The last thing you need is extra hassle or confusion when a serious storm or fire causes major damage to your car, truck or SUV. When it comes to weather-related damage to your vehicle, a lot depends on the severity of the storm itself.

If it was a relatively quick occurrence, like a fallen tree limb during an isolated thunderstorm, all you might need to do is call your insurance company and have an adjuster inspect the affected vehicle. However, during something much larger in scale, like a catastrophic flood, wildfire or a strong hurricane, you might also be dealing with damage to your home or workplace, a loss of electricity, and a longer than normal wait for assistance.

In these more extreme situations, the same three general rules still apply. Yet, having some extra patience – and being as prepared as possible – can go a long way towards helping you recover in the disaster’s immediate aftermath.

1. Know your insurance coverage and whether your vehicle is protected for storm- and fire- related damage.

It sounds like common sense, but a lot of people don’t fully understand their insurance coverage until something bad happens. If you have questions, call your insurance company and ask for a simple explanation about your policy terms and conditions. A comprehensive plan will more than likely cover fire and weather-related damage, or the cost to replace a vehicle that’s determined to be a total loss. Having only liability insurance will not cover storm-related damage, however. Your home or renter’s insurance might also allow for some form of compensation. Having this information understood long beforehand, rather than while you’re digging out from serious storm or fire damage, is a great first step.

2. Document the damage and make a note of who you talked to, and when.

Take photos of your vehicle exactly as you found it following the storm or fire, though only if it’s safe to do so. Don’t rush into a dangerous situation to see if your car is still in one piece, otherwise you could end up having yourself rushed to a hospital, or worse. Remember, if a disaster is fierce enough to wreck your car or truck, it’s strong enough to create countless hazards, like downed powerlines and unstable buildings, which remain dangerous long after the rain stops and skies clear. If you’re able to get ahold of your insurance company, or a federal agency like FEMA, take plenty of notes about what you talked about, the date and time of your conversation, along with the name of the person you spoke to. This avoids confusion and mixed messages, particularly during a very stressful and emotional time after a large storm.

3. Following a large-scale storm or wildfire, contact your insurance company’s relief hotline and/or FEMA for aid.

Again, a lot depends on the size of the disaster itself. For smaller incidents, where only a handful of vehicles might have been affected, you can rely on the regular phone number for your insurance agency. Yet, if the storm is extremely large and devastating, it’s likely your insurance company has established a hotline dedicated to helping victims of the disaster. Try to make a note of this before the storm arrives, if you can. To register with FEMA online visit, or call 800-621-FEMA (3362).

Learn More: Does FEMA Provide Support for Storm and Fire Damaged Vehicles?

Learn More: 5 Things to Tell Your Insurance Company if your Car is Damaged in a Storm or Fire

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