What Do You Do If Your Home and Work Space Are Destroyed in a Natural Disaster?


Oklahoma’s prime tornado season began in earnest on Wednesday, March 25 when a storm tore through the city. According to a statement city officials released the following day, the damage is noteworthy: 33 homes were reportedly destroyed, and 421 others have experienced some degree of damage. To make matters worse, much of the damage hit the area around Moore, which was ravaged by a tornado on May 20, 2013. 

Those who lose their homes in a natural disaster don’t usually have to worry about also losing their livelihood, which is fortunate. But what about freelancers or those with a small business operating out of their home? What do you do when your home and office are both destroyed or severely damaged in a single moment?

At least 47 homes in the city had minor damage. The remaining 380 were more severely impacted by the tornado, and 33 homes were completely destroyed. For those who don’t work out of a traditional office, it is hard to imagine how this situation could be managed: after all, any of Moore’s freelancers who were impacted by the storm are not only barred from their homes for the foreseeable future, but have also lost their work space. Moreover, with power outages and other problems affecting much of the area, it won’t always be possible to stop by a coffee shop or library to take advantage of WiFi or available computers. And while work might not be a person’s first priority in the wake of a disaster, it is often necessary to help a person financially and emotionally return to normalcy.

According to an interview with Brian Jensen, the regional disaster program officer for the Eastern Oklahoma chapter of the American Red Cross, the most important thing to do in the immediate aftermath of a disaster is to check the safety of loved ones. You should then move to a safe location, while watching out for dangers in the debris, such as gas leaks or toppled power lines. After a few days, however, the situation becomes more of a matter of managing obstacles and preparing to move forward: while people are discouraged from staying in damaged buildings, approved buildings may be made livable (and workable!) with battery-powered flashlights or lanterns, laptops, generators and more.

Unfortunately, even if your home isn’t damaged, you may still find yourself without power, as emergency services often recommend that electricity, gas and other resources be shut off to prevent fires and other problems. Homeowners should also contact their insurance company immediately, taking care to photograph the damage and document any expenses, including accommodations, clothing and food. As a freelancer, don’t forget to include your work expenses in this process.

Once your home repairs begin, you may also want to consider taking steps to prevent further damage to your living and work space. If you sustained roof hail damage, for example, as many homeowners in tornado-prone areas do, you may want to consider installing a metal roofing instead of a traditional shingle roof. This implement is not only more durable, but may also be more affordable: some states, like Texas, will lower homeowner’s insurance by 35% for homes with metal roofs. These savings could come in handy if you live in an area that is a popular target for inclement weather.

Currently, city crews near Moore are reportedly removing piles of debris left by the curb in the damage zones. Officials have stated that 16 trucks are dumping this refuse at the local landfill, but that Moore desperately needs more volunteers to help the city return to normal. Four men reportedly participated in the Serve Moore program Monday morning, but many say there is more damage than was originally expected, calling for a larger workforce.

Those interested in volunteering to help clean up the damage in Moore can sign up at Serve Moore’s website. Volunteers can also visit the organization’s office, located at the city’s old police station building at 224 S Chestnut Ave, Moore, OK 73160.

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