Residents returning home after an emergency or evacuation are understandably eager to return and may often overlook hazards to which they may be exposed.
Persons returning home should not do so until emergency officials have made an announcement that it is safe to do so. Persons returning should be prepared to show ID or have a re-entry permit from emergency officials to enter to affected area. Often, re-entry may not be permitted until roads have been made passable, major hazards have been neutralized and utilities have been restored. Only re- enter the affected areas at established access control points and showing proper identification. Many roads may still be closed or some areas may remain off limits due to hazards. Use caution driving in the area and watch for downed wires, washed out roads, debris, pedestrians, responding emergency vehicles, damaged buildings and infrastructure.
Do not enter a building if you smell gas. Call 9-1-1. Do not light a match or turn on lights. Do not enter a collapsed or severely damaged building.
Do not turn on gas or electricity to a structure if it has burn turned off until those systems have been evaluated by a professional. Never turn on gas to a structure. Only allow the gas company to turn gas back on.
Wear waterproof boots and gloves to avoid floodwater touching your skin.
Wash your hands often with soap and clean water, or use a hand-cleaning gel with alcohol in it.
Avoid tetanus and other infections by getting medical attention for a dirty cut or deep puncture wound.
Take out items that have soaked up water and that cannot be cleaned and dried.
Fix water leaks. Use fans and dehumidifiers and open doors and windows to remove moisture.
To remove mold, mix 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water, wash the item with the bleach mixture, scrub rough surfaces with a stiff brush, rinse the item with clean water, then dry it or leave it to dry.
Check and clean heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems before use. It is best to have a professional evaluate these systems.
To clean hard surfaces that do not soak up water and that may have been in contact with floodwater, first wash with soap and clean water. Next disinfect with a mixture of 1 cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water. Then allow to air dry.
Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles when cleaning with bleach. Open windows and doors to get fresh air. Never mix bleach and ammonia. The fumes from the mixture could kill you.
Do not use generators, pressure washers, charcoal grills, camp stoves, or other fuel-burning devices indoors or in enclosed or partially enclosed areas such as garages, even with doors or windows open. Do not put these devices outside near an open door, window, or air vent. You could be poisoned or killed by carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas from burning fuel such as gasoline, charcoal, or propane. Make sure a battery or electric powered CO detector is functional to alert you to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in your home.
Listen to public announcements to find out if local tap water is safe for drinking, cooking, cleaning, or bathing. Until the water is safe, use bottled water or boil or disinfect water.
If a “boil water” advisory is in effect, do not drink tap water or use it to brush your teeth unless water has come to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute or is treated with unscented household chlorine bleach. To treat water, add 1/4 teaspoon (approximately 1.5 mL) bleach to 1 gallon of cloudy water or 1/8 teaspoon (approximately 0.75 mL) bleach to 1 gallon of clear water. Stir well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it.
Do not eat food that smells bad, looks bad, or has touched floodwater. When in doubt, throw food out. Do not touch fallen electrical wires. They may be live and could hurt or kill you.
Turn off the electrical power at the main source if there is standing water. Do not turn on power or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.
Reduce mosquito bites. Consider avoiding outdoor activities during the evening and early morning, which are peak biting times for many mosquitoes. Use an insect repellent with DEET or Picaridin.
Stay away from wild or stray animals. Stray dogs may be hurt or afraid and may bite. Call local authorities to handle animals.
Keep in mind that wild animals including snakes who may also have been removed from their homes may take up residence in basements, electrical cabinets etc. Use caution and contact professional assistance to remove these animals.
Get rid of dead animals according to local guidelines. Local officials will announce arrangements for pickup and removal of debris.
Do not place discarded items around utility poles, electric and gas meters, fire hydrants and storm sewers as this may delay restoration of services.
If you have experienced damages and must begin clean-up contact your insurance company immediately. If you must begin before a representative can arrive, be sure to document all work performed using photographs and keep records of all receipts and expenses.
Be cautious when hiring a contractor to provide restoration services or make repairs. Be sure to have a signed contract and know the scope of the work. Be sure both you and the contractor understand what is required and what work will be performed. Ask to see the contractor’s proof of insurance and his professional licenses and registrations. Be sure to have contact information for the contractor and know his location of business. Verify the contractor will work with your insurance company. Your insurance company may also be able to assist you with a list of reputable contractors who are licensed to do the type of work required. Ask the contractor for a list of references and other local work locations. Disasters often attract unscrupulous contractors as emotions and stress are high and there is a sense of urgency to return one’s original quality of life often causing one to overlook the safeguards of doing business.
Obtain assistance if you are overwhelmed with emotion and stress of the incident. Disasters are situations that many people have not dealt with prior and may not be emotionally prepared for the aftermath. Many of these feelings are normal due to destruction, injuries and deaths. In most disaster situations, emergency officials will have resources to assist you with difficult feelings.