Disaster Relief

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab
Read this in: Spanish / Español

Disaster Legal Issue Timelines

About Disaster Legal Issue Timelines

In the aftermath of a disaster, survivors often face various legal challenges. The impact of disasters is extensive, and as a result, there can be numerous legal matters requiring attention. To assist survivors in navigating these complex issues, you can find timelines of legal issues and challenges post-disaster. This helps streamline finding the legal issues that most closely align with your immediate and future legal needs. 

Find the area for disaster assistance you need help and find out more about the legal issues associated with a short-term, medium-term, and long-term timeline below. The more you can inform yourself about legal issues after a disaster, the better you can prepare and deal with a disaster event. 

Disaster Legal Issue Timelines

These are some of the issues that disaster survivors might face related to housing after a disaster segmented into short-term, medium-term, and long-term challenges: 

Short Term - 1 to 6 weeks after the event 

  • Ensuring personal safety and assessments of damaged homes
  • Ensuring access to essential services such as water, electricity, and sanitation
  • Documenting damage 
  • Contacting your landlord
  • Contacting your insurance company
  • Registering for disaster assistance 
  • Seeking temporary housing 
  • Preventing further damage to the property and emergency repairs 

Medium Term - 1 to 6 months after the event

  • Understanding tenant rights for damaged properties, lease termination rights, and landlord's obligations for repairs 
  • Preventing further damage to the property
  • Hiring contractors for repairs and rebuilding
  • Handling mortgage payments and obligations
  • Working with FEMA inspectors and handling FEMA claims
  • Navigating insurance claims, government aid, and other financial assistance

Long Term - 6 months to years after the event

  • Avoiding foreclosure
  • Avoiding mortgage scams and disaster fraud
  • Keeping up with property records 
  • Getting homeowners, renters, or flood insurance 
  • Rebuilding and resilience against future disasters 

Learn more about Housing After a Disaster by clicking here

These are some of the issues that disaster survivors might face related to education and family issues after a disaster segmented into short-term, medium-term, and long-term challenges: 

Short Term - 1 to 6 weeks after the event 

  • School closures and accessing learning materials 
  • Emergency custody orders to ensure child's care and protection
  • Identifying temporary guardians or care situations for children when parents or legal guardians are unable to care for them
  • Filing for temporary protection orders
  • Filing for divorce

Medium Term - 1 to 6 months after the event

  • Implementing temporary educational arrangements
  • Accessing education and healthcare ensures children continue their education and have access to healthcare, which may require addressing custody-related documentation and permissions
  • Repairing damaged educational facilities to enable the return to normal school operations
  • Relocation decisions that can affect existing custody arrangements and agreements
  • Legal custody challenges - especially if pre-disaster arrangements were informal or if a disaster has significantly altered the living or financial situation of the custodial or non-custodial parent
  • Navigating the process of getting a permanent protection order
  • Divorce property and asset divisions
  • Changes in spousal or child support

Long Term - 6 months to years after the event

  • Establishing long-term or permanent custody arrangements that reflect the new realities post-disaster, including changes in living situations, income, and the physical and mental health of parents and children 
  • Adoption and foster care
  • Finalizing divorce

Learn more about Education and Family Issues Related to a Disaster by clicking here


These are some of the issues that disaster survivors might face related to public benefits and assistance after a disaster segmented into short-term, medium-term, and long-term challenges: 

Short Term - 1 to 6 weeks after the event 

  • Getting emergency assistance to meet basic needs such as food, water, shelter, and medical care
  • Finding temporary housing assistance 
  • Applying for disaster SNAP programs
  • Applying to FEMA for benefits
  • Applying for disaster unemployment assistance (DUA)
  • Locating important documents for accessing public benefits (ID, proof of residence, employment records)

Medium Term - 1 to 6 months after the event

  • Navigating FEMA claims and appeals
  • Accessing federal, state, and local housing assistance programs to find suitable shelter, repair damaged homes, or assist with the transition to new permanent residences 
  • Filing weekly claims for disaster unemployment assistance (DUA)
  • Appealing an unemployment benefits decision
  • Applying for SBA loans
  • Replacing important documents for accessing public benefits (ID, proof of residence, employment records)

Long Term - 6 months to years after the event

  • Accessing public benefits for long-term housing needs
  • Recovering from long-term economic disruptions, including job loss, decreased income, and rebuilding of local businesses

Learn more about Public Benefits After A Disaster by clicking here

These are some of the issues that disaster survivors might face related to consumer issues after a disaster segmented into short-term, medium-term, and long-term challenges: 

Short Term - 1 to 6 weeks after the event 

  • Price-gouging and reporting practices of price-gouging
  • Dealing with scams and fraud including fraudulent contractors and disaster-related scams aimed at exploiting survivors 
  • Filing insurance claims for damaged property and possessions
  • Access to cash and banking services 
  • Disruptions to utilities and services 
  • Locating lost documents for property or insurance claims

Medium Term - 1 to 6 months after the event

  • Dealing with contractor fraud leading to poor quality work, unfinished projects, or financial loss 
  • Managing debt, while juggling recovery costs, potential loss of income, and the need to replace personal property or repair homes
  • Managing insurance disputes over claim valuations, coverage determinations, and payout delays 
  • Replacing personal property lost or damaged 

Long Term - 6 months to years after the event

  • Rebuilding credit and managing credit scores through increased debt, missed payments, or disputes with creditors 
  • Buying new homes or selling damaged ones
  • Navigating long-term contracts for reconstruction or repair work

Learn more about Consumer Issues After a Disaster by clicking here

These are some of the issues that disaster survivors might face related to employment and unemployment after a disaster segmented into short-term, medium-term, and long-term challenges: 

Short Term - 1 to 6 weeks after the event 

  • Temporary or permanent job loss
  • Applying for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), unemployment benefits
  • Reduced hours or wages 
  • Increased burdens on workers, impacting their ability to work
  • Unsafe working conditions and access to workplaces 

Medium Term - 1 to 6 months after the event

  • Filing weekly claims for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA)
  • Appealing Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) denials 
  • Dealing with extended business closures 

Long Term - 6 months to years after the event

  • Demand for certain types of jobs and skills mismatch influencing long-term employment opportunities 
  • Facilitating workforce development

Learn more about Employment and Unemployment Legal Issues After a Disaster by clicking here

These are some of the issues that disaster survivors might face related to finances after a disaster segmented into short-term, medium-term, and long-term challenges: 

Short Term - 1 to 6 weeks after the event 

  • Immediate cash needs to cover basic necessities such as food, water, temporary shelter, and medical supplies 
  • Experiencing sudden losses of income if you are unable to work due to the disaster
  • Accessing financial accounts 
  • Immediate financial burden due to property damage, including homes and vehicles, before insurance claims or government assistance can be processed 

Medium Term - 1 to 6 months after the event

  • Insurance claims and disputes
  • Rebuilding, repairing, and replacing homes and personal property belongings 
  • Accruing debt to cover immediate and rebuilding costs
  • Prolonged employment or reduced income

Long Term - 6 months to years after the event

  • Reestablishing financial security and long-term financial planning and stability 
  • Long-term financial challenges including job loss, decreased property values, and reduced investment in the area
  • Credit impacts with increased debt and potential missed payments, which can adversely affect credit scores, making it harder to secure loans or financial assistance in the future
  • Insurance premiums may increase or coverage may be more difficult to obtain, especially in disaster-prone areas, impacting long-term financial planning and property ownership

Learn more about Finance Issues After a Disaster by clicking here. 

