If your area is under a curfew, allow travel time to and from your home.
Although unusual following a hurricane, crime can also increase. If your area is
under martial law, obey all orders by authorities because they will be armed.
During a hurricane and in the cleanup, injuries occur. To avoid injury, use
common sense and wear proper clothing, including clothes with long sleeves and
long pants, and safety shoes or boots.
When returning to your home after a hurricane:
find out if the authorities have declared the area safe;
watch for debris on the road while driving;
return to your pre-determined assembly point and/or contact
your pre-established out-of-area contact person. Make sure all family members
have been accounted for and let others know of your status;
make sure the main electrical switch to your home is off
before entering the structure;
be careful when entering a structure that has been damaged;
if you suspect a gas leak, leave immediately and notify the
if possible, listen to the radio or contact authorities to
find out if sewage lines are intact before turning on the water or using the
report utility damage to the proper authorities;
continue to monitor your radio or television for up-to-date
INSPECTING THE DAMAGE
Upon returning to dwellings evacuated before the hurricane's arrival, be
aware of possible structural, electrical, or gas-leak hazards. Electrical power
and natural gas or propane tanks should be shut off to avoid fire,
electrocution, or explosions. Try to return to your home during the daytime so
that you do not have to use any lights. Use battery-powered flashlights and
lanterns, rather than candles, gas lanterns, or torches.
If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all
windows, and leave the house immediately. Notify the gas company, the police,
fire departments, or State Fire Marshal's office, and do not turn on the lights,
light matches, smoke, or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to
the house until you are told it is safe to do so.
Your electrical system may have been damaged. If you see frayed wiring or
sparks when you restore power, or if there is an odor of something burning but
no visible fire, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the
main circuit breaker.
You should consult your utility company about using electrical equipment,
including power generators. Be aware that it is against the law and a violation
of electrical codes to connect generators to your home's electrical circuits
without the approved, automatic-interrupt devices. If a generator is on line
when electrical service is restored, it can become a major fire hazard. In
addition, the improper connection of a generator to your home's electrical
circuits may endanger line workers helping to restore power in your area.
All electrical equipment and appliances must be completely dry before
returning them to service. It is advisable to have a certified electrician check
these items if there is any question.
Several deaths following past hurricanes have occurred due to
fires. In many cases, fires were caused by the careless use of candles to light
homes without electrical power. Use battery-powered lanterns, if possible,
rather than candles. If you use candles, make sure they are in safe holders away
from curtains, paper, wood, or other flammable items. Never leave a candle
burning when you are out of the room.
OTHER INJURY-PREVENTION MEASURES
To avoid other hurricane-related injuries, you should:
learn proper safety procedures and operating instructions
before operating any gas-powered or electric chain saw;
with an electric chainsaw, use extreme caution to avoid
when using any power equipment, always wear a safety face
shield or eyeglasses, and gloves;
avoid all power lines, particularly those in water;
avoid wading in water. Broken glass, metal fragments, and
other debris may be present in the water; and
be careful of nails and broken glass when removing boards
covering the windows.
Contact your state or local health department or utility company if you need
additional safety information.
Once you have established that no structural, electrical, or gas-related
hazards exist in your home, dry and disinfect all materials inside the house to
prevent the growth of mold and mildew.
Walls, hard-surfaced floors, and many other household surfaces should be
cleaned with soap and water and disinfected with a solution of one cup of bleach
to five gallons of water. Be particularly careful to thoroughly disinfect
surfaces that may come in contact with food, such as counter tops, pantry
shelves, refrigerators, etc. Areas where small children play should also be
carefully cleaned. Wash all linens and clothing in hot water, or dry clean them.
For items that cannot be washed or dry cleaned, such as mattresses and
upholstered furniture, air dry them in the sun and then spray them thoroughly
with a disinfectant. Steam clean all carpeting. If there has been a backflow of
sewage into the house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup.
Remove and discard contaminated household materials that cannot be disinfected
such as wall coverings, cloth, rugs, and drywall.
If powerlines are lying on the ground or dangling near the ground, do not
touch the lines. Notify your utility company as soon as possible that the lines
have been damaged, or that the powerlines are down. Do not attempt to move or
repair the powerlines.
Do not drive through standing water if downed powerlines are in the water. If
a powerline falls across your car while you are driving, continue to drive away
from the line. If the engine stalls, do not turn off the ignition. Stay in your
car and wait for emergency personnel. Do not allow anyone other than emergency
personnel to approach your vehicle.
Wild or stray domestic animals can pose a danger during or after the passage
of a hurricane. Remember, most animals are disoriented and displaced, too. Do
not corner an animal. If an animal must be removed, contact your local animal
If you are bitten by any animal, seek immediate medical attention. If you are
bitten by a snake, first try to accurately identify the type of snake so that,
if poisonous: the correct anti-venom can be administered. Do not cut the wound
or attempt to suck the venom out.
Certain animals may carry rabies. Although the virus is rare, care should be
taken to avoid contact with stray animals and rodents. Health departments can
provide information on the types of animals that carry rabies in your area.
Rats may also be a problem during and after a hurricane. Take care to secure
all food supplies, and remove any animal carcasses in the vicinity by contacting
your local animal control authorities.
Although hurricane winds can cause an enormous amount of damage, wind is not
the biggest killer in such a storm. Nine of every ten hurricane fatalities are
drownings associated with swiftly moving waters. People who enter moving water
with their cars, or who get on boats on lakes or bays when a hurricane strikes
the area are at grave risk of drowning, regardless of their ability to swim.
Even very shallow water that is moving swiftly can be deadly. Cars or other
vehicles do not provide adequate protection. Cars can be swept away or may break
down in moving water. Be alert and follow hazard warnings on roadways or those
broadcast by the media. Police and public works departments should be contacted
for up-to-date information regarding safe roadways.
Be aware of potential chemical hazards you may encounter when returning to
your home, especially if the hurricane is accompanied by flooding. Floodwaters
and high winds may have moved or buried hazardous chemical containers of
solvents or other industrial chemicals. Contact your local fire department about
inspecting and removing hazardous chemical containers. Avoid inhaling chemical
If any propane tanks (whether 20-lb. tanks from a gas grill or household
propane tanks) are discovered, do not attempt to move them yourself. These
represent a very real danger of fire or explosion, and if any are found, the
fire department, police, or your State Fire Marshal's office should be contacted
Car batteries, while flooded, may still contain an
electrical charge and should be removed with extreme caution by using insulated
gloves. Avoid coming in contact with any acid that may have spilled from a
damaged car battery.