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Recovering From Disaster



Ensure your safety

 

Find out how to care for your safety after a disaster

Your first concern after a disaster is your family’s health and safety. You need to consider possible safety issues and monitor family health and well-being.

Aiding the Injured
Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of death or further injury. If you must move an unconscious person, first stabilize the neck and back, then call for help immediately.

If the victim is not breathing, carefully position the victim for artificial respiration, clear the airway, and commence mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Maintain body temperature with blankets. Be sure the victim does not become overheated.
Never try to feed liquids to an unconscious person.
Health
Be aware of exhaustion. Don’t try to do too much at once. Set priorities and pace yourself. Get enough rest.
Drink plenty of clean water.. Eat well.. Wear sturdy work boots and gloves.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water often when working in debris.
Safety Issues
Be aware of new safety issues created by the disaster. Watch for washed out roads, contaminated buildings, contaminated water, gas leaks, broken glass, damaged electrical wiring, and slippery floors.
Inform local authorities about health and safety issues, including chemical spills, downed power lines, washed out roads, smoldering insulation, and dead animals.

 

How Do I Find My Family?

Contact the local American Red Cross chapter where you are staying for information. Do not contact the chapter in the disaster area.
If you are reporting or looking for information on a missing child, please contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Hotline at 1-800-THE- LOST (1-800-843-5678).


 

How Do I Get Food and Water?

The American Red Cross and other volunteer agencies will provide you with food, water and clothing. Listen to your radio or watch local media for the location of the nearest volunteer agency facility.

 

There are also sources of water in your home that you may have not thought of. For example, your hot water heater is an excellent source of water. Turn off the power that heats your tank and let it cool. When you want water, place a container underneath and open the drain valve on the bottom of the tank.

 

Guidelines for Managing Water Supplies
Guidelines for Managing Food Supplies

 

How Do I Find a Place to Stay?
For immediate housing needs, the American Red Cross and other volunteer agencies set up shelters for people who cannot return to their homes. Listen to your radio or watch local media for the location of the nearest volunteer agency facility.

 

For health and space reasons, pets are not permitted in public emergency shelters. Contact the emergency management office or your local animal shelter or humane society to see if there is a shelter set-up to take pets in an emergency.

 

For those who have longer-term housing needs, FEMA offers several types of assistance, including services and grants to help people repair their homes and find replacement housing.

 

To be eligible:

 

The home must be the applicant's primary residence.
The home must have been destroyed, become uninhabitable, or be inaccessible as a result of the disaster.
The insurance covering the dwelling does not fully cover applicant's additional living expense and/or home repairs.

 

 

Returning Home
General Tips
Don't return to your flood-damaged home before the area is declared to be safe by local officials. Returning home can be both physically and mentally challenging. Above all, use caution.

Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of death or further injury. If you must move an unconscious person, first stabilize the neck and back, then call for help immediately.

Keep a battery-powered radio with you so you can listen for emergency updates and news reports.


Use a battery-powered flash light to inspect a damaged home.
Note: The flashlight should be turned on outside before entering - the battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.


Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.


Be wary of wildlife and other animals


Use the phone only to report life-threatening emergencies.


Stay off the streets. If you must go out, watch for fallen objects; downed electrical wires; and weakened walls, bridges, roads, and sidewalks.

 

Before You Enter Your Home
Walk carefully around the outside and check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.

Do not enter if:

You smell gas.
Floodwaters remain around the building.
Your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe.

 

Going Inside Your Home
When you go inside your home, there are certain things you should and should not do. Enter the home carefully and check for damage. Be aware of loose boards and slippery floors. The following items are other things to check inside your home:

Natural gas. 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 residence. If you shut off the gas supply at the main valve, you will need a professional to turn it back on. Do not smoke or use oil, gas lanterns, candles, or torches for lighting inside a damaged home until you are sure there is no leaking gas or other flammable materials present.


Sparks, broken or frayed wires. Check the electrical system unless you are wet, standing in water, or unsure of your safety. If possible, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If the situation is unsafe, leave the building and call for help. Do not turn on the lights until you are sure they’re safe to use. You may want to have an electrician inspect your wiring.


Roof, foundation, and chimney cracks. If it looks like the building may collapse, leave immediately.