These are some of the issues that disaster survivors might face related to other emergency issues including finding missing persons and rebuilding and reconstruction after a disaster segmented into short-term, medium-term, and long-term challenges: 

Short Term - 1 to 6 weeks after the event 

  • Immediate search and rescue operations to find missing persons 
  • Emergency shelters and evacuations
  • Initial assessments of damage to infrastructure, homes, and critical facilities 

Medium Term - 1 to 6 months after the event

  • Ongoing identification efforts to locate missing persons
  • Restoring basic services (water, electricity, roads) and infrastructure 

Long Term - 6 months to years after the event

  • Addressing the legal and financial issues related to missing persons, including inheritance, custody, and property rights 
  • Implementing long-term rebuilding plans
  • Strengthening community resilience through improved infrastructure, disaster preparedness training and emergency planning to mitigate the impact of future disasters

Learn more about Other Emergency Issues After a Disaster by clicking here

Getting Help & Information

Getting Help & Information After A Disaster

After a disaster, accessing help and information quickly is crucial for recovery. Below you can find a comprehensive list of ways to get legal help and access other helpful disaster resources. 

Getting Legal Help

Helpful Disaster Resources

Emergency Medical Assistance

Please dial 9-1-1. 

Emergency Shelter

Locate options by zip code by visiting the American Red Cross, or Salvation Army, or by texting SHELTER and your zip code (for example, “SHELTER 01234”) to 4FEMA (43362). For Spanish text REFUGIO and your zip code. (Standard text message rates apply.)  You can also download the FEMA Mobile App to find open shelters.

Louisiana State Government

The Louisiana State Government and the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) serves as the Governor's authorized representative for disaster events. GOHSEP is responsible for coordinating resources for state and local governments, private non-profits, and Louisiana citizens. 


Ready.gov offers information about disasters and emergencies and how to make plans. 

Department Of Homeland Security (DHS) - Prepare My Family For A Disaster

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides information to help you prepare with your family for a disaster. This includes information planning resources to help you prepare for a disaster event. 

Get A Game Plan

Get a Game Plan is by the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP). The website has emergency alerts and warnings, news and updates, and public service announcements. The website also has information about disaster help and related resources for assistance. 

RedCross - How to Prepare For Emergencies

The Red Cross helps those who are affected by emergencies such as disasters. Being prepared may help avoid disaster-related issues and problems. 

Disaster Assistance

DisasterAssistance.gov is a website to find assistance, apply online, and check the status for benefit programs related to a disaster event. The site allows you to find disaster assistance to meet personal needs, get help with housing, find programs with food and nutrition needs, and learn about Small Business Administration (SBA) loans for homeowners, renters, and businesses. The site also provides resources to help you learn how to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. 

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) coordinates with the federal government to prepare and respond to disasters. The site has information about FEMA benefits, how to apply for assistance, and check application status.  The FEMA Helpline (800-621-3362) may be able to provide additional help. 

National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center

National Disaster Legal Aid Resource Center serves as a centralized national resource for legal aid, pro bono, and criminal defender attorneys on legal issues related to all types of disasters. The website provides accurate and timely information on legal issues related to disasters. 

Louisiana Department Of Children And Family Services

The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services administers disaster food stamps (DSNAP) and other food stamps (SNAP) programs such as supplemental SNAP and Replacement SNAP

SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline

The Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) is the first national hotline dedicated to providing year-round disaster crisis counseling from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This toll-free, multilingual, crisis support service is available 24/7 to all residents in the U.S. and its territories who are experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. Call or text 1-800-985-5990.

EPA Information For Disasters

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists general information for homeowners, schools, facilities, and others that can apply to different types of disaster situations. The EPA has considerable expertise on the potential health impacts of any type of natural disaster. EPA may be called on to provide support to initial responders and help provide resources such as help with water infrastructure in times of disaster. 

Preparing For A Disaster

Preparing For A Disaster

Preparing for a disaster legally and practically involves several key steps to ensure your and your family's safety and to mitigate the impacts of the disaster. You can consider the following options to prepare for a disaster and enhance your and your family's resilience against emergencies and natural disasters.

Steps To Prepare For A Disaster

Creating a comprehensive family disaster communication plan is crucial for ensuring the safety and preparedness of all family members in the event of emergencies or natural disasters. 

  • Emergency Contacts: Compile a list of important phone numbers, including family members, friends, doctors, and local emergency services. Ensure everyone carries a copy.
  • Designate Meeting Points: Establish a local meeting point near your home and another one outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return home.
  • Communication Strategies: Decide how you will communicate if local cell phone networks are overloaded or down. Consider using text messages, social media, or a satellite phone as alternatives.

Creating and maintaining emergency kits for your home, car, and workplace is essential for ensuring you and your family are prepared for any emergency. Here's how to organize and maintain these kits effectively: 

  • For Home - Basic Supplies
    • Water: Store at least one gallon per person per day, for a minimum of three days, for drinking and sanitation.
    • Food: Keep a three-day supply of non-perishable food items such as canned goods, protein bars, dried fruits, and nuts.
    • Flashlight and Batteries: Include a reliable flashlight and spare batteries.
    • First Aid Kit: Assemble a kit with bandages, antiseptic, tape, a thermometer, scissors, tweezers, and any other basic medical supplies.
    • Medications: Store a seven-day supply of prescription medications, as well as over-the-counter items like pain relievers and antihistamines.
    • Personal Hygiene Items: Include soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, sanitary pads, and other personal hygiene products.
    • Important Documents: Keep copies of important documents such as identification, insurance policies, and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
  • Special Needs - Basic Supplies
    • Pets: Prepare a kit for your pets with food, water, leashes, harnesses, and any medications.
    • Elderly Relatives: Consider any additional supplies like hearing aid batteries, glasses, or specific medical equipment.
    • Medical Needs: Include extra supplies for anyone with specific medical needs, such as insulin for diabetics or asthma inhalers.
  • For Car - Basic Supplies
    • Include water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, batteries, a first aid kit, blankets, and seasonal supplies like ice scrapers or sand for traction.
    • Keep a car charger for your cell phone, flares or reflective triangles, jumper cables, and basic repair tools.
  • For Workplace - Basic Supplies 
    • Store a small kit with water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, batteries, a first aid kit, comfortable walking shoes, and a change of clothes.
    • Consider keeping a list of emergency contacts and any critical personal documents.
  • Maintenance Tips
    • Regular Checks: Every six months, check your kits to replace expired items and update your supplies as needed.
    • Keep Informed: Stay aware of any changes in your family’s needs or additional items recommended by emergency preparedness authorities.
    • Practice Accessing Your Kits: Make sure all family members know where the emergency kits are stored and practice accessing and using the items in the kit.

Developing a comprehensive evacuation plan is a key component of disaster preparedness. Here's how you can establish an effective plan for you and your family:

  • Know Your Routes

    • Research Local Evacuation Routes: Obtain information from your local government or emergency management office about the designated evacuation routes in your area. Many communities have predefined routes to safely exit the area during disasters.

