Map of U.S with hurricane.As Hurricane Sandy heads our way, and the city battens down the hatches for Frankenstorm, we’re thinking about home damages in natural disasters. In 2011, Hurricane Irene caused $15.6 billion in damages in the U.S., and according to most reports, we can expect Sandy to surpass that figure.

If you live in NYC, Jersey, or anywhere else along the path of the storm, we have some advice.

First, get yourself safe, and evacuate if you’re told by local officials. Then, create a home inventory of your stuff. If you have a renter’s or a home owner’s insurance policy that covers flooding or hurricane damages, you’ll be glad you did. 20 minutes spent creating a record of what you own and the condition of your stuff before the storm hits can go a long way in substantiating damage claims and save you thousands of dollars in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

To be clear, Moveline’s not an insurance company, but we do know a few things about home inventories.

Here are our tips for doing it right:

Detail is your friend

We recommend filming a video tour of your place, because the more detail you capture about an item, the better your chances of seeing a payout. Walk through each room in your place, and talk about items as they come into frame. Describe the item, noting things like where you bought it and declare a value for it before moving onto the next. Be especially thorough with items that are prone to theft or damage, or of high value, including flat screen TVs, antiques, and collectibles.

Document everything

Everything you own has a replacement value — the cost of replacing an item in its current condition. Your clothing, car parts in the garage, dishes, and furniture may not be worth much individually, but when you add it all up, it’s a huge expense to buy these things new.

Store the inventory in the cloud

Your records can’t help you if it’s kept on a hard drive or in a filing cabinet that floods. If you already have an inventory on hand, transfer it to Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Docs so you know the files are safe. If you don’t have one yet, you can film one using Moveline’s iPhone app, which will automatically sync the files to a secure AWS server in the cloud.

For tips on how to film a home inventory, check out our Video Instructions. Most of all, good luck with Frankenstorm, and be safe.

Image credit: Weather Bell via The Atlantic.