At the June 1 start of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center predicted a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 30 percent chance of a near-normal season and only a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season. The prediction included three to six major hurricanes (category 3 or higher) with a 70 percent confidence. While Hurricane Sally would not have been considered a major hurricane by those standards, Alabama’s Gulf Coast and the Florida Panhandle are still reeling from its impacts: flooding, downed trees, downed powered lines resulting in widespread power loss, and streets and yards littered with debris.
While many focus on what needs to be done before a storm hits
— and rightfully so — having a plan for after the storm breaks and knowing the proper safety procedures is just as important. Review the guidelines below for tips as we begin the recovery process:
If you evacuated, check with local emergency management officials both where you are sheltering and back home before returning. Returning to your house before an area has been cleared of flooding, debris and downed powerlines is dangerous. If you must be around floodwater, the CDC recommends wearing a life jacket, especially in rising water.
If your home has flooded, you’re going to need protective gear, like face masks, gloves and goggles, and disinfectant as you sort through your home and sanitize what’s salvageable. Throw away any food stuffs that aren’t bottled water or canned goods. For those food items that did weather the storm, you’re going to want to remove their labels and disinfect them. Remember to only drink bottled water or water boiled per CDC guidelines. Use clean water to wash your yourself if you have been in or around floodwater, as it can contain diseases or harmful chemicals.
Power & Gas
Ever thought about needing a fire extinguisher after a hurricane? The risk of fire is ever-present after a hurricane as power lines are down and people are left to their own devices for light and food preparation.
Remember to never walk or drive near fallen or hanging power lines. Report downed lines to your power provider. The CDC recommends using flashlights instead of candles for light to decrease the risk of fire and staying right next to a candle if you must use it.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is also a serious risk after hurricanes. Never use any fuel burning devices, like a generator or charcoal grill, inside your home after a hurricane. While it’s tempting when the power is out, it’s not worth the risk. Keep a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector handy just in case.
Insurance & Government Assistance
Be sure to document all damages when you return to your home post-storm. You’ll need to file with your homeowners insurance before filing for disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency if your area was federally declared a disaster, according to the Insurance Information Institute’s (III) FAQ on FEMA Disaster Assistance. The III notes that even if home repairs have already been completed, you could still qualify for reimbursement of the repair costs through FEMA.