    • Multiple Options: Identify several exit strategies from your home, neighborhood, and city. Some routes may become impassable during certain disasters.

    • Map It Out: Keep physical maps in your emergency kits, as reliance on digital maps might not be feasible if power or cellular networks go down.

    • Accessibility Needs: If any family members have accessibility needs, incorporate necessary accommodations into your evacuation plan, such as identifying routes that are wheelchair-accessible or making arrangements for service animals.

  • Accommodation Options

    • Friends and Relatives: Identify friends or relatives who live outside your immediate area whom you might be able to stay with. Make arrangements in advance to ensure they are prepared to host you if necessary.

    • Public Shelters: Know the locations of public shelters in your area. Remember that during a pandemic or other health crisis, shelter guidelines may change, so stay informed about current procedures.

    • Hotels and Motels: Keep a list of potential hotels or motels along your evacuation route. Consider booking in advance if you have sufficient warning of an impending disaster.

    • Special Needs: If you or a family member has special medical needs, research accommodations that can meet those needs ahead of time.

  • Vehicle Preparedness

    • Regular Maintenance: Keep your vehicle in good working order with regular maintenance checks. This includes checking the battery, fluids, tires, and brakes.

    • Emergency Supplies: Equip your vehicle with an emergency kit that includes water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, blankets, a flashlight with extra batteries, and other essentials.

    • Fuel: Always keep your gas tank at least half full during high-risk periods to ensure you can drive a considerable distance without stopping for fuel.

    • Documents: Keep copies of important documents, such as your insurance information and registration, in your vehicle.

Making your home more resistant to disaster damage is a critical step in preparing for unexpected events like earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes. Here are specific actions you can take to strengthen your home and minimize potential damage:

  • Secure Heavy Furniture and Appliances
    • Anchor Bookcases and Shelves: Use flexible straps or L-brackets to secure tall furniture to wall studs.
    • Secure Heavy Items: Attach heavy items like televisions, computers, and artwork to walls or furniture to prevent tipping.
    • Appliance Straps: Use safety straps to secure large appliances, such as refrigerators and water heaters, to walls.
  • Reinforce Windows and Doors
    • Storm Shutters: Install storm shutters to protect windows from breaking during high winds or from debris.
    • Impact-resistant Glass: Consider replacing windows with impact-resistant glass, especially in hurricane-prone areas.
    • Reinforce Garage Doors: Reinforce or replace garage doors and tracks to withstand high winds. A failure here can lead to increased pressure inside your home, causing roof or wall failures.
  • Roof and Structure Reinforcement
    • Strengthen Your Roof: Use hurricane straps or clips to secure your roof to the frame of your house, reducing roof lift-off during high winds.
    • Seal Gaps: Use caulk to seal cracks and gaps around windows and doors to prevent water infiltration during storms.
    • **Foundation and Crawl Space Improvements**: Ensure proper drainage around your foundation to prevent water damage.
  • Flood Mitigation Measures
    • Elevate Electrical Systems: Raise electrical panels, sockets, switches, and appliances above potential flood levels.
    • Install Backflow Valves: Prevent sewage from backing up into your home during flooding by installing backflow valves or standpipes at all pipe connections.
    • Waterproof Basement: Use waterproofing compounds on basement walls and floors. Consider installing a sump pump with a battery backup.
  • Fire Resistance Improvements
    • Fire-resistant Materials: Use fire-resistant materials for roofing, siding, and decking, especially in areas prone to wildfires.
    • Create Defensible Space: Clear vegetation and debris from around your home to create a buffer zone that reduces wildfire risk.
    • Install Smoke Detectors and Fire Sprinklers: Ensure you have working smoke detectors in each room and consider installing fire sprinklers.
  • Check Building Codes and Community Standards
    • Compliance with Local Codes: Ensure your home complies with local building codes, which are designed to reduce damage in typical local disasters.
    • Community Resources: Engage with community resources or initiatives aimed at improving disaster resilience, such as neighborhood retrofit programs.
  • Professional Assessments and Improvements
    • Hire Professionals: For significant upgrades, such as structural reinforcements or major installations, consult with professionals like structural engineers or architects.
    • Inspections: Have your home inspected by a professional to identify vulnerabilities and recommend specific improvements.
  • Landscaping and Exterior Measures
    • Tree Trimming: Regularly trim trees and remove dead branches that could fall on your home during a storm.
    • Erosion Control: Plant ground cover and use retaining walls to control erosion and stabilize slopes around your home.

Understanding and managing insurance coverage is crucial, especially in the context of preparing for and recovering from disasters. Here are key points to consider across different types of insurance:

1. Importance of Insurance Coverage

Insurance provides a safety net by offering financial protection against losses due to events like natural disasters, theft, or accidents. Without adequate insurance, individuals and families may face significant financial challenges in repairing or replacing damaged property.

2. Reviewing Insurance Policies Regularly

It's essential to review your insurance policies regularly to ensure that coverage remains adequate over time. Changes in the value of your property, improvements you've made, or changes in your personal circumstances can affect the amount of coverage you need. Regular reviews help ensure that you are neither underinsured (risking insufficient coverage in case of a disaster) nor overinsured (paying for more coverage than necessary).

  1. Contact Your Insurance Company: As soon as possible after a disaster, contact your insurance provider to report the damage.
  2. Document the Damage: Take photos or videos of the damage to your property and possessions. This documentation is crucial for the claims process.
  3. Fill Out Claim Forms: Your insurance company will provide claim forms that need to be filled out thoroughly and accurately.
  4. Adjuster's Inspection: An insurance adjuster will inspect the damage to assess the insurance company's liability.
  5. Claim Resolution: After the adjuster's report, the insurance company will propose a settlement to cover the damages, subject to the terms of your policy.
  • Specific Types of Insurance
    • Homeowners Insurance: Typically covers the structure of your home, personal belongings, and liability protection. After a disaster, it can help pay for repairs, replacement of damaged items, and additional living expenses if you need to live elsewhere during repairs.

    • Renters Insurance: Offers similar protections to homeowners insurance but for renters, covering personal property, liability, and additional living expenses without covering the building itself.

    • Flood Insurance: Floods are often not covered under standard homeowners or renters policies. Flood insurance is a separate policy that provides coverage for damage caused by flooding. It's particularly important for those living in flood-prone areas.

  • Importance of Understanding Your Coverage
    • Knowing what your insurance policy covers, what it doesn't (such as typical exclusions like floods or earthquakes), and how to file a claim can significantly reduce the stress and financial impact of recovering from a disaster. It’s also vital to understand the deductibles and limits of your policy to avoid unexpected out-of-pocket expenses.

Safeguarding your important documents is a critical component of disaster preparedness. These documents are essential for proving your identity, accessing services, and managing recovery after a disaster. Here's how to protect these vital records effectively:

  • Identify and Organize Important Documents

    • List Essential Documents: Create a comprehensive list of important documents, including driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, passports, immigration papers, birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies (health, life, property, etc.), and legal documents (wills, powers of attorney).

    • Gather and Organize: Collect all these documents and organize them in a way that makes them easy to grab quickly. A portable, accordion-style file folder or a small fireproof and waterproof box can be very effective.

