these questions for FEMA officials may confirm what you already know, or may help you understand what processes, timelines and what federal aid is available.FEMA Types of Disaster AidThe following information is from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).Filing for Federal Disaster ReliefFederal Disaster Relief is available after the President issues a disaster declaration for your area. Visit FEMA's (Federal Emergency Management Agency) site, to see if a disaster declaration has been made in your area.Helping Others Hit by DisasterImmediately or soon after an emergency or natural disaster, many people want to help. Here are some tips to help you help others. Review these, be safe, be smart.About the American Red CrossThe American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization led by volunteers, with a mission to provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.In the News How to Get Disaster InformationMedia web sites are good resources for local information, breaking news and weather updates during and after natural disasters. Here are some ways to use the media to your best advantage.In the News Reporting on DisastersAfter a major disaster — fire, natural disaster or other catastrophe — the media will mostly like arrive on the scene. Here's what to know.Tax Tips After a DisasterAfter a disaster, fire or other major loss, bills and expenses can pile up quickly. Luckily, there are some IRS forms you can complete to receive immediate help and possibly get additional tax relief over the next few years. Who Will Help You After a Disaster?After a storm, local and regional authorities — such as police officers, firefighters, ambulance services and state or municipal service workers — may be dispatched to severely affected areas. Here's what to know.

Tax Tips After a Disaster

After a disaster, fire or other major loss, bills and expenses can pile up quickly.

Luckily, there are some IRS forms you can complete to receive immediate help and possibly get additional tax relief over the next few years. Here are some top tax prep tips from tax preparers and specialists:

First things first.

Document the damage – take photographs, keep receipts and write down all the details and events that happen after the major disaster, fire or loss.

According to H&R Block, "this will be helpful in calculating the amount of your loss and may also prove beneficial to take photos showing the condition of the property after it is restored or replaced."

Make an appointment to meet with a tax preparer.

"Anybody who's involved in a disaster should see a tax preparer for the intricacies of the forms," says Glen Wielandt, Vice-President of Operations for Roni Deutch Tax Center Franchise.

Tax codes change frequently so it is best to meet with a well-trained preparer to help with the extra forms you'll need to complete.

WHN Tip: Recoup the Costs
If you're worried about the tax preparer's fee, usually you'll recoup the costs through the tax refunds you'll receive.

WHN Tip: Affected by a Federal Disaster?
Tax filing deadlines may be adjusted to accommodate affected victims. The IRS also has a page dedicated to providing tax relief information for the most recently affected storm and disaster victims. To see if you qualify for an extension, visit the IRS website here.

Assess value before and after.

Before your meeting, assess your home's fair-market value before and then after the disaster.

"It's important to find out the fair-market value of your home before the casualty and after of the casualty," says Wielandt. "This is critical right now because home prices are going down."

If your home was destroyed, find out the value of the land since the property is valuable as well. Talk to local real estate offices and local realtors. They may be able to help with assessments.

Had significant damage? Read Documenting Fire and Storm Damage.

Bring documents.

When you go to your meeting, bring:

  • Social Security Card
  • Photo ID
  • Insurance claims and reimbursement records
  • FEMA claims and reimbursement records
  • SBA claims and reimbursement records
  • Police reports (if you have one)
  • W-2
  • 1099
  • Receipts for expenses after the disaster (anything goes – clothing, hotel bills, restaurants, expenses incurred as a result of missing work, child care, etc.)
  • Previous tax records.

WHN Expert Tips—Files Destroyed?
"If you have a fire and you lose all your paperwork, you'll need to get copies or transcripts of tax records from the IRS," says Wielandt. Ask your tax preparer what forms to fill out to get your paperwork. According to H&R Block, the IRS will waive fees and expedite requests for copies or transcripts of your federal tax return.

  • Inventory list of all the items that were damaged by the disaster or fire.

WHN Tip: Appreciation and Worth
Worth: This is the value of each item you own. Many people either undervalue or overvalue their items. Appreciation: If you buy a television for $1,000, it's not going to be worth a thousand dollars the next year. The tax preparer can help you with that.

Ask Key Questions.

