MEMPHIS (WMC TV) - I've covered many a tornado, hurricane and flood in almost 20 years of broadcast news.
But I'll never pretend to really know a disaster victim's suffering.
I can't imagine seeing my roof missing or my furniture floating in five feet of water smack in the middle of my living room.
I can understand the temptation to strap on your boots and start ripping out carpet, padding and drywall.
First of all, you don't know what's in it.
Snakes and dead animals.
Wade in all that, and now you have medical concerns on top of your damage.
Secondly, you may violate your homeowners insurance policy.
David Allen of AAA Restoration Services here in Memphis(http://www.aaarestoration.com/news.php) is one of my trusty experts in disaster clean-up.
He said most insurance companies use third-party labs to take samples from the carpet fiber, dry wall and other materials in flooded homes to figure out what's covered.
If you start yanking that stuff out, it's like stomping all over a crime scene. You destroy evidence -- and your insurance company won't pay.
Allen said before you do anything, CALL YOUR INSURANCE AGENT OR COMPANY. They may tell you to go ahead and move a few possessions to dry land.
But they should recommend a PREFERRED VENDOR LIST of contractors they'll cover who can come out, clean out and do minor repairs before the adjuster gets on the scene.
If your agent cannot recommend a preferred contractor, you do the same thing you'd do if it was a typical home repair job. Shop contractors with good ratings from the Better Business Bureau (http://memphis.bbb.org/) and from your state contractors board or attorney general's office:
Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (Contractors Board): http://tn.gov/commerce/boards/contractors/index.shtml
Get written estimates that include very specific line-items of the work to be done. Once you pick a contractor, make sure the proposed work meets your insurance policy's restrictions and filing requirements.
Just don't start doing work yourself without knowing your policy's limitations. If you do, you're just giving your insurance an excuse not to pay your claims.