  • Protect Documents from Fire and Water

    • Fireproof and Waterproof Storage: Invest in a fireproof and waterproof document safe. These safes can protect your documents from fire damage and flooding.

    • Location: Store the safe in a secure and accessible location within your home, ideally where you can grab it quickly in the event of an evacuation.

  • Create Digital Copies

    • Scan Documents: Use a scanner or a smartphone scanning app to create digital copies of all important documents.

    • Secure Storage: Store digital copies in a secure, encrypted digital format. Options include a password-protected USB drive, a secure cloud storage service, or an encrypted external hard drive. Make sure that you or a trusted family member knows how to access these digital copies.

    • Backup: Ensure you have multiple backups of these digital files. Consider keeping one set of backups with a trusted relative or friend who lives in a different geographic area.

  • Regular Updates and Accessibility

    • Review and Update: Regularly review your document list and update it as needed. This includes adding new documents, updating policies, or replacing expired identifications.

    • Accessibility: Make sure that all adult family members know where the physical and digital copies of these documents are stored and how to access them in case you are not home during an emergency.

Preparing for a disaster involves not only safeguarding your physical well-being but also ensuring your financial resilience. Here's a guide to creating a disaster emergency financial plan, complete with a checklist to help you manage and protect your key financial information and resources.

  • Document and Secure Financial Information - Checklist Items:
    • Bank Accounts: Record the account numbers for your checking and savings accounts, along with the contact information for your bank.

    • Mortgage or Lease Agreements: Keep a copy of your mortgage statements or rental lease, including the lender or landlord's contact information.

    • Insurance Policies: Document the policy numbers and contact details for your health, life, auto, and property insurance providers.

    • Loan Information: Include information on car loans, personal loans, and any other debts, noting account numbers and creditor contact information.

    • Credit Cards: List all credit card account numbers and the customer service contact numbers.

    • Investment Accounts: Document account numbers and contact information for any investment accounts, including retirement funds.

  • Store Documents Safely
    • Physical Copies: Keep physical copies of these documents in a fireproof and waterproof safe that you can quickly access and take with you in case of evacuation.

    • Digital Copies: Create digital scans of all documents and store them securely in encrypted form, either on a password-protected USB drive or a secure cloud storage service.

  • Build an Emergency Savings Fund
    • Start Small: Begin by setting aside a small amount from each paycheck into a dedicated emergency savings account.

    • Goal: Aim to save enough to cover at least three to six months of living expenses. This fund can help you pay for unexpected disaster-related expenses without relying on high-interest credit cards or loans.

    • Accessibility: Ensure your emergency fund is easily accessible, but not so accessible that you're tempted to use it for non-emergency purposes.

  • Regular Review and Update
    • Annual Review: At least once a year, review your financial information and update any changes to accounts, policies, or contact details.

    • Post-Disaster Assessment: After a disaster, reassess your financial situation and make adjustments to your budget and emergency fund as necessary.

  • Stay Informed and Prepared
    • Automatic Payments: Consider setting up automatic payments for critical bills (like insurance, mortgage, or utilities) to ensure they continue to be paid even if you're temporarily displaced or without internet access.

    • Emergency Contacts: Include in your plan a list of financial institutions, insurance companies, and creditors with their contact information. This makes it easier to get in touch with them quickly after a disaster.

  • Practical Tips
    • Financial Counseling: If you're unsure where to start, consider seeking advice from a financial counselor or planner who can help you set up your emergency fund and organize your financial documents.

    • Online Banking: Utilize online banking services to monitor your accounts and make payments remotely if you're unable to access physical bank locations during a disaster.

Safeguarding and ensuring easy access to your medical information is a crucial aspect of disaster preparedness. This step not only facilitates timely and effective medical care during emergencies but also helps in managing health conditions more efficiently when regular healthcare services are disrupted. Here's how you can prepare

  • Compile Essential Medical Information- Checklist:
    • Physician Contact Details: Include names and contact information for your primary care physician and any specialists you see regularly.
    • Health Insurance Information: Keep copies of your health insurance cards and policy numbers, along with contact information for your insurance company.
    • Immunization Records: Maintain an up-to-date record of your and your family's immunization history.
    • Medication List: Compile a list of medications for each family member, including dosage instructions and the names of prescribing doctors. Also, note any significant allergies (e.g., to medications, food, or insects).
  • Store Information Securely and Accessibly
    • Physical Copies: Keep physical copies of all important medical documents in a waterproof and fireproof container that you can quickly take with you during an evacuation.
    • Digital Copies: Create digital scans of all documents. Store these files in a secure, encrypted digital format, such as on a password-protected USB drive or a secure cloud storage service that you can access from anywhere.
  • Medication Preparedness
    • Emergency Supply: Maintain an emergency supply of prescription medications. If possible, aim for a minimum of a two-week supply, as obtaining refills may be challenging immediately following a disaster.
    • Proper Storage: Ensure medications are stored according to their requirements (e.g., refrigeration) and check expiration dates regularly.
  • Communication Plan

    • Medical Contacts List: Include in your emergency plan a list of all important medical contacts, including family doctors, pharmacies, and local hospitals.
    • Health Advocate: Designate a family member or friend as your health advocate who knows your medical history and can assist or make decisions if you're unable to do so.
  • Special Medical Needs

    • Special Equipment and Supplies: If you or a family member requires medical equipment (e.g., CPAP machines, mobility aids), have a plan for how to evacuate with these items or access replacements.
    • Healthcare Provider Coordination: For those with ongoing medical treatments (e.g., dialysis, chemotherapy), discuss an emergency plan with your healthcare provider.
  • Health Apps and Technology
    • Use Technology: Consider using health apps that can store your medical history, medication lists, and doctor's contact information on your smartphone. Ensure these apps are secure and require a password or biometric authentication to access.
  • Review and Update
    • Regularly Review: Ensure your medical information is up to date by reviewing and updating it at least once a year or after any significant changes in your health status or medical treatments.

In the aftermath of a disaster, significant changes to your living situation, such as a new home or school arrangements, may necessitate modifications to existing custody orders.

Here's a general guide on how to approach this process:

  1. Assess the Changes

    • Evaluate how the disaster has impacted your living conditions, employment, and the schooling situation for your children. Determine if these changes are temporary or permanent and how they affect the current custody arrangement.
  2. Communicate with the Other Parent

    • Open communication with the other parent is crucial. Discuss the changes and try to reach a mutual agreement on how to modify the custody arrangement to best serve the child's needs. It’s important to prioritize the child's well-being and stability during this conversation.
  3. Consult a Family Law Attorney

    • Legal guidance is invaluable in understanding your rights and the proper steps to modify a custody order legally. An attorney can advise you based on your specific situation. They can also help draft a proposed modification to the custody order that reflects the new circumstances.
  4. Mediation or Court Filing

    • Mediation: If both parents agree to the changes but need assistance in finalizing details, mediation can be a constructive approach. A neutral third party helps facilitate the discussion and agreement.
    • Court Filing: If an agreement cannot be reached or if the situation requires legal intervention, you will need to file a petition with the court to modify the custody order. This petition should outline the changes in circumstances due to the disaster and how the proposed modification serves the child's best interests.
  5. Court Review

    • The court will review the petition, considering the child's best interests as the paramount concern. This includes factors like the child's safety, emotional well-being, and the stability of the new living and schooling arrangements. The court may request additional documentation or conduct hearings to gather more information.
  6. Issuance of a Modified Custody Order

    • If the court approves the modification, it will issue a new custody order reflecting the changes. Both parents must adhere to this updated order.
  7. Document Everything

    • Throughout this process, keep detailed records of all communications, agreements, and court filings. This documentation can be crucial in court or if disputes arise later.

