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a row of vehicles sit in standing water on a flooded neighborhood road

Storm Season 2020: Post-disaster precautions

It might sound odd, but one key element of preparing for a storm is knowing what to do AFTER the storm.

After a disaster, you might be without a range of services on which you normally rely, such as electricity, gas, water and sewer, cell phone and even businesses and restaurants. And we don’t know how long those services might be down or slowed. So, a good rule of thumb is to prepare to be self-reliant for at least three to seven days after the storm.

But, how?

Let’s start by focusing on safety. According to the National Weather Service, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), most storm-related deaths occur after the storm. Getting out after a storm to assess our homes and any damages might seem generally harmless, but caution must always be in the forefront of your decision making. People fall from their roofs and ladders while trying to clear damage and debris. They suffer heart attackes from overexertion. Chain saw and other power tools become deadly implements. Here are some good safety tips to follow:

  • Keep grills and generators outside to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Store fuel outside as well and have it labeled.
  • Without power, you might be tempted to use candles. Now is not the time to start a fire! Use your flashlights and battery operated lamps and lanterns.
  • closeup of a noaa weather radio, with hand crank for emergency power

    One of a variety of NOAA weather radios available, this model features a hand crank for emergency power. [CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County]

    Listen to your local media for up-to-date emergency information.
  • Avoid driving! Roads can be flooded, have debris and downed electrical power lines.
  • Do not wade in flood waters. These waters can have snakes, alligators or other animals driven from their habitat to higher ground by the floods. The flood waters can also have debris which can cause an injury requiring medical attention which can be difficult to obtain.
  • Always supervise your children. Know where they are at all times.
  • Avoid downed or dangling power lines. Give the power company time to make repairs.
  • Be careful when clearing fallen trees. If you have never used a chainsaw, don’t start now. If you do know how to operate a chainsaw, then follow all safety precautions.
  • Call the professionals to remove large, uprooted trees etc.
  • If you do feel confident about venturing out to handle debris, then use the proper safety equipment such as heavy gloves and boots, safety goggles, long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Tie your hair back and wear sunscreen.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Remember that beverages with sodium and sugar only make your more thirsty. Drinking water is your best choice.
  • Do not burn trash. This service will resume. Be patient.

Now, let’s talk about reentry.

You might have evacuated to a friend’s or relative’s home or gone to your local evacuation center, and now you want to come home. But, you might not be able to return to your home or business until search-and-rescue operations are complete and safety hazards, such as downed power lines, are cleared. It might take a while for crews to come into your neighborhood. Remember, they are working as quickly and safely as possible. So, be patient.

You most likely will be asked to show valid proof of your current address. So, keep your driver’s license handy.

Again, avoid driving whenever possible, and definitely avoid driving through standing or moving water. Debris on roadways can puncture your tires, and even shallow, flowing water can wash a vehicle from the road and into a deadly situation.

Understand the rules of road, since traffic signals might be inoperable. Treat intersections as four-way stops.

A Sarasota County barn shows storm-related damages.

A Sarasota County barn shows storm-related damages. [CREDIT: Chuck Johnston]

Once you have access into your neighborhood, exercise caution when reentering your home. Walk around the outside of your home to survey any damage, staying far away from any downed power lines. If your home is supplied by gas, make sure to Inspect for gas leaks and avoid any open flames or sparks until you complete that check. If you do suspect a gas leak, leave immediately to a safe location and then call 9-1-1 and your natural gas company to report the leak.

If your  home or business has been flooded, contact a qualified, licensed electrician to inspect your electrical system before turning your appliances back on.

Just a reminder from a previous blog, hire only licensed contractors. Be cautious of anyone coming to your home uninvited to offer help with home repairs. Obtain a written estimate, do NOT pay in cash, and NEVER pay in full before the work begins or is finished to your complete satisfaction. Do not pull a permit for the contractor, which is an indicator they are disreputable. Rather, take the time now to make a list of licensed, reputable contractors, roofers, plumbers, electricians and other service providers you might call after a storm. Work with your neighbors and friends to build a shared list. And, of course, keep this list with you in a safe place, since you might need it after a storm.

Last, but definitely not least, make sure to let your family and friends know you are safe and uninjured.

We covered a lot of information in this blog. Take the time now, while the skies are sunny, to prepare for AFTER the storm.

In our next (and final) post in this Storm Season 2020 series, we will discuss food safety. Remember, harmful pathogens can find us even during a storm.

RESOURCES

For more information on disaster planning visit the following resources:


Other posts in this series:

  1. Gathering information (Are you ready?)
  2. Creating a plan
  3. Assembling your kit and supplies
  4. Evacuation shelters
  5. Post-disaster precautions
  6. Food safety

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