Recovery

Contact Information

People who have not experienced a disaster might think that the emergency is over when the initial emergency response stops. But recovering after a disaster physically, financially, and emotionally, can take months or years. For many people after a disaster, life is never going to be the same. There are steps impacted people can take to recovery after an emergency and create a new normal.

Health and Safety

Your first concern after a disaster should be the health, safety, and well-being of yourself and your loved ones.

Physical Health

  • Be aware of exhaustion during the recovery process. Set priorities and pace yourself. Get lots of rest and take frequent breaks.
  • Drink lots of water and eat regularly.
  • Wear sturdy work boots and gloves.
  • If working with debris, wash hands regularly with soap and clean water.

Mental Health

  • Watch for signs of stress and fatigue. Talking about the situation with someone you trust can help reduce stress. Get professional help if necessary.
  • Encourage children to talk about their feelings, and share your feelings with them. Give them small chores to do to help with recovery. Learn more about helping children recover from a disaster.

Safety

  • Be aware of any new hazards created by the first disaster. Washed out roads, contaminated water, broken glass, exposed wires, or gas leaks are examples of secondary hazards that could pose a serious threat.
  • Wear boots and sturdy shoes when cleaning up debris. Wash hands with antibacterial soap and water often.
  • Inform local authorities about health and safety hazards, including chemical releases, downed power lines, washed out or flooded roads, smoldering insulation, or dead animals. If in doubt, call 911.

Returning to a Damaged Home

Returning to a home after it has been damaged can be challenging mentally and physically. For your own safety, do not return to your property before the area is declared safe by local officials.

Before Entering a Home

Inspect your house from a distance before entering. Walk around the outside and check for hazards like loose power lines, gas leaks, or structural damage. Do not enter your  home if you find these hazards or if there is standing floodwater surrounding your home. If you have any doubts, have your home inspected by a professional before entering.

  • Keep a battery-powered NOAA weather radio with you so you can listen for emergency alerts or information.
  • Wear sturdy shoes and work gloves.
  • Use a battery-powered flashlight for light. do not use oil, gas lanterns, candles, or torches, as these could ignite leaking gas or other flammable materials. Do not smoke or turn on lights until you are sure it is safe to do so.
  • Check for structural damage like cracks in the roof, foundation, and chimneys. If the building does not look structurally sound, leave immediately.

Inside Your Home

  • A diagram showing how to turn off gas at the main gas line using a wrench.Check for gas leaks. 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. Move away from the area before calling the gas company, and try to stop others from entering the area if it is safe to do so. Gas has to be turned back on by the gas company, so only turn it off if you suspect a leak or hazard.
  • 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. DO NOT touch the fuse box, a circuit breaker or anything else electrical if you are wet or standing in water. Leave the building and call 9-1-1.
  • 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 move them to a safe place.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud and water left behind by floodwaters can contain sewage and harmful 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. Check the Current Emergency Information page.
  • Throw out any food that has come into contact with floodwaters. 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.

For more information about returning home after an emergency, visit ready.gov/returning-home.

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 at the scene of an emergency 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 cleanup efforts. Religious groups and other non-profit entities may also be involved in recovery.
  • Social service agencies from local or state governments may be available to help people in shelters or provide direct assistance to families.
  • In severe disasters, the Federal Government may help individuals and families with temporary housing, counseling, low-interest loans and grants, and other assistance. Businesses and farmers may also be 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. People can apply online or by phone. The phone number will be announced by the media.

If a disaster occurs in or near Renton, the City will attempt to share information regarding Federal disaster assistance on this page.

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