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Returning Home After a Disaster

Be cautious when returning home after a disaster

Last week, we began a mini-series on disaster recovery, and today we want to go over the 2nd item in our list: returning home after a disaster.

Returning home after a disaster can be challenging in a number of ways. During a disaster, your adrenaline levels will spike. You may not notice discomfort or tiredness—you may even feel numb—while things are happening rapidly around you.

But once everything calms down and you can think again, you’ll probably realize that you’re exhausted—physically, emotionally and psychologically. And that’s why it’s wise to know some of your next steps ahead of time.

Below are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Use caution when you’re walking around or sifting through debris. As soon as possible, change into your most protective pair of boots.
  • Only use the phone to report life-threatening injuries.
  • Use a flashlight to inspect your home carefully, before letting any pets, small children or anyone vulnerable inside. If your flashlight is battery powered, be sure to switch it on outside, in case of igniting possible leaking gas.
  • Turn on your radio and check into your local radio stations regularly to learn about any emergency updates or pertinent news.
  • Watch out for dangerous animals that may be taking shelter or caught among the debris.
  • Also keep an eye out for downed electrical lines, weakened walls, bridges and other structures.

Before You Enter Your Home, you also want to ensure:

  • Before even considering going inside, check for cracks in the outer structure of your home. Don’t go in if you see any cracks. If it looks good from the outside, you’ll still want to check on the inside.
  • Be cautious of slippery floors, broken or sharp objects, items loosened from walls and falling from broken shelves.
  • Smell and listen for natural gas leaks. Natural gas smells a bit like rotten eggs, or you may hear a quiet hissing as it escapes the gas lines. If you hear or smell it, open a window and get out of there as quickly as possible. If you can, turn off the main gas valve outside.
  • Check for broken, frayed, downed or waterlogged wires. Don’t turn on any lights until you are 100% sure that the wiring is intact and you’ve checked that none of your appliances are waterlogged or otherwise damaged.
  • Check for broken water pipes.
  • Don’t go inside if there is flooding outside.
  • If you’re unsure or if your house was damaged by fire, don’t go inside unless you have the okay that it’s safe, from local authorities.
  • If floodwater has been in your house, a lot of what you own has probably been contaminated with raw sewage so consider carefully what is worth keeping, and what is worth cleaning.

It’s never too early to begin documenting your experience, and the damage to your home. The more details you include, the better, in case you need to share them with your insurance company. In the middle of a disaster, it might be difficult to remember all of these safety tips, so consider going over them regularly with your household, putting a list on your fridge or including it in your emergency kit!

-Content created by Sophie Wooding – Writer, gardener, cyclist and emergency preparedness enthusiast!

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