This week, our thoughts and prayers are with southeastern Texas as catastrophic flooding in Houston and surrounding areas caused by Hurricane Harvey has created an unprecedented event for families and rescue workers. My company is headquartered in Virginia Beach, so we are no strangers to hurricanes.

I've previously written about being prepared for the worst: Before Disaster Strikes: 3 Things You Need to Do Now. For people outside of Houston, these steps can save you major tax and insurance headaches should a major storm strike. Take heed. For storm-struck Texans, that's not what you want to hear in the middle of cleanup, with even more flooding possible. You do need to act, though.

Get Help Immediately for your tax and financial situation.

1. Check for FEMA help now and begin filing paperwork. The sooner you can start the process of applying for help, the better your future financial situation may be. Temporary FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers in your area can answer questions about disaster assistance and low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters and business owners. They can also help storm victims apply for federal disaster assistance.

FEMA also has safety tips here if you are in a flooded area, high rise building or under a tornado warning. If you can't get through to emergency help calling 9-1-1, another option is the Houston Command Center of the United States Coast Guard. The numbers are:

  • 281-464-4851
  • 281-464-4852
  • 281-464-4853
  • 281-464-4854
  • 282-464-4855

2. Check for disaster updates from the IRS. If you have damaged or lost property in a location declared by the President as a major disaster area, you may be able to get monetary help more quickly. In emergencies like this, the IRS updates a site called Tax Relief in Disaster Situations. Check for updates on grants and other financial help available for covered disaster areas.

3. You must be up to date on filing your taxes. I can imagine this isn't what you want to read at such a time, but taxes also matter in qualifying for disaster loans and grants from other federal agencies. The bottom line is, you must have filed all required tax returns. If you haven't filed, we can help you get the information you need to prepare your returns, as well as access additional disaster relief.

If you have been impacted by a federally declared disaster, you may receive copies or transcripts of previously filed tax returns free of charge by submitting Form 4506, Request for Copy or Transcript of Tax Form, clearly identified as a disaster related request.

When the unexpected hits, the most important thing to realize is that you don't have to weather this storm alone. The resources are there to help you recover. It might take perseverance and more than one phone call, but don't stop until you find the help you need to rebuild.