Homeland Security and Emergency Services

After The Storm

  • Remain where you have taken shelter until informed by local authorities that it is safe to leave.
  • Keep the radio/television turned on for advice and instructions from local government on where to go for medical care, emergency assistance for housing, clothing and food, as well as other ways in which you can help your family and community recover.
  • If possible, advise relatives and friends that you are safe.
  • Stay out of the disaster area.  Do not sightsee.  Sightseeing disrupts essential rescue work and may be dangerous.
  • Obey all curfew and emergency orders which are issued.
  • If you must drive, use caution.  Be aware of road and bridge washouts and storm debris on roadways.
  • Avoid loose or dangling wires and report them immediately to the proper authorities.  Assume that all downed wires are alive with electricity.
  • Report broken sewer or water mains and downed electrical lines.
  • Take extra precautions to prevent fire.  Lowered pressure in water mains may make firefighting extremely difficult.
  • Check for gas leaks.  Use a flashlight to inspect for damage.  Do not use candles and other open flames indoors.
  • Have your electric, gas and water connections checked by professionals before turning them back on.
  • Use your emergency supply of water or boil water before using until there is official word that the water is safe.
  • Check refrigerated food for spoilage if the power has been off during the storm.

If you are returning home:

  • Stay out of damaged buildings and return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Beware of structural damage. Roofs and floors may be weakened and need repair. When entering a fire-damaged building, look for signs of heat or smoke.
  • Check the building foundation, chimney, and surrounding land for damage.
  • Turn off any outside gas lines at the meter or tank. Let the building air out to remove foul odors or escaping gas.
  • Upon entering the building, use a battery-powered flashlight. Do not use an open flame as a source of light some gas may still be trapped inside.
  • When inspecting the building, wear heavy-soled rubber boots and gloves. Watch for electrical shorts and live wires before making certain the main power switch is off.
  • Have electric, gas, and water connections checked before turning them back on.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, or gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave area immediately if you smell gas or chemical fumes.
  • Take extra precautions to prevent fire. Lowered pressure in water mains may make firefighting extremely difficult.
  • Contact your local disaster relief service, such as the American Red Cross or Salvation Army, if you need housing, food, or personal items that were destroyed.
  • Take pictures of damages, keep records of all clean up and repair costs, and report to your insurance company.
  • Do not throw away any damaged goods until an official inventory has been taken.

Food safety:

  • Check for spoilage before using food from refrigerator or ice chest: "When in doubt, throw it out!"
  • Refrigerated foods can also be unsafe. If food is still frozen, then it is ok to use.
  • Commercially canned food should be discarded if there is bulging or if it is open.
  • Undamaged, commercially canned foods can be saved if you remove the labels and then disinfect the cans in a bleach solution. Use 1/4 cup of bleach in one gallon of water; relabel cans and include expiration date and type of food.
  • Infants should be fed only pre-mixed canned baby formula.
  • Throw out medicine or food that has had contact with floodwaters.

Water safety:

  • Test drinking water for potability. Wells should be pumped out and water tested for drinking.
  • Use your emergency supply or boil water before using until there is official word that the water is safe.
  • If the public water system is declared unsafe by health officials, water for drinking and cooking should be boiled vigorously for 10 minutes.

Prevent illness by practicing good sanitation and hygiene:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected before eating and after toilet use, cleanup activities or handling items contaminated by floodwater or sewage.
  • Floodwaters may contain fecal matter from sewage systems, agricultural and industrial waste, and septic tanks. If you have open cuts or sores exposed to the floodwater, keep them as clean as possible by washing them with soap and disinfected or boiled water. Apply antibiotic ointment to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Do not allow children to play in floodwater or with toys that are contaminated by floodwater.
  • If floodwaters are covering your septic tank and leach field, you should not use any flush toilets attached to the system.

Prevent mold growth:

  • Moisture that enters buildings from leaks or flooding accelerates mold growth. Molds can cause disease, trigger allergic reactions and continue to damage materials after the storm.
  • Remove standing water from your home or office. Remove wet materials promptly and ventilate; use fans and dehumidifiers if possible.
  • If mold growth has already occurred, it is best to have a professional remove it.
  • Individuals with known mold allergies or asthma should never clean or remove mold.
  • Be careful about mixing household cleaners and disinfectants, as combining certain types of products can produce toxic fumes and result in injury or death.

Household cleaning tips:

  • Walls, hard-surfaced floors and many other household surfaces must be cleaned with soap and water and disinfected with a solution of one (1) cup of bleach to five (5) gallons of water.
  • Thoroughly disinfect surfaces that come in contact with food and children’s play areas.
  • Wash all linens and clothing in hot water or dry-clean.
  • Items that cannot be washed or dry-cleaned, such as mattresses and upholstered furniture, must be air dried in the sun and sprayed thoroughly with a disinfectant.
  • Steam-clean all carpeting.
  • Replace fiberboard, insulation and disposable filters in your heating/cooling system.
  • Wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during clean-up.
  • It can be difficult to throw away items in a home, particularly those with sentimental value. However, keeping certain items soaked by sewage or floodwaters may be unhealthy. Materials that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried within 24-48 hours should be discarded.

Garbage storage, collection and disposal:

  • As you start cleaning, you will likely produce a great deal of garbage. Local authorities will tell you where and when collection will occur. Garbage invites insects and rodents. Rodents, in particular, may be looking for food because the flood may have destroyed their homes and normal food source.
  • Store any garbage in watertight, rodent/insect-proof containers with tight-fitting covers. Use plastic liners if available.
  • Put garbage in a convenient location but not near your well.
  • Heavy rains and flooding can lead to an increase in mosquitoes that may be infected with West Nile virus. To protect against mosquitoes, remain diligent in your personal mosquito protection efforts. Avoid being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active. For many species, this is during the dusk and dawn hours.

Tips to avoid mosquito-borne diseases after the storm:

  • Wear clothing that covers most of your skin.
  • Repellents containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide), picaridin or OLE (oil of lemon eucalyptus) are options. Use strictly according to label instructions. Do not allow children to apply repellents and avoid applying repellents to the hands of young children.
  • Check around your home to rid the area of standing water.
  • Eliminate other breeding sites remove old tires and turn over or remove empty plastic containers.