Whether you were a victim or want to donate money, here's our advice to protect yourself after the storm

Hurricane Harvey was a record-breaking storm, bringing the largest rainfall the continental U.S. has ever seen and is responsible for at least 22 deaths. It dropped more than 52 inches of rain — enough to force the National Weather Service to add new colors to its maps to represent the severity.

Whether you were there or not, you probably have a lot of questions about what comes next. As Mr. Rogers used to say: Look for the helpers. Here’s our advice to get back on track, or to help those in need.

If you were hit by Harvey

The first thing you should do after verifying everyone is safe is protect your financial interests. Check out the infographic above.

If you expect an interruption in your income — either you aren’t able to work immediately, or your employer was also hit by the storm — and think you’ll have problems paying bills, you should let the companies know.

In fact, you should let them know anyway because many will be offering disaster relief programs to help people prioritize their spending and get everyone back on track. You don’t have to take advantage of anything you don’t need, but as you line up your budget to deal with emergency expenses, it’s good to have options.

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When you do call, it’s important to document everything. Get names, numbers, account details and any claim IDs you’re provided with, along with timestamping everything.

It’s important to be thorough and patient because many of these programs are improvised and there isn’t a process in place — stuff can and will fall through the cracks, and you don’t want to end up on the receiving end of a broken promise.

With records in hand, it’s easier for a company to locate their own recording of your call or to convince a manager to sign-off on what you were told directly in the aftermath of the storm.

Make sure to also visit disasterassistance.gov, which has lots of resources you can search by address, including food, shelter,  information on flood insurance claims, and lots of other stuff you might not realize is available.

If you want to help Harvey victims

The sad fact is that disasters attract scammers. They prey on our kindness and the millions in donations we offer to help get people back on their feet. Take your charity seriously to make sure your help actually gets where it is needed. Here is a list of some we trust…

Don’t judge a charity by its name — be sure to look them up. And if you can an unsolicited message asking for donations, make sure they are who they say they are. Many scammers just take the name and branding of well-known charities, or tweak the name to sound similar.

Instead of clicking the links or calling the number in the message, look the charity up independently through your favorite search engine. Also check it out on CharityNavigator.org, which vets and rates charity effectiveness and trustworthiness based on the paperwork they file with the federal government.

If you’re going to buy perishable goods and household items to donate,  realize it’s generally better to donate money (and time volunteering, if you’re close). The more layers of logistics there are for transporting things and figuring out what is needed where, the more ultimately goes to waste. Identify the experts, then trust them to spend the money where it will do the most good.

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Article last modified on September 1, 2017. Published by Debt.com, LLC .