What to Do After a Hurricane

Nov 4, 2020 | Property Damage, Toxic Exposure

The devastation of a hurricane can be a traumatic event for anyone, and recovery is just as important as preparation. Knowing how to proceed once a large scale storm system has passed is imperative to your safety. One of the best ways to stay up-to-date on storm clean up and debris management is to visit the city’s Disaster Recovery website, houstonrecovers.org.

Returning Home

If you evacuated, you should only return home once official instructions are given to do so. After a storm occurs, it’s important to assess the damage your home or business has sustained as quickly as possible. Do not enter areas that are potentially unsafe. This includes damaged buildings, areas with downed power lines or with heavy debris. Do not attempt to walk or swim through floodwaters.

Utilities
Utilities, such as power lines or natural gas service, may have been damaged during the disaster. If you see downed power lines or suspect a gas leak, leave the area. Once you are in a safe location, call 9-1-1 and your utility company to report the emergency

Generator Safety
If you choose to use a generator during or after a disaster, make sure it’s always used outside. Do not use chains or locks to secure a generator or connect a generator directly to your home’s electrical system. Do not store gasoline inside your home or near water filters. Always have a carbon monoxide detector when using a generator.

Managing Debris

Following a large-scale emergency, the city may implement a program to collect debris in neighborhoods.

Documenting Damage
Before putting debris out for collection, you should do the following:

  • Contact your insurance company to file a claim
  • Document your property damage(s) by taking photographs
  • Contact 311 to notify the city of your damage(s). This will help the city
  • identify areas that will need debris collection.
  • If a federal disaster declaration has been issued, call FEMA (800-621-3362), or apply
  • online at disasterassistance.gov to a Disaster Assistance Claim.

Safely Handling and Separating Debris
Remember that debris, especially after flooding incidents, can be hazardous to your health or safety.

You should always:

  • Wear gloves and eye protection when removing construction materials such as drywall,
  • wood siding, large furniture
  • Wear long-pants and sturdy shoes in debris-riddled areas to prevent injury.
  • Separate debri into five categories: vegetative, construction/demolition, appliances, electronics, and household hazardous waste.

Water

While most disasters don’t impact fresh water service, your drinking water can occasionally be impacted by a disaster. If fresh water service has or may have been impacted:

  • Stay informed and listen to local officials for information on your local water service.
  • If your water quality is impacted, listen to the directions given on what to do.
  • Some water issues can be addressed by purifying water as described below, or by? using the seven-day supply of water you have in your Shelter-in-Place Kit.
  • Certain types of contamination make water unsafe even after purification. In this case, you MUST use your supply of bottled water.
  • Remember that water that is unsafe for drinking should not be used to brush teeth, wash dishes, or for mixing infant formula.

Public Health Threats

Mosquito-borne diseases
If your home or property has flooded in the event of a hurricane, it may be an ideal place for mosquitoes to live and spread dangerous diseases such as West Nile and Zika. As a result, you should drain areas of standing water in and around your home, dress in long sleeves and pants, and use mosquito spray that contains DEET.

Hazardous materials incidents
Hazardous materials are substances, which because of their chemical, physical, or biological nature, pose a potential risk to life, health, and property if they are released. Houston has witnessed chemical plant fires in the past following the impact of a hurricane. If such an incident occurs, local officials may order a shelter-in-place.

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