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Returning Home After an Emergency Evacuation

We all understand how important it is to be prepared for such things as natural disasters, severe winter storms, earthquakes, and other unexpected emergencies. Many of us have food, water, and other supplies stocked in a safe and easily accessible place in our homes. The reality, however, is that we may not be able to stay in our homes and depending on the type of emergency or disaster it may be days or weeks before we can return. Knowing what to do after an earthquake, flood, or other occurrence is as important as planning ahead for one.

It is vital that we wait until local authorities have given the word that it is safe to go back to our communities and homes. After an earthquake, our homes may look fine but it’s important to ensure that the actual structure of homes and other buildings are safe before we re-enter them. The receding waters of a flood can also pose health and safety concerns. Local and provincial government websites have a lot of useful information on the kinds of things that need to be checked and the things that we need to be on lookout for when returning to our homes.

In the case of floods there are a number of things that must be done in order to stay safe and healthy. It is important to remove anything from your home that has come in contact with flood water that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. Keeping doors and windows open and using dehumidifies and fans will help remove moisture from your home. Excessive moisture can be particularly troublesome as mold can develop, creating a serious health issue, especially for young children and the elderly. Hard, non-porous surfaces can be cleaned with a mixture of 1 cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water; always wear rubber gloves, (and rubber boots if cleaning floors), when using bleach to clean. Again, doors and windows should be open to allow plenty of fresh air in. It is extremely important never to mix ammonia and bleach for any reason – the fumes from such a mixture can be lethal! 

Caution must also be used with any canned or other store-bought packaged foods found in the kitchen. The best way to be sure that you have safe food and clean water is by storing properly sealed, freeze dried foods in waterproof containers. Water is also best stored in appropriate containers that have a longer shelf life (expiry date) that just plain bottled water. It’s always a good idea to have printed information or brochures from your local or provincial government on the exact steps to take when returning home after a natural disaster or other emergency. Keep in mind that the food in your kitchen cupboards and the water from your kitchen tap, in all likelihood, will not be safe when you first get back. Being prepared ahead of time will help ease the transition after getting home.  

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