On the evening of October 29, our family living in the South Shore of Nassau County thought we were finished making modest preparations for what was forecast to be the largest and most powerful storm to hit New York greater area: Superstorm Sandy.
By coincidence, I had started beta-testing IQTELL as a way to utilize Getting Things Done principles, as a replacement for Microsoft Outlook and a way to consolidate my apps on my new Android smartphone. When the storm hit, we had ignored requests to evacuate because we had no family to go to and we had a generator powered off natural gas. We innocently thought we’d be just fine. Early in the evening, the power went out but the generator kicked on and I continued to post messages as an online professor in my classrooms.
Within 30 minutes, raw sewage began pouring into our basement through the sink and the drains quickly bringing 5 feet of sewage into the basement. We learned later that power outages at the local sewage treatment plants had created a sewage overflow problem in thousands of homes all over our community. Three hours later, strong winds from Sandy broke windows in our basement and garage. Roof damage caused leaks in the garage. Finally a storm surge of 8 feet of water slammed into the houses in our community inundating the basement with even more water and taking down the generator. The storm surge quickly flooded 3 vehicles in our driveway. 90 minutes later, a boat came up to our house and evacuated us out of the house with news of a worse storm surge scheduled to hit the next morning which never materialized.
The first few days we were out of power. The local telephone central office and several others in New York had been destroyed. Many of the Verizon cell towers were down. Meanwhile, we were able to restore our generator and our house quickly became a haven for our local neighbors looking for hot coffee and food. Extension cords were run to multiple houses in the neighborhood to help pump out their basement or provide limited power to charge a cell phone.
While some of our neighbors frantically fed fuel into their generator and stood in line at gas stations with rapidly depleted supplies, we were at least one step ahead since we were powered to natural gas. It became apparent quite quickly that IQTELL was going to become very handy as I began tracking claims to our auto and house insurance losses, claims with FEMA, communication with a variety of local community service agencies, and tracking what I called tips and tricks for how to cite the specific damage that had occurred based on what was learned by survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
Above, i gave a quick overview of my early beta testing of IQTELL coinciding with devastating hurricane and Superstorm Sandy causing $80,000 of contents losses. I had been using Getting Things Done principles since the book was first published but found that my resources including an aging Blackberry phone and Microsoft Outlook, Evernote, and a paper based Getting Things done calendar were no longer sufficient to track my daily activities as an online professor and self-proclaimed case manager for my special needs son. By the time I had purchased an Android phone and begun integrating my calendar with Google mail, I realized I needed a better system. So using IQTELL helped me really reinforce some of the Getting Things done methodology that I had left by the wayside. The hurricane brought on huge intricacies and time-consuming networking, research, tracking, and follow-up.
I wanted to give you an idea of the kinds of things I was tracking and how I did this within IQTELL. Some of the things that I needed to track were my claims with my insurance company for contents, and for all 3 of my cars, which ended up being totaled due to flooding, my claims with FEMA, and my application with SBA Disaster loans. I set each of these up as a project within IQTELL and then set up specific actions within that project. When emails were exchanged on the topic, I would attach all relevant emails to the specific action or to the higher project if that was more relevant.
I found myself constantly having to follow up with people; more than usual. Staying on the phone for 45-60 min on hold was routine especially in the early days. No one had predicted a storm that would affect so many people and regions. Who would have thought that it would take more than 3 weeks for the auto adjuster to come and look at the car? In the end, they did the claim completely online and had a third party adjuster make the offer and another third party tow company then take the car. In all, there was a separate adjuster for each car and it took up to 6 weeks to pay off on the final vehicle. Needless to say, I had a project assigned for most of the items with actions and sub-actions. In some cases, I just assigned an action and subsequent sub-actions and kept a careful eye on my follow-up dates. I also used many of the features of IQTELL to help me sort actions such as Areas of Focus as a way to group and then view related actions or sort by context so I could see all my Waiting For actions vs actions that could be accomplished on the telephone, on my computer, while on an errand, and so forth. Using the Next action feature helped me quickly ascertain what I needed to do next to propel things forward.
I set up similar projects and tasks regarding my contents claim with my insurance company. This has become rather tricky because we have now been turned down re: a sewer backup claim. The insurance company cites general flooding conditions; but for the first 6 hours, it was clearly sewage pouring in to our basement apparently because the sewage treatment center in our area had a power outage and had released sewage into the system. Besides using IQTELL to follow up on specific actions i.e. talked to claim adjuster, filed complaint with State of NY, reopened case; I also added entries to the project based on research I had done on what other families are doing to successfully defend these types of claims. Out of some of that research became new actions that I needed to do to propel things forward.
With so many homes in the community damaged and many homeowners renting the few available rentals till their home is complete, a huge shortage of suitable rentals has occurred. This has combined with problems of price gouging on the part of landlords as well as a general rental price increase that has been occurring for the past year because of increased demand for rentals for a variety of reasons. People can’t get a mortgage, limited housing inventory, or not wanting to make a home purchase with the current outlook on house prices going forward in our area. Initially, we were evacuated into temporary housing but this was difficult as most of our surviving items were in storage. We really wanted to be back in a real home. Our previous rental was still uninhabitable.
Here I used IQTELL first to identify the overall project Find a Permanent Residence and then a series of actions that we felt were needed to get us there. I linked IQTELL to a series of contacts typically realtors and home management companies. I entered in specific tasks based on specific homes we were looking at and linked corresponding emails to the broker for example to these actions in IQTELL.
Regardless of the post Sandy task, I find that by keeping copious notes related to each phone conversation and email that I can quickly refer back to these notes when trying to negotiate a better price, faster action, or better result. Again, I use many of the IQTELL features (and constantly learn how to use some of the features that I’m not as familiar with to improve what I’m doing). I’ve synced my Google Calendar to IQTELL which syncs back to my phone. When I schedule an appt, it provides a link back to the project data and relevant actions so I have all the information I need when I am at the appt. The copious details that I keep related to the many tasks associated with getting back on our feet has helped me use IQTELL to ensure I am working effectively, am organized knowing which tasks need to be focused on next, which have higher priority, and which can be done when I’m out of the home with just my telephone versus those tasks that require a computer. This helps me be more efficient in accomplishing the things I need to do to help us get back on our feet as soon as possible.
A guest blog post by Julie Roberts.