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Returing Home After A Disaster
Although you may be anxious to see your home again, use caution and do not enter your home before your area is declared to be safe by the local officials.
What To Do Before Entering Your House
Before entering inspect your home carefully.
Carefully check for loose power lines, structural damage, and gas leaks by walking around your home. If you have any concerns about the safety of your home, have a building inspector or structural engineer inspect it before you enter.
Donít enter if:
- Listen to a battery-powered radio for news reports and emergency updates.
- Inspect a damaged home with a battery-powered flash light.
Note: because the battery could create a spark which ignites a gas leak if present, be sure to turn on the flashlight while you are still outside.
- Use a stick to check out debris. You will need to look out for animals, particularly poisonous snakes.
- Only use the phone to report life-threatening emergencies.
- Watch for objects that have fallen as you go home such as weakened walls, downed electrical wires, weakened bridges, weakened roads and/or sidewalks, etc.
- You can smell gas.
- There is still floodwater around the building.
- Your home hasnít been declared safe by authorities due to damage by fire.
What To Do When You Enter Your Home
Use caution after a disaster when entering your home.
There are things you should and should not do when you enter your home. For example, you should enter carefully and look around for damage. You should also be aware of slippery floors and loose boards. The following are things to check for in your home:
- Natural gas. Open a window and leave immediately if you hear either a hissing or blowing sound. If you can, turn off the main valve on the outside. From a neighborís house, call the gas company. If you are able to shut off the main valve, you will need to get it turned back on by a professional. Make sure you donít smoke, use gas or oil lanterns, candles, or torches for lighting the inside of a damaged home until you know there isnít a gas leak or anything else present that is flammable.
- Broken or frayed wires or sparks. Check the electrical system of your home unless you are standing in water, are wet, or uncertain of your safety. If you can, turn off your homeís electricity at the circuit breaker or main fuse box. Leave the building and seek help if the situation is somehow unsafe. Donít turn on the lights until you know their usage is safe. It would be a good idea to have your wiring inspected by an electrician.
- If there looks to be any foundation, chimney, or roof cracks and/or that the building could collapse, you need to leave immediately.
- Appliances: You will need to turn off the electricity on the circuit breaker or main fuse box if it appears that your appliances are wet. Unplug them and have them dry out. Check them by a professional before you go to use them again. Also, be sure to have an electrician check the electrical system before you turn the power on again.
- Sewage and water systems. Because the water might be contaminated youíll want to check with the local authorities before you use any water. Turn off your main water valve if the pipes look damaged. Have authorities test your water before you drink it. Make sure you pump out wells. Be sure sewage lines are working before flushing toilets.
- Food and any other supplies. Get rid of any food or supplies that could have become contaminated by the floodwater.
- Your basement. You will need to pump out water gradually from your basement if it is flooded (each day do about 1/3 of the water) because the walls could collapse and/or your floor could buckle if your basement is pumped too quickly while the ground is still waterlogged.
- Opening cabinets. Use caution because objects could fall.
- Cleaning up chemical spills in the household. Items contaminated by bacteria, chemicals, or raw sewage need to be disinfected. Anything salvageable should be cleaned.
- Keep records of cleaning and repair costs and take pictures of all damaged items. Then call your own insurance agent.
Be Aware of Wildlife and Animals
Be wary after a disaster of any wildlife.
Because disasters can exacerbate wild animalsí unpredictable behavior, protect yourself and loved ones by learning about dealing with wildlife.
Recommendations for dealing with wildlife:
- Wild animals will most likely feel threatened and put them in greater danger if you try to corner them. Instead, call your wildlife resource office or local animal control center and let them help those animals.
- During floods, the higher ground that wild animals seek can become islands. If the island is large enough with adequate shelter for the animal, you can leave appropriate food. However, donít get too close as they will feel threatened by you and will try to flee into the floodwater.
- Wild animals often take refuge in the upper levels of homes during floods. They often stay even after the water has receded. Donít try to capture the animal. Open a window or door for an escape route so the animal can leave on its own. If this doesnít work, call the local animal control office or wildlife resource center.
- Watch out for increasing numbers of snakes or other predators as they will be around trying to feed on any animals that didnít survive the flood.
- Donít try to move dead animals as the carcasses can have serious health risks that can be passed on to people. Diseases such as anthrax or encephalitis can occur. Contact your local emergency management office or other health departments for aid and instructions.
- Seek medical attention immediately if you are bitten by an animal.