Iowa storms can bring high winds, heavy rain, and lightning—any one of which can cause trees to fall. Hopefully none of us have to deal with a tree falling on our home this season, but it’s better to know what to do ahead of time in case it does happen. Knowing what immediate steps to take and acting quickly to implement your plan could help save your family and potentially protect your home from significant damage.
Do these 5 things if a tree or branch falls on your roof:
#1. Immediately evacuate everyone from the house.
Make sure you have an evacuation plan in place so everyone in your home knows how to exit as quickly and safely as possible. Practice your plan with your family BEFORE a storm causes any damage. Putting together a "go bag" (also known as a "bug out bag") of emergency supplies, including copies of important documents, cash, car keys, and other indispensable items, can ensure that you have everything you need to leave your home until the danger passes ready to grab and go.
#2. Call 911.
Even if the fallen tree or branch seems small, don’t attempt to deal with the issue by yourself. First and foremost, do not climb onto your roof, especially during a storm. Working on a roof is dangerous even for expert roofers. Rain can make roofs slippery and dangerous, and storm winds are often very strong. Climbing on your roof puts you at risk not only of falling but also of being struck by lightning. A tree or branch landing on your roof can also compromise its structural integrity and increase the danger that it may collapse.
Once you and your family have evacuated your home to a safe location, call emergency services and tell them what happened. They will advise you further on what to do; they may send out a fire crew or public utility representative to ensure your home is safe, including making sure there is no danger of fire or electrical problems and checking power lines and connections.
#3. Contact your insurance company.
Most home or umbrella insurance policies will cover at least some damage caused by storm debris, including the cost of removing the tree that has fallen. However, your recovery could be negatively affected if the damage is partly a result of negligence on the homeowner’s part. That is, if a healthy tree on your property is knocked down during a storm, your insurance company will likely cover some or all of the cost. However, if an old, rotten tree falls or loses limbs, your recovery may be reduced if it finds that you had prior knowledge of the potentially hazardous situation and could have prevented the damage.
Once you report the damage to your insurance company, they will tell you how to proceed. They may recommend or send out a roofer to quickly cover any exposed areas or board up broken windows to prevent further water damage.
Take photos of the damage as soon as it's safe to do so. Be careful, but try to capture different angles of your home, including close ups and long shots. Have the photos ready to show your insurance company; many companies allow you to upload them to web-based systems to speed evaluation and determine compensation.
#4. Call your local roofing contractor.
It’s a good idea to have a trustworthy roofing contractor picked out ahead of time in case an emergency such as this arises. If you don't, you may end up grabbing the first roofer you can find, and that could be a big mistake. It's important to be wary of storm chasers who show up ready to help in emergency roofing situations, scam homeowners, and take off with their money.
If possible, get a good, reputable roofing contractor come out to do the repair work.
#5. Make sure to leave your home safe and secure.
If the tree has done substantial damage to your home and will take some time to repair, you may not be able to live there immediately. Make sure your doors and windows are locked, and secure anything valuable in case your home is broken into while you’re away.
Your and your family’s safety should be your number one priority. A fallen tree is not something to take lightly, nor is a damaged roof. Let the professionals handle the situation for you.