Renters must prepare before a disaster strikes, not only for safety but also to protect their personal property and ensure their rights. Keeping lease documents in a secure place is essential. These documents contain important information about your tenancy and rights as a renter, which can be crucial when dealing with landlords or insurance companies after a disaster.

Taking an inventory of your home and personal belongings is equally important. This inventory should be as detailed as possible, including photographs and, if possible, receipts or appraisals for valuable items. This record will serve as proof of the condition and existence of your belongings before the disaster, which can be invaluable during the claims process with insurance companies.

After ensuring the safety of these documents and creating a thorough inventory, renters should also:

  • Review their rental insurance policy (or consider getting one if they don't already have it) to understand what is covered in the event of a disaster. Standard renters' insurance may not cover all types of disasters, such as floods or earthquakes, so it might be necessary to purchase additional coverage.
  • Understand the emergency procedures and evacuation routes for their building and local area.
  • Have a disaster preparedness kit ready, including essentials such as water, food, a flashlight, batteries, and first aid supplies.
  • Stay informed about local emergency plans and alerts.

In the aftermath of a disaster, these preparations can help renters navigate the recovery process more smoothly, from filing insurance claims to repairing or replacing damaged property and negotiating with landlords about the habitability of their rental units.

Learn more about renters affected by disasters by clicking here.

For homeowners, preparing before a disaster is key to protecting their property and financial well-being. Learn more about homeowners affected by disasters by clicking here

Here's a detailed plan to ensure homeowners are ready before disaster strikes:

  1. Inventory Your Property and Belongings

    • Create a comprehensive inventory of your property and personal belongings, including photos and detailed descriptions of items' condition. This can be done room by room, listing each item along with its purchase date and value if possible. Storing this inventory in a safe, easily accessible place—preferably in a digital format that's backed up online or stored in the cloud—ensures that you can access it even if your physical property is damaged.
  2. Review and Update Insurance Coverage

    • Understanding your insurance coverage is crucial. Homeowners should:
      • Review their current insurance policy to ensure it covers common disasters in their area. This might include flood, earthquake, wildfire, or hurricane insurance, depending on the location.
      • Consider the value of their possessions and the cost of rebuilding or repairing their home when assessing their coverage needs. It may be necessary to adjust the policy to cover any gaps.
    • Keep an updated record of their insurance policy, along with contact information for their insurance agent or company, in a secure and accessible location.
  3. Understand Mortgage Obligations After a Disaster
    • Homeowners with mortgages should:
      • Know their obligations regarding mortgage payments, even in the event of a disaster. This information is typically outlined in the mortgage agreement.
      • Communicate with their lender immediately if a disaster occurs and impacts their ability to make mortgage payments. Many lenders have provisions or assistance programs for such situations.

When disaster strikes, it is important to have already prepared and safeguarded a document that includes your current personal property home inventory. You may need a personal property home inventory with a list of the items that you own or in your home if they are damaged due to a disaster or flood event to apply for insurance benefits coverage.

Learn more about insurance claims after a disaster by clicking here. 

You may need to provide a personal property home inventory for the following types of insurance after a disaster: 

Tips To Prepare A Personal Property And Home Inventory

  1. Make a list of all the items and things that you own including their cost and condition.
  2. Include photographs or videos of the interior/exterior of your home as well as cars, boats, and recreational vehicles.
  3. Have photos of durable medical equipment, and be sure to make a record of the make and model numbers for each item.
  4. Get professional appraisals of jewelry, collectibles, artwork, or other items that may be difficult to evaluate.
  5. Make copies of receipts and canceled checks showing the cost of valuable items.

Provisional custody by mandate allows a parent to temporarily transfer custody to another adult during emergencies. This can be a strategic temporary measure in disaster situations. It's designed for short-term arrangements, ensuring the child's care during the parent's absence or incapacity. The goal is to ensure that the custody arrangement serves the best interests of the child in their new circumstances.

You can learn more about provisional custody by mandate and the process to temporarily transfer custody to another adult by clicking here

In the wake of a disaster, the demand for contractors to repair homes and other property skyrockets, creating an environment ripe for potential fraud. Individuals must be vigilant and take steps to protect themselves from contractor fraud during these vulnerable times.

Learn more about contractor fraud and scams by clicking here.

Here are several tips to help ensure you hire legitimate and reliable contractors:

  1. Research Contractors Thoroughly: Before hiring anyone, research their reputation and credentials. Look for reviews online, ask for references, and check with the Better Business Bureau or any local consumer protection agency.

  2. Verify Licenses and Insurance: Ensure that any contractor you consider hiring is licensed to work in your area and carries both liability and workers' compensation insurance. This protects you in case of accidents or damage during the repair process.

  3. Get Multiple Estimates: To avoid being overcharged, get detailed estimates from several contractors. This will also give you a better understanding of the scope of work needed and the fair market price.

  4. Insist on a Detailed Contract: A legitimate contractor will provide a detailed contract that outlines the scope of work, materials to be used, timelines, and costs. Make sure everything is written down and avoid verbal agreements.

  5. Avoid Large Upfront Payments: Be wary of contractors who demand a large down payment before starting work. It's reasonable to pay a small deposit to secure their services, but substantial payments should be made as the work progresses or upon completion.

  6. Beware of Unsolicited Offers: After a disaster, be cautious of contractors who go door-to-door offering their services, especially if they use high-pressure tactics or claim to have leftover materials from another job.

  7. Use Trusted Referrals: Whenever possible, use contractors who have been referred by people you trust, such as friends, family, or neighbors who have had a positive experience.

  8. Communicate with Your Insurance Company: Before agreeing to any repairs, communicate with your insurance company to understand what is covered under your policy and any procedures or preferred contractors they might recommend.

  9. Report Suspicious Behavior: If you encounter a contractor you believe is fraudulent, report them to local authorities, your insurance company, and consumer protection agencies. This can help prevent others from becoming victims.

In the chaos and urgency to repair and rebuild after a disaster, it's easy to overlook the usual precautions when hiring contractors. However, taking these steps can save you from additional stress, financial loss, and potential legal issues. Remember, legitimate contractors will understand your need to take these precautions and should be willing to provide the necessary information and assurances.

Preparing for a disaster involves not just physical readiness but also ensuring that your legal and financial affairs are in order. A Powers of Attorney (POA) document can be a critical component of this preparation. This legal document grants someone else the authority to act on your behalf in financial, legal, or health-related matters if you are unable to do so yourself, whether due to absence, incapacity, or other reasons.

Learn more about powers of attorney (POA) by clicking here.

