What to Do in the Aftermath of Weather Related & Natural Disasters
Weather related and natural disasters affect many thousands of people each year, uprooting whole communities, impacting lives, and potentially disrupting communications and destroying public infrastructures like power, water, and gas utilities. In many cases, large numbers of people who require food, water, adequate shelter, and medical care are displaced in the aftermath.
Therefore, when recovering from a disaster, it is important to know how to proceed. Downed trees and power lines, contaminated or limited access to drinking water, and adequate food and shelter are a few of the post-disaster dangers you need to be cautious of before you act. The main priority for most people after a disaster is to take inventory of the damages to their homes and property, and then start the recovery process of rebuilding to return things to normal as quickly as possible. If you understand what to do after a disaster hits close to home, you can significantly reduce deaths and property damage.
Your Safety & Helping Others
After a disaster, your first concern is your family’s health and safety. You’ll need to consider possible hazards that could cause further injury to your family or others. Be sure to continually monitor your environment to ensure safety as well as your family’s health and well-being.
Aiding the Injured
- Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of death or further injury. If you must move an unconscious person, first stabilize the neck and back, then call for help immediately.
- If the victim is not breathing, carefully position the victim for artificial respiration, clear the airway, and commence mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
- Maintain body temperature with blankets. Be sure the victim does not become overheated.
- Never try to feed liquids to an unconscious person.
- Be aware of exhaustion. Don’t try to do too much at once. Set priorities and pace yourself. Get enough rest.
- Drink plenty of clean water. Eat well. Wear sturdy work boots and gloves.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water often when working in debris.
Source: FEMA - Ensure Your Safety
- Be aware of new safety issues created by the disaster. Watch for washed out roads, contaminated buildings, contaminated water, gas leaks, broken glass, damaged electrical wiring, and slippery floors.
- Inform local authorities about health and safety issues, including chemical spills, downed power lines, washed out roads, smoldering insulation, and dead animals.
In the wake of a disaster, returning home can be traumatic and emotionally difficult to cope with. There will likely be damage to structures, a large amount of debris, and other dangers to look out for and avoid. It is important to make sure local officials have advised it is safe to travel through the disaster area. If deemed safe, proceed with caution when reentering the area and your home. Your ability to adapt and handle any immediate safety hazards you encounter when you return home will help guard your family against possible harm or injury.
To prevent potential health and safety hazards, make sure to consider these steps and take appropriate precautions throughout the disaster recovery process.
Keep Drinking Water and Food Safe
Protect Yourself from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- 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.
- See also Food, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Information for Use Before and After a Disaster or Emergency.
- 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.
(Visit our Fire Safety Devices
products section to see all Fire Safety Devices & Carbon Monoxide Alarms available to you through HomeSafetyMatters.com.)
Clean Your Home and Stop Mold
Prevent Electrical Injuries
- 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.
- 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.
Avoid Contact with Animals and Insects
- 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.
Other Important Precautions to Take Include:
- 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.
- Get rid of dead animals according to local guidelines.
Source: CDC - Returning Home After a Disaster: Be Healthy and Safe
- Do not enter a building if you smell gas. Call 911. Do not light a match or turn on lights.
- 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.
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