After The Disaster
Health & Safety
Immediately following a disaster, health & safety is the primary issue, which includes mental and physical well being.
Aid the injured by either administering first aid yourself, or by seeking medical attention for injured persons. Check for injuries, but unless they are in immediate danger of death or further injury, try to avoid moving seriously injured persons.
Disasters are exhausting to deal with. Don't try to do too much, and make sure to set priorities and pace yourself. Getting enough rest is important to your physical and mental being. Make sure you eat well, drink plenty of water, wear appropriate personal protective equipment, and maintain personal hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly and often.
Disasters bring about many safety issues. It is important that you stay aware of new issues such as washed out roads, contaminated buildings & water, and utility leaks or outages.
Wild animals are the unforgotten victims of disasters, and can be very unpredictable. Follow these guidelines to protect yourself following a disaster:
- Do not corner wild animals or try to rescue them
- Do not approach wild animals that may have taken refuge in your home. If you encounter wild animals, open a window, or provide other means of escape for the animal - they will likely leave on their own. Do not attempt to capture or handle wild animals. If you need assistance, contact local animal control or wildlife resource office.
- Do not handle dead animals, as they can present serious health risks.
- Beware of an increased number of snakes and other predators
- If you are bitten by an animal, seek medical attention immediately
Inform local authorities of any health and safety issues you may come across that you believe has not been attended to or noticed. These may include chemical spills, downed power lines, washed out roads, dead animals etc.
Returning home can be very challenging for you. Ensure no matter what, you use extreme caution.
- Inspect your home carefully before entering. Walk around the outside of your carefully looking for loose power lines, utility leaks and other damage. If you are unsure about the safety of your home, have it inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
- Do not enter your home if you smell gas, have floodwaters around your home, or if your home was damaged by fire, and the authorities have declared it unsafe.
According to FEMA, other items to check inside your home include:
- Natural gas. If you smell gas or hear a hissing or blowing sound, open a window and leave immediately. Turn off the main gas valve from the outside, if you can. Call the gas company from a neighbor’s residence. If you shut off the gas supply at the main valve, you will need a professional to turn it back on. Do not smoke or use oil, gas lanterns, candles or torches for lighting inside a damaged home until you are sure there is no leaking gas or other flammable materials present.
- Sparks, broken or frayed wires. Check the electrical system unless you are wet, standing in water or unsure of your safety. If possible, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If the situation is unsafe, leave the building and call for help. Do not turn on the lights until you are sure they’re safe to use. You may want to have an electrician inspect your wiring.
- Roof, foundation and chimney cracks. If it looks like the building may collapse, leave immediately.
- Appliances. If appliances are wet, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. Then, unplug appliances and let them dry out. Have appliances checked by a professional before using them again. Also, have the electrical system checked by an electrician before turning the power back on.
- Water and sewage systems. If pipes are damaged, turn off the main water valve. Check with local authorities before using any water; the water could be contaminated. Pump out wells and have the water tested by authorities before drinking. Do not flush toilets until you know that sewage lines are intact.
- Food and other supplies. Throw out all food and other supplies that you suspect may have become contaminated or come in to contact with floodwater.
- Your basement. If your basement has flooded, pump it out gradually (about one third of the water per day) to avoid damage. The walls may collapse and the floor may buckle if the basement is pumped out while the surrounding ground is still waterlogged.
- Open cabinets. Be alert for objects that may fall.
- Clean up household chemical spills. Disinfect items that may have been contaminated by raw sewage, bacteria, or chemicals. Also clean salvageable items.
- Call your insurance agent. Take pictures of damages. Keep good records of repair and cleaning costs.