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 appliances checked by a professional before using them again. Also, have the electrical system checked by an electrician before turning the power back on.


Water and sewage systems. If pipes are damaged, turn off the main water valve. Check with local authorities before using any water; the water could be contaminated. Pump out wells and have the water tested by authorities before drinking. Do not flush toilets until you know that sewage lines are intact.


Food and other supplies. Throw out all food and other supplies that you suspect may have become contaminated or come in to contact with floodwater. Your basement. 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 waterlogged.


Open cabinets. Be alert for objects that may fall.


Clean up household chemical spills. Disinfect items that may have been contaminated by raw sewage, bacteria, or chemicals. Also clean salvageable items.


Call your insurance agent. Take pictures of damages. Keep good records of repair and cleaning costs.

 

Filing an Insurance Claim
If possible, photograph the outside of the premises, showing the any damage or flooding. Also, photograph the inside of the premises, showing the damaged property and the height of the water if your property was flooded.

Call your insurance agent to report your claim. If you have seperate flood insurance, also call your flood insurance agent to report your claim. Your flood insurance agent will prepare a Notice of Loss form and an adjuster will be assigned to assist you.

Separate the damaged from the undamaged property and put it in the best possible order for the insurance adjuster's examination. If reasonably possible, protect the property from further damage.

When the adjuster visits your property, let him or her know if you need an advance or partial payment of loss. Again, good records can assist your insurance companies and the NFIP in giving you an advance payment. Use your inventory to work with the adjuster in presenting your claim.

Damaged property which presents a health hazard or which may hamper local clean-up operations should be disposed of. Be sure to adequately describe and photograph discarded items so that, when the adjuster examines your losses and your records, these article are included in the documentation.

Good records speed up settlement of your claim. Compile a room-by-room inventory of damaged goods, and include manufacturer's names, dates and places of purchases, and prices. Try to locate receipts or proofs of purchase, especially for major appliances, and note manufacturers' names, serial numbers, prices, and dates of purchase.

 

Apply for Assistance

 

Coping with Disaster
The emotional toll that disaster brings can sometimes be even more devastating than the financial strains of damage and loss of home, business, or personal property.

Understand Disaster Events
Everyone who sees or experiences a disaster is affected by it in some way.
It is normal to feel anxious about your own safety and that of your family and close friends.
Profound sadness, grief, and anger are normal reactions to an abnormal event.
Acknowledging your feelings helps you recover.
Focusing on your strengths and abilities helps you heal.
Accepting help from community programs and resources is healthy.
Everyone has different needs and different ways of coping.
It is common to want to strike back at people who have caused great pain.
Children and older adults are of special concern in the aftermath of disasters. Even individuals who experience a disaster “second hand” through exposure to extensive media coverage can be affected.

 

Contact local faith-based organizations, voluntary agencies, or professional counselors for counseling. Additionally, FEMA and state and local governments of the affected area may provide crisis counseling assistance.

 

Recognize Signs of Disaster Related Stress
When adults have the following signs, they might need crisis counseling or stress management assistance:

 

Difficulty communicating thoughts.
Difficulty sleeping.
Difficulty maintaining balance in their lives.
Low threshold of frustration.
Increased use of drugs/alcohol.
Limited attention span.
Poor work performance.
Headaches/stomach problems.
Tunnel vision/muffled hearing.
Colds or flu-like symptoms.
Disorientation or confusion.
Difficulty concentrating.
Reluctance to leave home.
Depression, sadness.
Feelings of hopelessness.
Mood-swings and easy bouts of crying.
Overwhelming guilt and self-doubt.
Fear of crowds, strangers, or being alone.


 

Talk with someone about your feelings - anger, sorrow, and other emotions - even though it may be difficult.
Seek help from professional counselors who deal with post-disaster stress.
Do not hold yourself responsible for the disastrous event or be frustrated because you feel you cannot help directly in the rescue work.
Take steps to promote your own physical and emotional healing by healthy eating, rest, exercise, relaxation, and meditation.
Maintain a normal family and daily routine, limiting demanding responsibilities on yourself and your family.
Spend time with family and friends.
Participate in memorials.
Use existing support groups of family, friends, and religious institutions.
Ensure you are ready for future events by restocking your disaster supplies kits and updating your family disaster plan. Doing these positive actions can be comforting.