Hurricanes can leave behind debris-strewn areas, contaminated water, spoiled food, displaced wildlife and conditions that can lead to health problems. Here are some tips for how to be safe after a storm.
Keep a radio on so you can hear bulletins and other announcements.
Avoid riding, driving or walking through a flooded area. Flooded roads are weakened, ditches are hard to distinguish from roads, and bridges may be washed out. Never go around a police barricade.
Walk or drive cautiously. Debris-filled streets are dangerous. In flooded areas, washouts may have weakened roads and bridges, and they could collapse under the weight of a vehicle.
Avoid loose or dangling power lines. Don’t touch any building, car or other structure that has a fallen power line touching it. Call a professional electrician or power company representative to remove the line.
Be careful around damaged buildings and trees. These may fall if damaged severely.
Wear protective clothing, sturdy shoes and gloves.
Check for gas leaks: smell and listen for leaky gas connections.
Don’t use flames or sparking devices until you’re sure there are no leaks. If you detect one, immediately exit the house and leave the doors open.
Check for sewage and water-line damage. If you suspect sewage-line damage, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid water from the tap.
Consider all foods that have been in contact with floodwater to be contaminated.
Be aware that snakes, rodents and other animals may have taken refuge in storm debris or even in your home. Use a poking stick to announce your approach and allow animals to flee.
If you are bitten by a venomous snake, don’t try to treat the bite yourself. Go to the nearest hospital for treatment immediately. Make a mental note of the appearance of the snake for identification and treatment purposes.
Keep small children, pregnant women and people with health problems away from the flooded areas until cleanup is complete.
If children are in the area, be sure they are safe and being cared for at all times. Never leave young children alone or allow them to play in damaged buildings or areas strewn with debris.
If you get a scratch, cut or brushburn from flood debris and have not had a tetanus booster in the last few years, consult your doctor immediately.
Returning home immediately after a hurricane could be just as dangerous as sticking around during the storm. Wind and water damage and the lack of potable water, sanitary facilities and electricity can make returning home inadvisable.
If you evacuate, be prepared to remain away from home for an extended period.
When you are ready to return, keep these recommendations in mind:
Return home only after authorities advise it’s safe to do so.
Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your home.
Check refrigerated foods for spoilage.
Take pictures of damage to your home and its contents for insurance claims.
Before turning the gas back on, have the gas system checked by a professional.
Look for electrical damage. Assume all wires on the ground are electrically charged. That includes cable TV feeds.
Look for and replace frayed or cracked extension and appliance cords, loose prongs and plugs.
Have a licensed electrician check your home for damage.
Sources: LSU AgCenter and National Hurricane Survival Initiative