Here are steps and considerations for preparing and safeguarding your Power of Attorney documents in the context of disaster preparedness:

  1. Choose the Right Type of POA: Determine whether you need a General Power of Attorney, a Durable Power of Attorney, or a Health Care Power of Attorney, depending on what powers you want to grant to another person (referred to as your "agent").

  2. Select a Trusted Agent: Choose someone you trust implicitly to act as your agent. This should be a person who understands your wishes and is capable of making decisions on your behalf.

  3. Consult with a Legal Professional: It's advisable to consult with a lawyer to ensure that your POA is valid, covers all necessary aspects, and complies with your state's laws.

  4. Make Copies of the Document: After your POA is notarized and legal, make several copies. Keep the original document in a safe place, such as a fireproof and waterproof safe.

  5. Inform Your Agent and Loved Ones: Ensure that your chosen agent and close family members know where the POA documents are stored and that they can access them if needed.

  6. Store Documents Securely but Accessibly: While keeping your documents safe, they should also be accessible in an emergency. Consider keeping a copy in a secure but readily available location if you need to evacuate quickly.

  7. Consider Digital Storage Options: In addition to physical copies, you might store digital copies of your POA in a secure cloud storage service. This ensures that the documents can be accessed from anywhere, even if physical copies are lost or destroyed.

  8. Take Documents with You If Evacuating: If you have to evacuate your home, take the POA documents with you, along with other important documents like birth certificates, passports, and insurance policies.

  9. Review and Update Regularly: Circumstances change, so review your POA periodically and especially before disaster seasons, to ensure it still reflects your wishes and that your agent is still willing and able to act on your behalf.

Transitioning to paperless record-keeping for your financial and tax records is an effective strategy for disaster preparedness. Digital records are not only more resilient to physical disasters such as fires, floods, or hurricanes, but they also offer greater accessibility and ease of management. Here are steps and tips to effectively utilize paperless record-keeping:

  1. Start with a Digital Transition: Convert your existing paper records into a digital format using a scanner or a mobile scanning app. For future documents, opt into electronic statements and records whenever possible.

  2. Organize Your Digital Files: Create a logical structure for your digital files, categorizing them by type (e.g., bank statements, tax returns, insurance policies) and by year. This will make it easier to find specific documents when you need them.

  3. Use Secure Storage Solutions: Store your digital records in a secure location. This could be a personal computer with strong passwords or a secure cloud storage service. Cloud storage has the advantage of being accessible from anywhere, providing an additional layer of security in case your physical location is compromised.

  4. Ensure Data Protection: Implement security measures to protect your digital documents. Use strong, unique passwords for your devices and cloud storage accounts, enable two-factor authentication where available, and consider encryption for highly sensitive documents.

  5. Backup Regularly: Regularly back up your digital records to a separate device or cloud service. This ensures that you have multiple copies in different locations, further safeguarding against loss.

  6. Stay Up to Date: Keep your software, including security software, up to date to protect against malware and hacking attempts that could compromise your digital records.

  7. Understand Access: Make sure that you understand how to access your digital records, especially those stored in the cloud, from different devices. Test access periodically to ensure that you can get to your records when needed.

  8. Share Access Responsibly: If necessary, ensure that a trusted family member or your designated agent (under a Power of Attorney, for instance) knows how to access these records in case you are unable to do so.

  9. Be Aware of Legal Requirements: Some documents may need to be kept in their original paper form to be legally valid, or you may be required to produce original documents in certain situations. Check the requirements for your area and specific types of documents.

  10. Dispose of Paper Records Securely: For any paper records you digitize and no longer need to keep in physical form, use a shredder to dispose of them securely to protect your sensitive information.

Having a will in place is a crucial step for ensuring that your property is distributed according to your wishes in the event of an unexpected disaster or death. Here are some detailed steps to consider in this process:

  1. Draft Your Will: Learn about drafting a will by clicking here

  2. Name an Executor: Choose a trustworthy person to act as the executor of your will. This individual will be responsible for carrying out the instructions laid out in your will.

  3. Identify Your Beneficiaries: Clearly state who you want to inherit your assets. These can include family members, friends, or charitable organizations.

  4. Be Specific About Your Assets: Detail how you want your assets to be divided among your beneficiaries. This includes money, real estate, investments, and personal items.

  5. Sign and Witness Your Will: You should have your will signed in the presence of witnesses, who also need to sign the document. 

  6. Store Your Will Safely: Keep your original will in a safe place, such as a fireproof safe at home or a safety deposit box at a bank. It's important that your executor knows where to find it.

  7. Make Copies: Create copies of your will and store them in separate, equally secure locations. Ensure that a trusted family member or friend knows where these copies are kept.

  8. Take it When Evacuating: If you have to evacuate due to a disaster, take your will and other important documents with you, if possible. Consider storing these documents in a waterproof and fireproof container to protect them.

  9. Review and Update Regularly: Your circumstances and relationships may change, so it's important to review and possibly update your will regularly. Significant life events like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a beneficiary should prompt a review of your will.

  10. Consider Digital Copies: For added security, consider creating digital copies of your will and storing them in a secure, encrypted location accessible online. This can serve as a backup in case physical copies are destroyed or lost.

Protecting yourself against disaster fraud is crucial, especially in the aftermath of a disaster when unscrupulous individuals might try to take advantage of the situation.

Learn more about disaster fraud by clicking here

Here are steps you can take to safeguard yourself:

  1. Verify Identity: Always ask for identification from anyone claiming to represent government agencies, charities, or private contractors. Legitimate officials will have proper identification and won't mind you verifying their credentials.

  2. Be Skeptical of Immediate Demands: Be cautious of anyone demanding immediate payment or personal information. Government agencies like FEMA never charge application fees and don't ask for financial information during initial contacts.

  3. Research Contractors Thoroughly: If your property needs repairs, seek out reputable, local contractors with proven track records. Ask for references, verify their licensing and insurance, and never feel pressured to make an immediate decision. Avoid contractors who ask for full payment upfront or who offer to help you fill out disaster assistance applications.

  4. Use Official Channels for Aid Applications: Apply for disaster assistance directly through official websites or hotlines. For example, FEMA's official website is DisasterAssistance.gov, and their hotline is 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Be wary of links in unsolicited emails or text messages.

  5. Secure Your Personal Information: Protect your personal information. Do not share personal or financial details over the phone or online with someone who has contacted you unsolicited. Official agencies will have the information they need or will conduct correspondence through secure channels.

  6. Report Suspicious Activity: If you encounter suspicious behavior or believe you might be a victim of fraud, report it immediately. You can contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) by calling their hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or submitting a report online at justice.gov/disaster-fraud. Additionally, report fraud to your local law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftc.gov/complaint.

  7. Educate Yourself on Common Scams: Familiarize yourself with common disaster-related scams, such as fake rental listings, fraudulent charity solicitations, and phishing emails or calls pretending to be from government agencies.

  8. Donate Wisely: If you wish to donate to disaster relief efforts, do so through reputable organizations. Verify the legitimacy of charitable organizations through resources like the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, or GuideStar.

  9. Monitor Your Financial Accounts: Keep a close eye on your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized transactions. Identity theft and fraudulent charges can be a side effect of disaster-related scams.

  10. Be Cautious with Unsolicited Contact: Whether it's a knock on the door, a phone call, or an email, be cautious with anyone contacting you unsolicited after a disaster. Scammers often use these opportunities to prey on victims under the guise of offering assistance.

