gettyimages 840308502 You survived a disaster, now what?

HOUSTON, TX – AUGUST 28: People wait for a ride to a shelter after being rescued from a flooded neighborhood when it was inundated with rain water, remnants of Hurricane Harvey, on August 28, 2017, in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

by Jonathan Kaupanger

Hurricane Harvey is now Tropical Storm Harvey, but the downgrade to the storm doesn’t mean it’s any less dangerous. While some communities in southern Texas continue to deal with streets filled with water, many in New Orleans are preparing for flash flooding. City officials are already asking some to halt usage of the sewage system due to backup issues.

It’s literally and figuratively a mess out there. So what do you do?

The following isn’t an all-encompassing list of services, but it will hopefully help point you in the right direction.

Finding Family:

For missing relatives, call your local law enforcement agency first. The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System provides several resources like being able to print missing person’s posters and receive free biometric collection and testing assistance.

If your child is missing or you are caring for a lost child, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children keeps the unaccompanied minors registry.  This is where emergency management and law enforcement agencies will report minors who are in their care during a disaster.

The National Emergency Family Registry and Locator System is only activated during a presidentially declared disaster.  You can register either on line or by phone at 800-58 8-9822, 24-hours a day, when the system is activated.

The American Red Cross has a Safe and Well site that’s designed to help people communicate during a disaster.  You can register yourself as being safe and well or you can search for your missing loved ones too.

Finding Housing:

Finding shelter is not easy in a situation like this. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has two ways to help you put a roof over your head.  You can text SHELTER and your zip code to 4FEMA (43362) or use the FEMA app.  The app provides a map of open shelters and recovery centers, disaster survival tips and weather alerts from the National Weather Service. is a good place to find help, and very easy to navigate.  Scroll almost to the bottom of the home page and you’ll find a US map that shows the areas that are declared disasters.  Click on your state, then county or city.  You can submit an application for disaster assistance right from the site.

The FEMA Evacuee Hotel List  If you are eligible for Transitional Sheltering Assistance, FEMA will pay for you to stay in select hotels or motels for a limited amount of time.  The list indicates if pets are allowed, as well as amenities included in each room.  FEMA also has Disaster Recovery Centers where survivors can get information on all programs that are related to their case.

Finding Pets:

After a disaster, pets that are lost are most often kept in shelters in the state where the disaster occurred. Contact the local Humane Society, animal welfare organization or the animal response team in your county or state to find the location of shelters in your area.  The National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition can help you locate the correct local response organization.

The Missing Pet Network is a group of volunteers sponsored by the USDA Animal Care Office.  You can search for a missing pet, or post one that you found on this site.  The site offers a section  advice on the best way to find   a lost pet – there is even a section specifically for cats!

Returning Home:

Once local officials have declared it is safe for you to go home, there are a few things to think about before going inside. has some very useful information that will help keep you safe.  There are even sections on how to prepare for the worst before it happens.

Cleaning up after a disaster has its own set of problems. FEMA has a page dedicated to the proper way to remove and dispose of hazardous waste.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a fact sheet on how to safely clean up after a disaster as well.

The National Archives is in the business of restoring old documents, and they’ve come up with a great list of how you can care for common items that seem to be ruined by the disaster.  Everything from general recovery to how you can save photos and scrapbooks.

Replacing Important Documents:

Replacing important documents can be a massive pain. The process varies from state to state, but these general steps can help get you started.

Replacing your birth certificate might be difficult, so let’s start there. Find the vital records office in the state where you were born.  Some states don’t require a government-issued photo ID.  Some states allow your mother or father, whose name is on the birth certificate, to submit a notarized letter with a copy of their photo ID.  If you do need a photo ID, start here to replace your driver’s license.  Some states will let you do it all online.

For your Social Security or Medicare card, you can go here.  If you’ve lost your Veterans Health Identification Card, you should contact the VA medical facility where your picture was taken to request a new card.  You can also call 877-222-VETS (8387).

With your Passport, you’ll want to report that it’s been lost as soon as you can. You can do this by phone, online or by mail.

Your state or local election office can tell you how to replace your voter registration card. Contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to find out how to replace naturalization or citizenship documents.

Financial Assistance:

Disaster Unemployment Assistance can be provided to anyone whose employment or self-employment has been lost or interrupted as a direct result of a major disaster.  This is only available for people who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance.

Gas Price Gouging:

After an emergency, like Hurricane Harvey, gas stations may feel the urge to raise gas prices to levels that are very high, unreasonable and unfair. This is called price gouging and it’s illegal.  If you believe that you are a victim of price gouging, contact your state attorney general.

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