After a Disaster

Get help after a disaster finding family and friends, temporary housing, tips to let people know you are safe and steps to replace important vital documents. Also, learn what to do before and after returning to your damaged home and how to start cleaning up.

Find Family and Friends After a Disaster

If family members or friends are missing after a disaster:
First call your local law enforcement agency for help.

Let People Know You're Safe

If you are safe after a disaster, national emergency or overseas civil unrest and want to let people know your status or reunite with family: 

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Find Shelter or Rental Housing After a Disaster

Find immediate shelter during and after a disaster or national emergency:

  • Search for an open emergency shelter near you by texting SHELTER and your zip code to 4FEMA (43362), Example: SHELTER 01234. (Standard text message rates apply.)

  • Find open shelters using the FEMA Mobile App.

  • Search online for a safe place to go.

Learn more about short-term emergency shelters.

If you're looking for rental housings or apartments because you can't return home after a disaster, check FEMA Interim Housing Resources.

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Returning Home After a Disaster

Wait to return to your property until local officials have declared that the area is safe.

Before you enter, check for safety hazards like loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage. Learn what else to check around your home and yard after a disaster. 

As clean-up begins, look for items requiring special disposal and get tips on how to safely clean up your home to prevent injury and illness.

Natural disasters can cause damage to records and heirloom treasures such as family papers, books, photographs, and other media. Find guidelines for saving family heirlooms and what to do with wet documents. Learn how to get replacement copies of your vital documents after a disaster.

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How to Replace Your Lost or Destroyed Vital Records

Replacing all important documents that were lost or destroyed in a flood, fire, or other disaster can be overwhelming. Although the process varies from state to state, these general steps can help you get started.

  1. Replace your birth certificate. Find the vital records office in the state where you were born. Check to find out if you can obtain a certified copy of your birth certificate without any identification and follow the instructions. A few states don’t require a government-issued photo ID, or accept other solutions like a sworn statement of your identity. 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 your own government-issued photo ID to get a copy of your birth certificate, start with step 2.

  2. Replace your driver’s license. Get this first if you cannot get your birth certificate. This task varies from state to state. In some states, you can do it online.

  3. Replace your marriage certificate. You’ll need a certified copy as proof if you changed your name when you got married. Contact the vital records office in the state where you were married.

  4. Replace your Social Security card. It's free but you'll need a government-issued photo ID. 

  5. Replace your passport. Report your lost or destroyed passport to the Department of State. To apply for a new passport, you’ll need to fill out a form DS-11 and go to a passport acceptance facility or agency. You’ll need your birth certificate or a certified copy, and a government-issued photo ID.

  6. Replace other important documents. 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. Learn how to replace other documents including Medicare and Medicaid cards and military and federal employee IDs.

Government agencies usually mail replacement vital documents. But if your home was destroyed in a disaster, you might not be able to get your mail. Contact your local post office and ask if you can pick up your mail there or request to have your mail forwarded to a temporary location.

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Gas Price Gouging

After a disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado, gas stations may raise gas prices to levels that are very high, unreasonable, and unfair. This is called price gouging and it is illegal. If you believe that you are a victim of price gouging, contact your state attorney general.

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Last Updated: August 09, 2018