Understanding your disaster benefit options is crucial for recovery and support in the aftermath of a disaster. Various programs and resources are available to assist individuals and communities during these challenging times. Knowing what is available, the eligibility criteria, and how to apply can significantly impact your recovery process.

Learn more about disaster benefits by clicking here

Here's an overview to help guide you through understanding your disaster benefit options:

  1. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Assistance: FEMA provides financial help and direct services to those who have been affected by a major disaster. Their assistance can cover temporary housing, essential home repairs, uninsured and underinsured personal property losses, and medical, dental, and funeral expenses related to the disaster. Additionally, FEMA can offer critical needs assistance for those affected by disasters. Learn more about FEMA's Individual and Households Program by clicking here
  2. Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Loans: The SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to businesses of all sizes, private non-profit organizations, homeowners, and renters. SBA disaster loans can be used to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, and inventory and business assets. Learn more about SBA Disaster Loans by clicking here
  3. Insurance Claims: For those with insurance, it's crucial to file a claim as soon as possible after a disaster. This includes homeowners, renters, and flood insurance. Learn more about insurance claims after a disaster by clicking here
  4. State Disaster Assistance Programs: Louisiana offers disaster relief programs, which can include temporary housing assistance, food aid through programs like Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP), unemployment assistance, and financial assistance. 

For homeowners, preparing for a disaster involves more than just securing physical assets; it also means ensuring that legal documents, particularly those proving ownership of the property, are in order. The title and deed of your home are paramount among these documents. The title represents legal ownership of the property, while the deed is the written document that details this ownership.

Having clear ownership evidenced by these documents is crucial, especially in the aftermath of a disaster. Situations where property ownership becomes complex—such as with heirs' property, where real estate is passed down through generations without properly recording legal title—can complicate accessing crucial funds for recovery. After a disaster, survivors may need to seek assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or secure loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA), both of which may require proof of clear title to the property.

To prevent these potential challenges, homeowners are advised to address any title or complex ownership issues before disaster strikes. This proactive approach can involve several steps:

  1. Review and Update Documents: Ensure that your deed and title are current, and accurately reflecting the ownership status. Any changes in ownership due to sales, inheritances, or other transfers should be properly documented and filed with the appropriate government office.

  2. Resolve Heirs' Property Issues: If your property is considered heirs' property, it's crucial to clarify and legally document each heir's interest in the property. This may involve creating a will, forming a family agreement, or undergoing a legal process to clear the title.

  3. Legal Consultation: Consulting with a real estate attorney can provide clarity and direction, especially for complex situations. They can assist in navigating the legal processes required to establish clear property ownership.

  4. Secure Physical and Digital Copies: Keep physical copies of important documents in a secure, accessible location. Additionally, store digital copies in a secure cloud storage or with a trusted family member or advisor. This ensures that you have access to these documents even if physical copies are lost or destroyed in a disaster.

  5. Regular Updates: Regularly review and update your documents as needed. Changes in family structure, ownership, or property laws may necessitate updates to your records.

By taking these steps, homeowners can mitigate the risk of legal complications arising from unclear property ownership in the aftermath of a disaster. This preparation can facilitate smoother access to recovery resources and support, allowing homeowners to focus on rebuilding and recovery.

The IRS often provides tax relief to victims of disasters, which may include extended filing deadlines, tax deduction for losses, and other benefits. Familiarize yourself with these provisions so you can take advantage of them if needed.

If your area is declared a federal disaster area, you might be able to claim a casualty loss deduction on your tax return for property destroyed or lost. Understanding the requirements and how to calculate this deduction can be crucial for reducing your tax liability after a disaster.

Tax laws and provisions can change, especially in response to disaster situations. Keep abreast of any tax law changes or specific relief measures announced by the IRS following disasters by checking their official website or consulting with a tax professional.

Learn more about tax relief after a disaster by clicking here

Disaster Declarations

Disaster Declarations

Federal and state disaster declarations in Louisiana are issued to help manage and mitigate the effects of emergencies and natural disasters.

Below you can find a list of questions that give an overview of the federal and state disaster declarations. 

What You Need To Know

A disaster declaration is an official statement made by the government, at either the federal or state level, acknowledging that a significant emergency or natural disaster has occurred that overwhelms local and state resources. This declaration is crucial because it formally enables the affected area to access a range of resources, financial aid, and support services to aid in recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Federal Level 

At the federal level, a disaster declaration is issued by the President of the United States, typically after the governor of the affected state submits a request based on a thorough assessment of the disaster's impact. The criteria for a federal disaster declaration often include the severity and magnitude of the disaster, the capacity of the state and local governments to respond, and the specific needs of the affected community. Federal assistance can include funding for temporary housing, repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and businesses recover from the disaster.

State Level in Louisiana

In Louisiana, a state disaster declaration is made by the governor. This declaration is usually the precursor to requesting federal assistance but also allows state resources to be mobilized to respond to the disaster. The criteria for issuing a state disaster declaration include an assessment of the immediate threats to public safety, health, and welfare, the extent of damage, and the potential need for state assistance to supplement local efforts. State-level assistance might involve activating the National Guard, utilizing state agencies to provide direct support to affected areas, and making financial resources available for recovery efforts.

Both federal and state disaster declarations are pivotal in the management and mitigation of emergencies and natural disasters. They ensure that the affected communities receive the necessary support and resources for recovery, while also facilitating coordination among various levels of government and agencies.

The process of issuing a disaster declaration in Louisiana involves several steps and is critical for mobilizing resources and assistance during emergencies. Both the state and federal levels have distinct procedures for declaring a disaster, each with its own criteria and implications.

State Level Process

  1. Assessment of the Situation: Initially, local government officials assess the situation to determine the extent of the disaster and its impact on the community. If the disaster exceeds local response capabilities, they may request assistance from the state.

  2. State Declaration by the Governor: The Governor of Louisiana has the authority to issue a state disaster declaration. This decision is often based on reports from local officials, the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (LOHSEP), and other relevant state agencies. The declaration is a formal recognition that a disaster or emergency has occurred and that state resources are necessary to aid in response and recovery efforts.

  3. Activation of State Resources: Once the declaration is made, the state can mobilize resources, including financial assistance, equipment, and personnel, to support affected areas. This can also involve activating the National Guard, deploying emergency response teams, and making state agencies available to assist.

Federal Level Process

  1. Request for Federal Assistance: If the disaster's scale exceeds the state's capacity to respond effectively, the Governor of Louisiana can request federal assistance. This request is directed to the President of the United States through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

  2. Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA): Before a federal disaster declaration is issued, FEMA, in collaboration with state and local officials, conducts a Preliminary Damage Assessment to evaluate the disaster's impact and estimate recovery costs. This assessment helps determine whether the situation warrants federal assistance and the types of aid that might be needed.

  3. Presidential Disaster Declaration: Based on the findings of the PDA and the Governor's request, the President can issue a federal disaster declaration. This declaration unlocks various forms of federal aid, including funds for public and individual assistance programs, loans for rebuilding, and resources for cleanup and emergency services.

