Special to The Dallas Examiner
As communities across Fort Worth recover from tornadoes that touched down outside Jacksboro, Texas on Mar. 21, many people are looking at the devastation and wondering where to start. Unfortunately, scammers following in the wake of natural disasters, known as “storm chasers,” make the recovery process even more challenging. These scammers look to capitalize on home and business owners who, in their desperation for immediate repairs, may not exercise as much caution when contracting the services of a repair company.
Although not all storm chasers are scammers, they may lack the proper licensing for your area, offer quick fixes, or make big promises they can’t deliver. Often found soliciting services door to door, they make offers but disappear after accepting payment. Avoid hiring any contractor who uses high-pressure sales tactics, such as “today only” offers, or demands full payment upfront.
Tornadoes, while a relatively brief weather phenomenon, can enact a heavy toll on the communities affected. Downed powerlines, road debris and infrastructure instability are all major obstacles that can contribute to prolonged recovery timelines. State and national disaster recovery organizations, such as FEMA, can significantly contribute to a recovering community. However, it may take weeks for the organizations to reach an affected area, depending on the extent of damages and road conditions.
In the aftermath of the devastation caused by tornadoes in North Texas, BBB offers the following advice to begin the recovery effort and avoid storm chaser scams:
- Find out if you’re covered.Unlike hurricanes or floods, tornado damages are usually covered by basic homeowners insurance. However, certain communities across Texas may be required to purchase additional wind damage insurance to cover wind-related damages, such as sheared shingles. Call your insurance company immediately to report the damage and discuss how to proceed with repairs and ask if you are required to have wind damage insurance. Make sure you understand how your insurance company will reimburse your repair costs. Take photos or videos of damage inside and outside of your house, as well as in your immediate area.
- Do your research.After an insurance adjuster has surveyed your tornado damage, you will need to find a reputable company to make repairs. Check with BBB.org to find a trustworthy business, such as roofing contractors, or construction services.
- Get several bids.Don’t pay large fees upfront or pay in cash. BBB recommends consumers solicit bids from at least three different companies. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided. If approached by someone offering a “free” roof inspection, proceed with caution as it may be a scam.
- Ask for a timeline. Find out how long the repair will take. If damages were heavy in your area, it may take longer to schedule the repairs. Be sure to check with government organizations to see if you can qualify for assistance, especially if damage to your residence was so extensive it is not safe to live in without repairs.
- Get everything in writing.Be sure all work is explained in the contract, including cleanup, waste disposal, start and completion dates. Any verbal agreements made should be included in the contract.
BBB recommends businesses develop and implement contingency plans that go beyond response and recovery. These plans should be designed to help support your business through a lengthy period of recovery and reduced operations. Aspects that business owners should consider are: securing a temporary location, managing employee availability due to possible damages and working with the appropriate agencies to rebuild and/or repair.
For more information about planning, preparing, responding and recovering from a natural disaster, visit https://www.bbb.org/storm.