For disaster survivors, having documents that prove who they are and what they own can be critical for issues such as aid applications, insurance claims, and housing disputes. Also critical during the recovery process are documents regarding insurance coverage, medical care, wills, child custody, access to Medicaid and other federal benefits, and more.
Prioritizing which documents to replace first will depend in part on a survivor’s needs and circumstances. Nonetheless, if the president declares a disaster for a particular area, the residents there generally must apply for federal aid within 60 days. That makes it very important to have the documentation the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asks for as soon as possible.
The information FEMA asks applicants for includes:
If you are looking for help with a civil legal problem, use this tool to enter an address or city to find an LSC-funded legal aid organization near you.
FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) are accessible facilities and mobile offices you can visit to learn more about FEMA and other disaster assistance programs. You may also visit to ask questions about your case. DRCs are set up in convenient areas after a disaster to make them easier to find.
A DRC may be able to help you:
To find a Disaster Recovery Center near you, use the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s DRC locator or text “DRC” and your zip code to 43362 (4FEMA) to locate a Disaster Recovery Center in your area.
The best way to avoid having to replace lost documents is to take steps to protect them in case of a disaster. This can include:
Developed by South Carolina Legal Services, this video discusses how to keep important documents safe during a disaster. Though specific to South Carolina, many of these concepts apply across the country.
Developed by South Carolina Legal Services, this video covers how to protect specific documents proving you own your home and property. Though specific to South Carolina, many of these concepts also apply in other jurisdictions.