The processes at both the state and federal levels are designed to ensure a coordinated and efficient response to disasters, providing the necessary support and resources to affected communities in Louisiana. The collaboration between local, state, and federal agencies is crucial for effective disaster management and recovery.

In Louisiana, a wide range of emergencies and natural disasters can qualify for a disaster declaration, whether at the state or federal level. The state's geographical location and climate expose it to various hazards. Here's a rundown of the types of disasters that commonly lead to declarations:

  1. Hurricanes and Tropical Storms: Louisiana is particularly vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms due to its Gulf Coast location. These powerful storms can cause widespread damage due to high winds, heavy rainfall, storm surges, and flooding.

  2. Floods: Beyond storm-related flooding, Louisiana can experience significant flooding due to overflowing rivers, levee breaches, and heavy rainfalls. Floods can devastate communities, damaging homes, infrastructure, and agriculture.

  3. Tornadoes: Tornadoes, though more unpredictable, can occur in Louisiana, especially during severe weather conditions. They can cause localized, intense damage in very short periods.

  4. Severe Storms and Lightning: Thunderstorms, often accompanied by lightning, hail, and strong winds, can cause significant damage, power outages, and fires.

  5. Droughts: Periods of extended drought can impact water supply, agriculture, and increase fire risk in forests and rural areas.

  6. Wildfires: While less common in Louisiana than in other states, wildfires can occur, especially during dry conditions. They pose threats to homes, wildlife, and air quality.

  7. Chemical and Oil Spills: Given Louisiana's significant oil and gas industry and chemical plants, industrial accidents such as chemical spills and oil leaks can lead to disaster declarations due to their impacts on public health, the environment, and the economy.

For a disaster to qualify for a declaration, it typically must overwhelm local and state response capabilities, requiring additional resources and support to effectively manage the situation. The specific criteria for a declaration can vary, depending on the scale of the disaster, the potential for significant damage or harm, and the need for external assistance to recover.

A disaster declaration, whether at the state or federal level, activates a variety of programs and resources designed to assist individuals in the aftermath of a disaster. Here's an overview of the benefits that can become available through disaster declarations:

  1. Financial Assistance for Temporary Housing and Home Repairs: Aid can be provided for those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed, covering costs for temporary housing, repairs, and in severe cases, reconstruction.

  2. Low-Interest Loans: The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest loans to homeowners, renters, and businesses of all sizes to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, and inventory and business assets.

  3. Crisis Counseling and Disaster-Related Unemployment Assistance: Programs are available to support individuals dealing with the psychological effects of disasters and provide financial support to those who have lost jobs directly due to the disaster.

  4. Medical and Legal Services: Access to medical, dental, and legal services may be provided, especially when insurance and personal resources are insufficient to meet those needs.

Federal and state disaster declarations are key components of the emergency management framework in the United States, each playing a critical role in responding to and recovering from disasters. While they share the common goal of mobilizing resources and support for affected communities, there are distinct differences in their processes, the types of assistance they provide, and how that assistance is obtained.

Federal Disaster Declarations

  • Authority: Issued by the President of the United States, typically upon request from the governor of the affected state, who must demonstrate that the disaster exceeds the state and local governments' capacity to respond.
  • Types of Assistance: Federal assistance can include a wide range of support, such as:
    • Individual Assistance (IA) for affected individuals and households, covering temporary housing, home repairs, and other disaster-related expenses.
    • Public Assistance (PA) for state and local governments and certain non-profit organizations to fund the repair, replacement, or restoration of damaged infrastructure and public facilities.
    • Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) to fund projects that reduce disaster risk in the future.
  • Funding and Resources: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) plays a central role in coordinating federal disaster response and recovery efforts, providing financial assistance, technical support, and resources.
  • Process: Involves a detailed assessment of the disaster's impact, including a Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA), before the president can declare a disaster. This declaration activates the various federal assistance programs.

State Disaster Declarations

  • Authority: Issued by the governor of the state, who has the power to declare a state of emergency within their jurisdiction based on the situation's assessment.
  • Types of Assistance: State assistance might be more limited in scope compared to federal assistance but can include:
    • Activation of the state's emergency response plan and resources.
    • Mobilization of the National Guard and state agencies for immediate response efforts.
    • State-funded grants or loans to assist with recovery efforts, depending on the state's available resources.
  • Funding and Resources: Managed at the state level, often involving state emergency management agencies. The scope of assistance depends on the state's budget, policies, and available resources.
  • Process: This can be quicker and more flexible than the federal process, as it does not require the extensive assessments and approvals involved in securing federal assistance. The governor may issue a state declaration based on initial reports and assessments from local officials and the state's emergency management agency.

Key Differences

  • Scope and Scale of Assistance: Federal declarations can unlock significant financial resources and a wide range of assistance programs not available at the state level. State declarations are important for initial response efforts and as a step towards requesting federal aid.
  • Process and Authority: The process for federal declarations involves coordination between state and federal governments and requires a demonstration of need beyond state capacities. State declarations are within the governor's discretion, based on the immediate assessment of the disaster's impact.
  • Strategic Importance: Federal declarations are crucial for major disasters with widespread impacts, while state declarations can be pivotal for localized emergencies or as a preliminary step toward federal intervention.

Both federal and state disaster declarations are essential mechanisms for ensuring that affected communities receive the necessary support and resources to recover from disasters. The choice between them depends on the disaster's severity, the affected area's needs, and the capacity of local and state governments to manage the response and recovery efforts.

To find out if a disaster declaration has been issued for your area in Louisiana, you can follow these steps and check the following sources for the most current information:

  1. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency): Visit FEMA's website at fema.gov and use their "Disaster Declarations" section. This site provides detailed information on disaster declarations by state, type of disaster, and date. For Louisiana, you can filter the results specifically for your state to see the most recent declarations.

  2. Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP): Check the official GOHSEP website at gohsep.la.gov. They provide updates on emergency situations, disaster declarations, and preparedness information specifically for Louisiana.

  3. Local News Outlets: Local TV and radio stations, as well as newspapers (both in print and online), often provide timely updates on disasters and emergency declarations in your area.

  4. Social Media and Official Government Accounts: Follow the social media accounts of FEMA, GOHSEP, your local city or parish government, and local emergency management agencies. They frequently post updates and alerts about disasters and declarations.

  5. Alert Systems: Sign up for local alert systems in your area. Many Louisiana parishes have their own alert systems that send real-time notifications about emergencies and disaster declarations via text message, email, or automated phone calls. Check with your local government or emergency management office to sign up.

  6. National Weather Service (NWS): The NWS provides updates on severe weather that could lead to disaster declarations. Visit their website at weather.gov and select your local area for current weather advisories, watches, and warnings.

By checking these sources, you can stay informed about any disaster declarations in your area and take the necessary steps to prepare or respond accordingly.

Courts & Legal Deadlines

Courts & Legal Deadlines

After a disaster, there are instances where specific deadlines are adjusted to accommodate the aftermath. This includes courts potentially pausing their required filing deadlines, which are the timelines within which legal documents must be submitted. Moreover, courts may temporarily move their operations to different locations to continue their functions. Individuals involved in legal processes need to verify whether there are any changes to court deadlines or the statute of limitations—a law that sets the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated. 

Last Review and Update: Mar 25, 2024
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