After a Disaster
If family members or friends are missing after a disaster:
First, call your local law enforcement agency for help.
- If you're searching for or caring for a lost child, call 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also maintains the Unaccompanied Minors Registry.
- Get help locating a missing person by using the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS). The program can help with printing missing person posters, getting free forensic services like DNA analysis, and more.
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:
- Register with the American Red Cross Safe and Well system so family and friends can find you.
- Before you go abroad, enroll in the State Department's free travel alert system, Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) so a U.S. Embassy can contact you or help family find you when you're traveling abroad.
- FEMA's emergency family locator system helps people connect during presidentially-declared disasters. You can register online or call 1-800-588-9822, 24 hours a day when it has been activated.
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.
Emergency Food and Water After a Disaster
If you need emergency food and water after a disaster, find an open emergency shelter or listen to local radio or TV for other disaster feeding sites. You can also check with local agencies for food assistance. If the president has declared your area as a disaster zone, you may be able to get D-SNAP—short-term financial assistance for food.
If you’re in your home, follow guidelines for food safety after a power outage or flood.
Following a Flood:
- Throw out any food and drink that may have been exposed to flood water. This includes foods in containers that are not waterproof, like those with screw-caps and pull tops, home-canned foods and cardboard boxes of juice, milk, and baby formula.
- Clean and sanitize any undamaged, commercially packaged, all-metal food cans and pouches, like those used for juice or tuna. That means:
- Removing labels
- Washing cans and pouches with soap and water, and rinsing with safe drinking water if available
- Sanitizing by boiling cans and pouches for two minutes or soaking them for 15 minutes in a mixture of one cup household bleach to 5 gallons of water
- Air-drying cans and pouches for at least one hour before opening or storing
- Using them as soon as possible
- Wash, rinse, and sanitize pots and pans, dishes, and utensils either by boiling in water or soaking in a bleach/water solution.
- Wash countertops and sanitize with a bleach/water solution that is allowed to air dry.
During and After Power Outages:
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. With doors closed, refrigerated foods will stay safe to eat for four hours. Frozen foods in a packed freezer will stay safe for 48 hours.
- Try to buy dry or block ice to keep foods cold if the power will be out for days. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a full, 18-cubic-foot freezer cold for two days.
- You can eat or refreeze food that has remained at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below or still has ice crystals.
- Many foods will spoil in a refrigerator that’s been without power for four hours. These include most meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, and deli items.
Follow these guidelines for refrigerated and frozen foods after a power outage
Create Your Own Emergency Water Supply
If you need emergency water and can’t get bottled water, you can make safe drinking water by either boiling it or disinfecting it with bleach. Boiling water is the better choice because it kills more of the bacteria that can make you sick.
- If the water is cloudy, let it settle and then filter it through a clean cloth or coffee filter.
- Boil water for one minute. Let it cool before storing.
- If you can’t boil it, add 8 drops (⅛ teaspoon) of 6% unscented household liquid bleach to a gallon of water. Stir it and let it sit for 30 minutes.
- If you don’t have bleach, look in your medicine cabinet or first aid kit for iodine. Use five drops of 2% tincture of iodine for each quart of water. You can also use water purification tablets, found at pharmacies and sporting goods stores.
- Store water in clean containers with covers.
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.
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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Replace your Social Security card.It's free but you'll need a government-issued photo ID.
- 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.
- Replace other important documents. Yourstate 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.
Gas Price Gouging
After a disaster, such as a hurricane or a 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
HUD provides a variety of disaster resources listed below. We also partner with Federal and state agencies to help implement disaster recovery assistance. Under the National Response Framework the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) offer initial recovery assistance.
Mortgage Assistance from HUD's Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
For a Presidentially declared disaster, FHA activates a mortgagee letter making a variety of insured loan programs available for disaster victims and putting into play use of special loan servicing and underwriting requirements. Find out more.
- Mortgage Insurance for Disaster Victims (Section 203(h))
- Options Available for FHA Homeowners in Presidentially -Declared Disaster Areas
- Housing Notice 04-22, Disaster Recovery Guidance by Multifamily Housing After a Presidentially Declared Disaster
Office of Housing Counseling
To help you prepare and respond to disasters in your community, HUD’s Office of Housing Counseling has developed a Disaster Recovery and Emergency Preparedness Toolkit. Resources include:
- Emergency Preparedness Guide for Housing Counseling Agencies: This guide will provide useful and easy-to-implement information to assist housing counseling agencies successfully prepare for any type of disaster or emergency. Developing an Emergency Preparedness Plan is one of the most important strategic decisions you will make as a housing counseling agency.
- Emergency Preparedness and Recovery Resources for Housing Counseling Agencies: This document was originally developed for housing counseling agencies. However, it contains a comprehensive list of website resources to help anyone prepare their community for a disaster. The web links provided are best reviewed ahead of an actual disaster since Internet access is not guaranteed during emergency situations.
- Housing Counseling Disaster Program Guide: Housing counselors play a critical role in helping communities impacted by disaster connect families to key housing resources. This universal document provides a model for HUD-approved housing counseling agencies to expand and support their long-term disaster recovery services as part of their grantee action plan in their respective jurisdictions receiving Federal disaster recovery funds.
Assistance from Ginnie Mae
Ginnie Mae encourages all single-family, manufactured housing, and multifamily Ginnie Mae issuers offering forbearance to provide forbearance to mortgagors in areas receiving a Presidential disaster declaration. In certain instances, Ginnie Mae will assist issuers in their efforts to offer forbearance to mortgagors with pass-through payments. Visit Ginnie Mae's website
Office of Multifamily Housing
Having the right plan in place before a disaster will ensure an effective, coordinated response. The Ready to Respond: Disaster Staffing Toolkit is a guide developed by Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. in partnership with HUD, to help affordable multifamily housing organizations develop comprehensive disaster staffing plans to protect buildings, engage residents and continue business operations in the event of a disaster. The Ready to Respond: Disaster Staffing Toolkit is based on the Incident Command System (ICS), a planning framework used by federal, state and local first responders to help with command, control and coordination of disaster response.
By using the toolkit to develop a disaster staffing plan, your housing organization will be able to:
- Minimize building damage and ensure quick return to service
- Support the safety, preparedness and recovery of residents
- Maintain key business operations throughout a disaster
Community Development and Housing Assistance
Metropolitan cities, urban counties, and states may request that awarding of annual Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) funds be expedited or that program year start dates be moved up. For activities in a disaster area, they may also request modification of some program requirements to facilitate disaster assistance. CDBG Disaster Recovery Program.
Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
Notice for Housing Providers and Survivors in Natural Disaster Areas
The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) provides guidance on how to easily comply with the Fair Housing Act, how to avoid housing discrimination and how to seek help.
Policy Development & Research
HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) offers Disaster Response Toolkit (guidance on how to rehabilitate flooded homes, design & construction practices that promote moisture resistance & durability, preparedness for future disasters, and other relevant content) to aid in the recovery process. The reports in this Kit are available in print by calling the HUD USER Clearinghouse at (800) 245-2691, option 1 or can be downloaded for free from HUD USER. For a limited time, printed copies of the reports are available to those in storm-affected areas free of charge.