Anytime after a disaster is difficult – even more so when you have financial issues looming. When you meet with your tax preparer, ask about options for your refund and which ones might be more beneficial for you.

According to Wielandt, you may be able to carry the refund forward over the next 20 years, giving you future tax relief, or you might be able to carry the refund back 2 years, which would amend your old tax return, thus giving you an immediate refund.

Forget to ask something? You can always schedule another meeting to complete necessary business.

After the Meeting, Plan Ahead.

"Usually we don't think ahead, we think behind," says Wielandt. "When you purchase a big-ticket item, keep the invoice or receipt, take a picture of the item and add it to your home inventory list. That proof becomes important after a disaster or fire." 

Read our Create a Home Inventory List for tips on documenting your possessions.

After A DisasterItems You May Need After a DisasterHere is a starter list of some things you should buy or look into after a disaster. Emergency and Disaster ServicesHere are links to organizations and resources that provide assistance and information in an emergency or natural disaster.How Social Workers Help Disaster SurvivorsWe interviewed, received advice and gathered ideas from social workers around the country to give you an idea of what social workers do and how they help after a disaster or fire.Dial 2-1-1 for Community HelpYou've heard about 9-1-1 and 4-1-1, now there's 2-1-1, a number dedicated to connecting people with helpful community services and volunteer opportunities.How Disasters Are DeclaredA major disaster could result from a hurricane, earthquake, flood, tornado or major fire. The event must be clearly more than state or local governments can handle alone. Temporary Housing Data SheetDepending upon the damage, you may be staying in your home, a friend's home, a hotel, or a shelter. Should you need temporary housing, here is a brief form for you to write down your temporary housing details.FEMA Disaster Recovery CentersDisaster Recovery Centers are temporary centers set up in a federal disaster area, helping local residents through the federal assistance application process and also offer recovery advice.Water Quality and Safety PrecautionsWhen it comes to food and water, err on the side of contamination until you know better. (In other words, guilty until proven innocent.)Federal Food Safety GuidelinesHas your fridge or freezer turned off and the food is still inside? Apply the golden rule for food safety: "If In Doubt, Throw It Out." Below are general food safety and cleaning tips from the government's food safety guidelines.Contacting Others After a Disaster or TraumaThe most important thing to realize is that you are safe. Now, let others know how you are — and where you are.Disaster Assistance TimelineHere is a timeline breaking down how your local emergency management services, first responders and other organizations will respond after a natural disaster. Disaster Relief Financial Assistance OptionsExperts we've interviewed say that the severity of a natural disaster affects the time it takes to receive financial assistance.Handling Emotional and Physical Stress After a DisasterNatural disasters cause emotional and physical stress — and a host of reactions including anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, sadness, anger, fatigue, hopelessness, irrational fears, and nightmares.FEMA Common Misconceptions about Disaster AidHere are some common misconceptions about FEMA from FEMA.FEMA Questions to AskAs with an insurance agent, these questions for FEMA officials may confirm what you already know, or may help you understand what processes, timelines and what federal aid is available.FEMA Types of Disaster AidThe following information is from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).Filing for Federal Disaster ReliefFederal Disaster Relief is available after the President issues a disaster declaration for your area. Visit FEMA's (Federal Emergency Management Agency) site, to see if a disaster declaration has been made in your area.Helping Others Hit by DisasterImmediately or soon after an emergency or natural disaster, many people want to help. Here are some tips to help you help others. Review these, be safe, be smart.About the American Red CrossThe American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization led by volunteers, with a mission to provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.In the News How to Get Disaster InformationMedia web sites are good resources for local information, breaking news and weather updates during and after natural disasters. Here are some ways to use the media to your best advantage.In the News Reporting on DisastersAfter a major disaster — fire, natural disaster or other catastrophe — the media will mostly like arrive on the scene. Here's what to know.Tax Tips After a DisasterAfter a disaster, fire or other major loss, bills and expenses can pile up quickly. Luckily, there are some IRS forms you can complete to receive immediate help and possibly get additional tax relief over the next few years. Who Will Help You After a Disaster?After a storm, local and regional authorities — such as police officers, firefighters, ambulance services and state or municipal service workers — may be dispatched to severely affected areas. Here's what to know.