NEW YORK (WABC) -- If the unimaginable happens and your home is destroyed, would you know what to do next?
With natural disasters becoming more common due to climate change or even a house fire, there are several steps to take to make recovering easier. 7 On Your Side has the seven moves to make before and after a tragedy.
The unexpected, a total loss, recently hit two families that 7 On Your Side helped when their homes burned to the ground.
"It's mind-blowing that, we did everything right," said April Santangelo.
April and John Santangelo kept their important documents in a fireproof lockbox, but it didn't survive the water to put the fire at their West Milford house out.
The birth certificates for their three kids got soaked and now they're jumping through hoops to prove their youngest Tyler's age and apply for his driver's license.
And when the Palmiottos home in Mohegan Lake caught on fire, they had a hard time replacing daily prescription drugs for both sons that were lost in the fire.
A fire and waterproof box for under $50 from Walmart is a good investment. A hazard-proof lockbox will keep papers and meds safe.
Before locking in documents, take photos and make copies of passports, licenses, social security cards, baptism, marriage licenses, birth and death certificates or naturalization papers. Email yourself and hold hard copies at a secure location away from home.
Should you experience a total loss, it's imperative to show damages in detail.
Phil Maltaghati is a public insurance adjustor who is assisting the Santangelos with their claim.
"The first thing I would say is videotape the entire structure, keep them below a minute so it's easy to be share it, narrate it so the viewers can see, I used to have two armchairs, there was a 60-inch TV," Maltaghati said. "I can tell you the videos and pictures have helped my clients dramatically get increased offers because the person who well-documents their claims will get the most money."
He offered the following advice to homeowners after a tragedy:
-Call your insurance company and review the entire policy.
-Know what you're entitled to, like temporary housing.
-Don't rush or guess what it will cost for repairs, get estimates in writing from experts before submitting a claim.
"It's a lot of what I call guesstimating, people guess-timating, of what the actual value of a loss is, and sometimes the true value is just asking industry experts," Maltaghati said.
And it's just as important to know the value of what you have before a disaster.
Here is a checklist for inventory:
-When you take photos, make sure you store them on the cloud in case your phone is damaged -- and video is also best.
-Make sure you narrate room to room and describe each item.
-Keep your receipts on big ticket purchases like appliances, televisions and tech. Email them to yourself, but if you don't save any receipts, one great tip is go to your order history on Amazon and where you shop online and all these will help ensure your claim will be much smoother.
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