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Florida Construction Law - Staying safe in the aftermath of Irma

The recent hurricane that swept through Florida left in its wake millions of people without power; people were stranded in flooded, destroyed homes; some are dealing with serious injuries and missing loved ones.

Naples is among the cities hit hardest by Irma, and residents here are still struggling to recover from the massive storm. Surviving a hurricane is hard enough; rebuilding in the aftermath can be just as difficult. However, there are things you can do to help yourselves and your neighbors in these distressing times. There are also things you should be careful NOT to do.

This article from ABC News has a number of helpful tips for people recovering from a major storm. 

  • Do not return home until authorities say it's safe to do so.
  • Use caution when driving to avoid hitting debris and possible sinkholes
  • Stay away from all fallen electrical power lines
  • Contact loved ones as soon as possible by phone, email or even social media to ensure everyone is safe

In the days after returning home or starting cleanup efforts:

  • Document all losses. Take photos of all damage BEFORE you begin repairs and while repairs are ongoing.
  • Take photos of your refrigerator and freezer BEFORE you empty them. FEMA has been compensating homeowners for lost food.
  • Take photos of the outside as well as the inside of your property. Either you or your contractor should photograph conditions before, during and after repairs.  Take photos of materials loaded on trucks for disposal, including any chopped up trees that had to be removed, especially if they fell on your house or car.
  • Deal only with licensed contractors.  Do NOT hire the guys that come by in a pickup truck and want to work for cash. Your insurance company will NOT reimburse you.
  • Do NOT sign any contract that provides for 'Assignment of Benefits" to the contractor.  Many emergency mitigation services (water restoration, mold remediation, companies, etc.) have a fine print (check the back) with this kind of clause.  It permits them to file lawsuits in your name without your further knowledge or consent. ASK QUESTIONS. If you are uncertain, consult a lawyer.
  • Do NOT let emergency mitigation companies or any contractor pull apart cabinets or parts of the house that you aren't 100% sure are really damaged, certainly, not before your insurance adjustor, OK's the work.  Many of these companies will present you with a bill far in excess of what your insurance policy provides for. Some policies have a $3,000 limit for emergency water mitigation, for instance.
  •   Drink only bottled or boiled water until local authorities say it is safe to drink tap water
  • Dispose of all spoiled food to avoid getting sick
  • Stay out of flood water
  • Wear protective clothing including boots, goggles, gloves and hard hats
  • Be aware of dangerous animals like dogs or rats
  • Work in teams to enhance efforts and stay connected
  • Have a qualified expert examine your home to ensure you identify all damage. For instance, many people do not realize that concrete is permeable and can seep into your house and under your floor if the house was not properly sealed or is older. Water can 'travel' under your roof and show up on a different part of the home from where the original leak occurred.

It is also a good idea to check in on your neighbors and offer help, as long as it is safe to do so. 

We have tremendous appreciation for the recovery efforts in place. The entire community -- and country -- are coming together to help people affected by the hurricane, and working together is crucial in times like this. In the coming days and weeks, we urge everyone to make use of the support available and stay safe. Use your head.  Do not act in haste where it's not called for.

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