In 2011 it was Hurricane Irene; in 2012 it was Sandy and now Hurricane Patricia is expected to be one of the strongest hurricanes — if not the strongest — recorded in the Western Hemisphere. Even though there isn’t agreement on the causes of climate change, there does appear to be agreement that climate change is real, and the changes to our shorelines and our constructed environment are most likely to be deep. And while there’s much we can do in order to prepare our homes for all these storms, we will also need to still take care of the aftermath.

Within this story from the Disaster Recovery archive, you will see things to do when flood waters have left homes and communities ruined and soggy — and how to begin to rebuild.

Related: 7 Ways to Help Someone Hit by a Hurricane

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Before heading home, be sure it is safe to return. Check with your regional authorities and utility companies to make sure your neighborhood is a safe place to come back to, as downed power lines, standing water and debris present many dangers.Once you buy home, make sure the utility connections are in good condition. Gas lines, electrical connections etc., should be inspected before you proceed throughout the house. If possible, have a utility business technician or building professional (a licensed electrician, plumber etc.) assist you with the review. Even if you feel comfortable doing it yourself, having another pair of eyes appearing will help. If you’re planning to stay in your home, make sure smoke detectors and alarm systems are working.

Know whom to contact and how. Contact your insurance carrier and stay in contact with local authorities. Before a storm hits, be certain that you have hard copies of telephone numbers for insurance brokers, first responders, building officials, medical personnel and utility companies.

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Inspect for and record the damage. Applying video and photos, record the extent of the damage to your home, neighborhood and property. Camera in hand, walk around your home, both indoors and out, to capture the harm. While photographs are great, a narrated video is better.

When you wander around, you are going to be searching for both obvious and not-so-obvious signs of harm (waterlogged carpeting, furniture that’s been tossed about). Things such as cracks in basement floor slabs and foundation walls are signs of possible structural issues and should be addressed quickly.

Conduct the inspection with an expert. Your insurance provider will likely make a specialist available to you, or you can certainly call in an architect or engineer who specializes evaluating properties after natural disasters. Have the expert look for damaged and wet drywall, wood, siding, roofing and so on. Document the harm. Pay special attention to the structural components (base, concrete slabs, framing). Also carefully inspect for potential problems (areas for future mould growth, roof damage, escapes).

Bud Dietrich, AIA

Eliminate the water. As far as you will want to get rid of the water immediately, you will need to await every one of the flood waters to recede outside before doing so. If they do, remove any water from your attic or crawl space to stop additional damage to the home’s structure. You would like to avoid putting any undue pressure on your base from groundwater.

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Eliminate the damaged contents. As difficult as it can be, you are going to need to get rid of whatever’s been ruined beyond repair. Things such as furniture, toys and carpets all have to go to prevent mould growth. For insurance purposes, record each thing you need to shed.

Practice the disaster-recovery procedures your regional authorities have established to prevent just moving the clutter from within your home to the street.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

Air out and disinfect affected areas. Once the water is out along with the damaged items are eliminated, dry flooded areas using mobile fans and dehumidifiers. Be sure everything is dry prior to attempting any restoration. Use cleaning agents like bleach to get rid of any water stains and mould spores.

Once the basement is dry, test for air quality and any evidence of damp places and possible mold spores. Use bleach or something very similar to wash up any remaining areas of concern.

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Clean up the lawn. Downed trees and loose branches, plus damaged shrubs, patios and decks, are all going to want cleaning and restoration. First make sure it’s absolutely safe to walk around your lawn. Check to make sure that there are not any branches or trees around to return and no weakened or downed power lines near. Document the condition of your house prior to cleanup. Cracked and heaved drives, paths and patios should all be recorded.

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Think beforehand. As devastating as such natural disasters are, they provide us a chance to reconstruct for the future. So unless your house is too far gone to restore, use this as an opportunity to make improvements to be much better prepared for your future. Contain a generator for emergency power in your rebuilding plans. If you are really close to the ocean, think about rebuilding the house on stilts. In fact, you might need to do these items to comply with local building codes and codes anyway.

Nevertheless you rebuild, remember that more than likely, we haven’t seen the last of hurricanes such as Patricia.

More: 4 Things a Hurricane Teaches You About Design

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