Hurricane 2020: After the Storm
Always be careful when entering a damaged building. If there is serious structural damage, contact local officials before entering. Report downed power lines or gas leaks. Keep electricity turned off if the building has been flooded.
Water supplies may be contaminated during a hurricane. Public officials will issue a boil-water order immediately after the hurricane passes. The boil-water order will remain in effect for at least 72 hours. During this time, use only your pre-stored water for drinking or cooking.
Before using any food from the refrigerator, be sure to check it for spoilage. Use pre-stored, dry or canned food.
Protect your property.
Take reasonable steps to protect your property from further damage. This could mean boarding up windows and salvaging undamaged items. Your insurance company can tell you what they will pay for regarding protection.
Report the loss as soon as possible.
Contact your insurance agent or insurer as soon as you can. Provide a general description of the damage and have your policy number handy if possible. Write down the adjuster’s name, phone number and work schedule as soon as you have them.
Prepare a list.
Keep damaged items or portions of them until the claim adjuster has visited, and consider photographing or videotaping the damage to document your claim. Prepare a list of damaged or lost items for your adjuster
If you need to relocate, keep records and receipts for all additional expenses. Most insurance policies cover emergency living arrangements.
Return claim forms.
After your insurance company has been notified of your claim, they must send you the necessary claim forms within a certain number of days (time period varies by state). Fill out and return the forms as soon as possible. If you do not understand the process, be sure to ask questions and write down the explanation.
When starting the cleanup process, be careful, and use protective eyewear and gloves if available. Adjusters may tell business owners to hire a professional cleaning service.
After-Storm Safety Tips
Beware of debris.
Storms with extensive rain and high winds, such as tropical storms and hurricanes, can cause severe damage and create hazardous conditions such as fallen trees and other types of dangerous debris including downed power lines, broken glass, small pieces of buildings, commercial signs, and road signs. After the storm passes, residents should be extremely careful as they sort through the wreckage to assess the damage.
Handle power outages safely.
Power outages are common after storms and many residents and businesses rely on backup generators until power can be restored. While power generators are quite useful, they also pose certain risks including fire, damage to electrical equipment, and even injury or death. Before using a generator, it’s important to understand these risks and the necessary precautions for safe operation.
Generator Safety Tips
- Use proper care. Proper ventilation is critical to reducing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator’s engine exhaust. Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a common, serious danger that can cause death if generators are used improperly; this is particularly true when the fuel is not burned completely.
- Placement is key. Never use generators indoors or outside near windows, vents, or air intakes that could allow CO to come indoors.
- Keep other items clear. Maintain plenty of air flow space around the generator.
- Pay attention. Get fresh air immediately if you begin to feel sick, dizzy or light-headed or experience flu-like symptoms.
- Buy CO detector. Because CO is invisible and odorless, it makes sense to buy a CO detector (similar to or sometimes combined in a smoke detector) to warn of rising CO levels.
“Ground” your generator. Carefully follow all instructions on properly “grounding” the generator.
- Keep the generator dry. Short circuits may occur in wet conditions, which can cause a generator fire. If needed, place the generator under an open canopy–type structure.
- Be prepared. Always keep a fully charged fire extinguisher nearby.
- Leave it to the professionals. To avoid electric shock or electrocution, do not try to fix or otherwise work on a generator.
Organize your cords. Keep cords out of the way to avoid injury, but keep them in plain view to keep track of cord damage (such as fraying or cuts) that could cause a fire.
- Do not “back feed” power. Do not plug the generator into a wall outlet. Back feeding will put you and others, including utility line workers, at serious risk because the utility transformer can increase low voltage from the generator to thousands of volts.
- Know local laws. Some states have laws making the generator owner responsible for taking steps to make sure that the generator’s electricity cannot feed back into power lines; additionally, owners of commercial, industrial, or residential generators must notify the local utility of their locations.
Don’t touch. It’s hot. The exterior portions of a generator, even if operated for only a short period of time, can become hot. Avoid touching the generator without protective gear and keep debris clear to avoid a fire.
Regarding Generator Fuel
- Store fuel in an approved container or holding tank designed for such use.
- Only use fuel that is specifically recommended in the owner’s manual. Never store fuel indoors.
- Do not keep fuel near the generator while the generator is in use; this could start a fire.
- Never refuel the generator while it is running.
- Evacuation routes will be the first to be cleared after an incident, followed by main roads leading to these routes.
- Return home only when authorities advise it is safe to do so. Remember, you may be restricted from accessing your home after a major disaster because of hazardous conditions. If re-entry is permitted, for security reasons you may be required to present proof of residency, be sure to have this proof available.
- Drive only if absolutely necessary, avoid sight-seeing
Flooding may force snakes, insects or animals to seek higher ground. Beware of these, and instruct your children of the dangers.
- Also caution children about playing in standing puddles or water-filled swales. This water in addition to harboring snakes, harbors a great many bacterial strains which can cause mild to severe life-threatening illnesses.
- Enter your home with caution. Wear heavy shoes or boots for protection against glass or other debris.
- Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your home.
Emergency officials will set up staging areas throughout the community; it is from these staging areas that assistance will be available.
- If you smell gas, turn off the main valve, open the windows, and leave the house immediately.
- If you have been instructed by local officials to shut off your utilities, particularly gas, always have utilities turned back on by a professional!
- Check for water leaks, if one is suspected, shut off the water at the main water valve.
Look for electrical system damage. If there is damage to the electrical system, turn off the system at the main circuit breaker or fuse box.
- Check electrical appliances. If any electrical appliances are wet, turn off the main power switch in the house. Unplug the appliance, dry it out, then reconnect it and turn the main power switch back on.
- Emergency cooking. If you are using a charcoal or gas grill or Hibachi, be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and do your cooking outside. Food can also be heated with candle warmers, chafing dishes and fondue pots. Canned foods can be eaten directly out of the can, although the can should be opened and the label removed before cooking.
Keeping clean is essential to good health. Because water should be reserved for drinking purposes, you should consider alternatives to water for cleansing the body. These include rubbing alcohol, lotions containing alcohol, shaving lotions, face creams and hand lotions, and towelettes.
- Respond to children’s fears. Concentrate on your child’s emotional needs. Having children participate in the family’s recovery activities will help them feel that their life will return to “normal”. Children are most afraid that…the event will happen again; someone will be injured or killed; they will be separated from the family; they will be left alone. Make sure your children know how to call for help and know their family name, address and phone number.
Gas service. Should your gas service be interrupted or go off prior to, during, or following an incident, follow these procedures: Turn the main valve off. Make sure all gas appliances (water heaters, dryers, stoves, pool heaters) are off. Do not turn your gas on yourself; call your provider to do it.
- Check that sewage lines are intact before flushing toilets.
- Check house, roof and chimney for structural damage.
- Open closets and cupboards carefully.
- Clean up medicines, bleaches, gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately.
- Just as human beings are traumatized by disasters, so are domestic pets. The behavior of pets may change dramatically after a disaster. Normally quiet and docile cats and dogs may become loud and vicious. Monitor animals closely. Leash or place dogs in a fenced yard.
Please refer back to this page after the storm for further directions from each county.