NEW YORK (CBS NEWS) – Courage abounds in South Texas these days, as rescue workers and ordinary citizens alike risk their lives to save children, the elderly and pets from the ravages of Tropical Storm Harvey. But when it comes to saving your home, CEO Sheldon Yellen of Belfor Property Restoration has a different message: Don’t be a hero.

“Don’t sit in your house to try and save it,” he said. “Get to a shelter.”

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And if you have a family, it might make sense to get out of town. “Put the kids up with relatives,” Yellen said. “Or stay at a hotel until it’s safe.” Federal and state emergency funds help to make this an alternative in many instances. Once you’re in a safe place, consider your options before taking any action to protect your house.

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Yellen, who’s been in the restoration business for 33 years, is sending trucks, equipment and more than 900 trained personnel to the Houston area to help shore up and repair schools, hospitals, major retail centers and even a refinery. But he doesn’t recommend that people who aren’t providing assistance to others should stay in their home — not while dams are bursting, sewage is contaminating the water and electric lines risk sparking fires.

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Instead, anyone whose home or business has sustained damage should focus on long-term planning: talking to your insurer, obtaining a loan from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and looking for a licensed professional contractor who will help you rebuild.

For now, a “do-it-yourself” job is impossible given the conditions in areas affected by Harvey. For one thing, supply stores might not be open to purchase a generator, fan or fumigants. Even clean water is hard to find.