Major health and safety hazards remain even after a hurricane’s wind and rain have passed. Injuries can happen to anyone dealing with the aftermath of a major storm, so it is wise to be overly cautious. Debris-filled streets are dangerous; therefore, walk or drive with caution. Prior to entering a building, check for structural damage.
Make sure it is not in danger of collapse. Turn off any outside gas lines and let house air for several minutes to remove escaping gas. Upon entering a building, do not use open flame as a light source: Use a battery-operated flashlight. Never leave young children alone or allow them to play in damaged buildings or in areas that might be unsafe. Wear protective clothing on legs, arms, feet, and hands while cleaning up debris. Wear rubber gloves while scrubbing flood damaged interiors and furniture.
Electrical Safety After a Hurricane
It is wise to be overly cautious and aware of electrical hazards. Watch for loose or dangling power lines, and report them immediately to the proper authorities. Be sure all electric and gas services are turned off before entering the premises for the first time. Disconnect main switch and all circuits. Watch for electrical shorts or live wires. Do not turn on any lights or appliances until an electrician has checked the system for short circuits.
When inspecting a house for hurricane damage, make sure there is no live power in or around the house. Make doubly sure that main electrical breakers are off. The most common repairs will involve nailing plywood or taping heavy plastic to broken windows, ceilings, and walls. Flooded basements should be drained and cleaned as soon as possible. After the floodwater around your property has subsided, begin draining the basement in stages—about one third of the water volume each day. To prevent flooded wooden floors from buckling and warping further, drive nails into the areas of the floor where it lifts or bulges. It is also important to remove loose plaster and repair the damaged plaster on the walls and ceilings after the house is completely dry.
After a major storm, you must assume that all water sources are contaminated until proven safe. Purify all water used for drinking, cooking, and washing, and for eating and cooking utensils. Also, purify the water used for washing hands, body, and kitchen and bathroom surfaces. Do not use water that has a dark color, an odor, or contains floating material. To disinfect water, one of four methods may be used: (1) boil at a rolling boil for 10 minutes; (2) add 8 drops of liquid chlorine bleach (such as Chlorox) per gallon of water; (3) add 20 drops of two percent iodine per gallon of clear water, or 40 drops per gallon of cloudy water; (4) add water purlfication tablets according to directions on the package. These tablets can be bought at most drug and sporting goods stores. These solutions should be thoroughly mixed and the water allowed to stand for at least 30 minutes before using. To lessen the flat taste of boiled water, pour the water back and forth several times between two clean containers. Water in water pipes and toilet flush tanks (not bowls) is safe to drink if the valve on the main water line was losed before the flood.
Do not start a fire in a fireplace that has a broken chimney. Be sure the damper is open. If you have to build a fire outside, build it away from buildings—never in a carport. Sparks can easily get into the ceiling and start a house fire. Never use gasoline to get a wood or charcoal fire started. A charcoal grill is a good place to build a wood fire. Be sure to put out any fire when you are through with it. When cooking is not possible, a number of canned foods may be eaten cold.
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