03/05/2012 11:55 am ET Updated May 05, 2012

What to Do After a Tornado Strikes Your Town

"where do broken hearts go"

-Whitney Houston

I was lucky. I've had tornadoes go directly over my house, on two different days last week, and not touch down.

Many of my neighbors in Kentucky and surrounding states weren't as lucky. They lost their homes, businesses and cars. Several lost their lives.

Now that the tornado hit, what do you do?

My first suggestion is to let everyone in your social media world know your situation. Relief groups are organizing on Facebook and Twitter and it allows people who need help to be matched with people willing to offer it.

I saw on Facebook a request for a man needing XXL-size shirts. Like the kind I wear. I'm working to get him a couple of mine.

It's hard to find a big and tall man's store in a relief and recovery zone.

Victims often need specific items and things and social media is cutting through the bureaucracy and boundaries for people who need help.

Angie Fenton, who edits the Voice Tribune in Louisville (a publication that carries my weekly column), has been working non-stop from the town of Henryville, Indiana, a city north of Louisville that was wiped off the map by tornadoes.

She has been a one-person information service of where people can find help and encouraging people who want to help to get to the right places.

There are many like Angie all over the social media.

The second thing you need to do is contact your insurance agent.

Although agents are rapidly becoming replaced by geckos, 800 numbers and websites, they come in really handy during when disaster strikes.

I'm a licensed insurance adjuster and know from experience that a good agent can break through insurance company bureaucracy and get their clients money quickly.

It beats calling an 800 number.

You need to find out quickly if you are covered and what you are covered for. Few people buy renters insurance, so apartment dwellers and people who rent houses often lose everything.

The Insurance Information Institute noted standard homeowners and business insurance policies cover wind damage and cars are covered if they comprehensive coverage.

If you only have collision auto insurance, like people with older cars often do, you may not be covered.

An agent can help you get answers.

If you have access to a lawyer, talk to one immediately. Having a good lawyer on your side can help through the insurance claims process and on other issues.

During times of disaster, bar associations and trial lawyers volunteer their services for free.

An example in my home state is an effort sponsored by the Kentucky Justice Association. They recruited members for a "volunteer disaster legal services program." According to a statement from the association, the volunteer attorneys help with things like "assistance with insurance claims, counseling on landlord-tenant problems, assistance with home repair contracts, assisting in consumer protection matters, counseling on mortgage foreclosure problems, replacement of important legal documents and referring individuals to local or state agencies that might be of further assistance."

As Senator Trent Lott and other who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina found out, a lawyer can come in handy during a crisis. Several insurance carriers denied coverage to people who lost homes in Katrina, claiming it was flooding (which is rarely covered by standard insurance policies) instead of wind damage that caused the houses to be destroyed.

If an insurance company starts playing that kind of game, it's time to get a lawyer.

Disasters bring out the best in Americans. They dig in their pockets to help. It also brings out the worst in people wanting to make a quick buck. Rip-offs occurs for necessities like food and water. Gasoline and fuel suppliers have been known to gouge on prices and many scams take place in the restoration and clean up process.

If you run across a scam or rip-off, you need to call them out. Immediately. Social media is an easy way to do it and contacting traditional media sources is even better. Many people, like myself, were attracted to journalism as a way to go after bad people. Leading the evening news or hitting the front of a newspaper will make sure a bad actor goes out of business.

Most state attorney generals and law enforcement officials have consumer protection services but those services can be overwhelmed during times of crisis.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the bestselling author of the book, Wealth Without Wall Street; McNay, who lives in Richmond, Ky., is an award-winning financial columnist and Huffington Post contributor. You can learn more about him at

He is the Chairman of the Board for the McNay Settlement Group ( which provides structured settlement consulting for injury victims, lottery winners, and the families of special needs children.

McNay founded Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC, which assists attorneys in as conservators and setting up guardianships. It is nationally recognized as an administrator of Qualified Settlement (468b) funds.