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Post-Disaster Recovery

After an emergency, continue to listen to news reports on where to get help from disaster relief organizations and government agencies.

Health and Safety
Returning to a Damaged Home
Disaster Assistance

Health and Safety

  • Be aware of new hazards created by the disaster, such as washed out roads, contaminated buildings, contaminated water, gas leaks, broken glass, damaged wires, and slippery floors.
  • Beware of exhaustion. There is a tendency to attempt to do too much at once. Set your priorities and pace yourself. Create a manageable schedule.
  • Watch for signs of stress and fatigue. Talk about the situation with others to release tension. Encourage others to talk about their concerns. Get professional crisis counseling if necessary.
  • Encourage children to talk about their feelings. Explain how you plan to deal with the situation. Involve them in clean up activities. Being part of the recovery process will help them cope. Keep the family together.
  • Drink plenty of clean water. Try to eat well and get enough rest.
  • Wear sturdy work boots and gloves, and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water often when working in debris.
  • Inform local authorities about health and safety hazards, including chemical releases, downed power lines, washed out roads, smoldering insulation, or dead animals.

Returning to a Damaged Home

  • Keep a battery-powered radio so you can listen for emergency updates.
  • Wear sturdy work boots and gloves.
  • Before going inside, walk carefully around the outside of the home and check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage. Do not enter if flood waters remain around the building. If you have any doubts about safety, have your home inspected by a professional before entering.
  • Use a battery-powered flashlight for light. Do not use oil, gas lanterns, candles, or torches. Leaking gas or other flammable materials may be present. Do not smoke. Do not turn on lights until sure they are safe to use.
  • Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.
  • Enter the building carefully and check for damage. Check for cracks in the roof, foundation, and chimneys. If it looks like the building may collapse, leave immediately. Be aware of loose boards and slippery floors.
  • Check for gas leaks, starting at the hot water heater. If you smell gas or hear a hissing or blowing sound, open a window and leave immediately. Turn off the main gas valve from the outside, if you can. Call the gas company from a neighbor's house. If you shut off the gas supply at the main valve, you will need a professional to turn it back on.
  • Check the electrical system. If you see sparks, broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker, even if the power is off in your neighborhood. However, do not touch the fuse box, a circuit breaker or anything else electrical if you are wet or standing in water. Rather, leave the building and call for help.
  • Check appliances. If appliances are wet, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. Then, unplug appliances and let them dry out. Have them checked by a professional before using again.
  • Check the water and sewage systems. If pipes are damaged, turn off the water at the main water valve.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, and gasoline. Open cabinets carefully. Be aware of objects that might fall.
  • Look for valuable items such as jewelry and family heirlooms and protect them.
  • Try to protect your home from further damage. Open windows and doors to get air moving through. Patch holes.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. The mud left behind by floodwaters can contain sewage and chemicals.
  • If your basement has flooded, pump it out gradually (about one third of the water per day) to avoid damage. The walls may collapse and the floor may buckle if the basement is pumped out while the surrounding ground is still water logged.
  • Check with local authorities before using any water; it could be contaminated. Wells should be pumped out and the water tested by authorities before drinking.
  • Throw out fresh food that has come into contact with flood waters. Check refrigerated food for spoilage. Throw out flooded cosmetics and medicines.
  • Call your insurance agent. Take pictures of damage. Keep good records of repair and cleaning costs.

Disaster Assistance

Throughout the recovery period, it is important to monitor local radio or television reports and other media sources for information about where to get emergency housing, food, first aid, clothing, and financial assistance. The following is general information that may be available:

  • Direct assistance to individuals and families may come from any number of organizations. The American Red Cross is often stationed right at the scene to help people with their most immediate medical, food, and housing needs. Other volunteer organizations such as the Salvation Army may also provide food, shelter and supplies, and assist in clean up efforts. Church groups and synagogues are often involved as well.
  • In addition, social service agencies from local or state governments may be available to help people in shelters or provide direct assistance to families.
  • In the most severe disasters, the Federal government is also called in to help individuals and families with temporary housing, counseling, low-interest loans and grants, and other assistance. Businesses and farmers are also eligible for aid.
  • Most Federal assistance becomes available when the President of the U.S. declares a "Major Disaster" area at the request of a state governor. When this happens, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sets up Disaster Application Centers at local schools and municipal buildings to process applications. Persons can apply for assistance by telephone as well. The telephone number will be announced by the media.