House damaged in the storm? Beware scams, watch the chain saw, and take photos
Beware of scams, document the damage to your property and be careful if you've lost electrical power. Those were among the tips authorities offered as residents in the Naperville and Woodridge area recovered from a weather onslaught.
A tornado, thunderstorms and high winds damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes overnight Sunday.
State Farm Claim Team Manager Ted Kolp arrived in the suburbs with a team from the insurance company early Monday to assess the chaos. He cautioned homeowners itching to jump in and fix their properties that rushing might be counterproductive.
"If you're someone who has never used a chain saw before, don't try being your own tree removal expert," Kolp said.
Adjusters are handling the most serious claims first, however, many insurance policies cover temporary repairs, such as a tarpaulin on a roof or boarding up holes, he noted.
And, "please, please, please take photos" of exterior damage or broken furniture and other items.
"It's instinct, people's homes are their castles and they want to start cleaning and making it right," Kolp said. But don't clean up evidence of the problems without documentation, he added.
Illinois Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Rebecca Clark also suggested residents "share the photos of your home's damage with local authorities and keep a copy of all receipts. This information can be used by local authorities should they seek federal assistance for the affected community," she said.
Homeowners should also be skeptical of storm-chaser con artists.
"Be wary of contractors who go door-to-door to offer repair services," said Tori Joseph, deputy press secretary for Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
"Even if there is a need to act quickly, shop around. Get written estimates from multiple contractors, and don't be rushed into a deal. Never pay in cash."
Clark advised "residents should always ask to see identification if they have any questions about the legitimacy of anyone who may approach them. Also, never prepay for repair services, and remember -- if it's too good to be true, it probably is."
To check out suspect businesses, the attorney general's office has a consumer fraud hotline at (800) 386-5438, or you can visit the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org.
Individuals may also consult their insurance agent for recommendations on qualified professionals.
About 3,800 households were without power as of Monday afternoon.
State Farm advised homeowners to disconnect or turn off appliances, equipment or electronics left on when the power went out. That will avoid any surges or spikes that could hurt items when power is back up.
People using generators should be sure to follow instructions and not operate them inside, officials warned.
Kolp has worked disasters for 30 years, from Hurricane Andrew to local hail storms. "For those people that it happens to, it's the worst thing that ever happened. But it gets better."