Disasters such as the floods in the Midwest and fires in Northern California take an enormous emotional and financial toll on victims.
Here are some tips on regaining financial balance in the days following a disaster from Disaster Recovery: A Guide to Financial Issues, published as a public service by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, American Red Cross, and National Endowment for Financial Education:
Try to avoid making major financial decisions.
If your home is damaged and uninhabitable, contact the Red Cross, your county office of emergency management, or other local disaster relief organizations to guide you to shelters and temporary housing.
If you need cash, contact the Red Cross, and if you are in a major disaster area, call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They may be able to guide you to sources of emergency cash assistance. You may receive emergency cash assistance from federal, state or local government following the declaration of a disaster. The money generally is not taxable.
If you don't think you'll be able to pay all your bills, contact your creditors and ask for more time. If your residence is temporarily uninhabitable or totally destroyed, notify service companies - like the utility and phone company - so they can stop billing immediately. Try to pay as many of your bills on time as possible to protect your credit rating.
You may want to consider the assistance of a professional financial advisor. Ask friends or other professional advisors, such as your lawyer, for references. You may also check with organizations like your state CPA society.
Disaster Recovery: A Guide to Financial Issues offers additional advice on such topics as managing an injury or disability, making financial decisions after a death, stabilizing your finances, handling lawsuits and other settlements, and managing a property loss.
The guide is available free of charge from the Red Cross Web site.