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What to Do During a Storm Disaster

If you are in a storm-ravaged area, heed the following important advice from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. If you have the ability to print and distribute this advice to people who don’t have computers or power, please help.

For even more information about recovering your house, please see my article at US News: How to Dry Out Your House After a Flood.

Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is produced by many types of equipment and is poisonous to breathe.

flood disaster recoveryDreamstime

Don’t use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline- or charcoal-fueled appliance inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window, door, or vent.

Don’t run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.

Don’t heat your house with a gas oven. If your carbon monoxide detector sounds, leave your home immediately and call 911. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseated.

Avoid floodwater & mosquitoes. Follow all warnings about water on roadways. Do not drive vehicles or heavy equipment through floodwater. If you have to work in or near floodwater, wear a life jacket.

If you are caught in an area where floodwater is rising, wear a life jacket, or wear or keep at hand some other type of flotation device. Prevent mosquito bites by wearing long pants, socks, and long-sleeved shirts and using insect repellents that contain DEET or Picaridin. More information about these and other recommended repellents can be found in the fact sheet Updated Information Regarding Insect Repellents.

Avoid unstable buildings & structures. Stay away from damaged buildings or structures until they have been examined and certified as safe by a building inspector or other government authority. Leave immediately if you hear shifting or unusual noises that signal that the structure is about to fall.

storm damageMsand39 | Morguefile

Beware of wild or stray animals. Call local authorities to handle animals. Get rid of dead animals according to local guidelines.

Beware of electrical & fire hazards. Never touch a fallen power line. Instead, call the power company to it, and avoid contact with overhead power lines during cleanup and other activities.

If electrical circuits and electrical equipment have gotten wet or are in or near water, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician. Do not burn candles near flammable items or leave a candle unattended. If possible, use flashlights or other battery-operated lights instead of candles.

Beware of hazardous materials. Wear protective clothing and gear (for example, gloves and a respirator) when handling hazardous materials. Wash skin that may have come in contact with hazardous chemicals. Contact local authorities if you are not sure about how to handle or get rid of hazardous materials.

Clean up & prevent mold growth. Clean up and dry out the building quickly (within 24 to 48 hours). Open doors and windows. Use fans. To prevent mold growth, clean wet items and surfaces with detergent and water. To remove mold growth, wear impervious gloves, open windows and doors, and clean with a bleach solution of 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Throw away porous items (for example, carpet and upholstered furniture) that cannot be dried quickly. Fix any leaks in roofs, walls, or plumbing.

Pace yourself & get support. Be alert to physical and emotional exhaustion or strain. Set priorities for cleanup tasks, and pace the work. Try not to work alone. Ask your family members, friends, or professionals for help.

Prevent musculoskeletal injuries. Use teams of two or more people to move bulky objects. Avoid lifting any material that weighs more than 50 pounds (per person).

Stay cool. When it’s hot, stay in air-conditioned buildings; take breaks in shaded areas or in cool rooms; drink water and nonalcoholic fluids often; wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing; and do outdoor activities during cooler hours.

Treat wounds. Clean out all open wounds and cuts with soap and clean water. Apply an antibiotic ointment. Contact a doctor to find out whether more treatment is needed (such as a tetanus shot). If a wound gets red, swells, or drains, seek immediate medical attention.

Wash your hands. Use soap and water to wash your hands. If water isn’t available, you can use alcohol-based products made for washing hands.

Wear protective gear. For cleanup work, wear hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, and watertight boots with steel toes and insoles (not just steel shank). Wear earplugs or protective headphones to reduce risk from equipment noise.


What to Do in a Gas Leak Emergency

shut off gas leak©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Shut off the gas supply to your home by turning the valve until it is perpendicular to the supply pipe (here it is shown open).

A gas leak can be extremely dangerous because the smallest spark or flame can ignite gas fumes, causing an explosion.

Natural gas has a garlic-like odor; if you smell this or suspect a gas leak, don’t light matches (or a lighter) and don’t operate electrical switches (they could ignite an explosion). Immediately:

1) Ventilate the house by opening doors and windows. If the smell of gas is strong, move everyone outdoors at once.

2) Turn off the gas supply valve—located by the gas meter on the gas inlet pipe—by rotating the valve one quarter turn with an adjustable wrench. The valve’s oblong stem should be perpendicular (at a right angle) to the inlet pipe to stop the flow of gas.

3) Call your gas supplier or the fire department from a cell or neighbor’s phone.

Great Resource!

If you are among the victims of major flooding, see Repairing Your Flooded Home, a free 56-page guide prepared by FEMA and the American Red Cross. It offers comprehensive information about safely re-entering your home, avoiding hazards, dealing with insurance companies, recovery agencies and much more.

About Don Vandervort
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Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years, as Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.

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