New Hampshire Legal Assistance

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Before a disaster strikes

Posted Sep 20, 2018

Whether it's a hurricane, an ice storm, or an apartment fire, disasters can upend the lives of vulnerable low-income families in New Hampshire. Read about one family's experience after an accidental fire here.

Below is some important information to consider before a disaster strikes, and some advice for what to do and who to call after. 

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NOTE: The American Red Cross has a host of information and suggestions for disaster preparations on its website:


After a disaster, the Red Cross should be your first contact, and often will direct people on "what to do next."  Some larger municipalities also have local offices of disaster preparedness.  If you evacuate your home to a designated shelter, the shelter will have resources/volunteers to assist.


Generally, the Red Cross will provide accommodations for two nights after a localized disaster such as a home fire. In the wake of a big disaster, the municipality may set up a shelter in a gym, church, or senior center; if not, residents can apply for help from their local welfare office, which is obligated under state law to provide shelter.


But emergency packs can include all the batteries you’ll ever need, and still leave people stranded when the water recedes, if they haven’t saved important legal documents.


In addition to the essentials (birth certificates and Social Security cards), if you rent your home, you should save a copy of your Lease Agreement, rent receipts and information on any renter's insurance you’ve purchased.  


Landlords’ insurance does not cover tenants’ belongings. Tenants should have renter's insurance for their personal property; basic coverage on many policies starts as low as $10 per month.

If you own your home, have your mortgage loan documents and Declaration's page from Homeowner's Insurance, and contact information for your local agent, if available.

Here’s a tech tip: While it’s important to keep original copies whenever possible, you can make digital back-ups of many essential documents by scanning them and saving them to "the cloud" so even if you lose your computer, you can go to a local library and get copies. Your local library may have scanners available for public use.