Post Disaster

Keeping Safe

  • After a disaster, follow public announcements and obey official orders.
  • Do not ride, drive, or walk through flooded areas.
  • Never go around a police barricade.
  • If you must work in or near floodwater, wear a life jacket.
  • Wear protective clothing-a hard hate, goggles, heavy work gloves, and watertight boots with steel toes and insoles.
  • Beware of electrical and fire hazards:
    • Never touch any building car, or other item that is touching a fallen power line
  • Beware of gas leaks.
  • Beware of wild or stray animals and or snakes.
  • Prevent injuries:
    • Use teams of people to move bulky objects.
    • Do not lift anything over 50 pounds per person. When lifting bend at the knees and lift with your legs not your back. 

Operating a Portable Generator

  • To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning: do not use a portable generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal burning device in any enclosed area-even if the area is ventilated.
  • Place the generator outdoors and away from windows, doors, and vents where CO gas can enter the home.
  • Keep the generator dry. Do not expose it to rain or place it on a wet surface. Operate it on a dry surface under a canopy like cover.
  • If anyone is in an area where a generator is being used and develops a headache, lethargy, weakness, nausea, or muscle aches, get medical help immediately.
  • To prevent electrical shock, dry your hands before touching the generator.
  • Plug appliances directly into the generator or use a heavy-duty electric cord.
  • Always keep an extinguisher near the generator.
  • Do not remove or tamper with safety devices or touch hot engine parts.
  • Keep children away generator and the fuel containers.

Cleaning Debris

Landowners are responsible for clearing debris from their own property after a disaster. 


Be careful of electric power lines. Leave extensive pruning around the lower part of the saw blade, not the tip or nose. Do not use pruning equipment with metal handles. 


If you will use a bulldozer to remove stumps, leave stumps 6 to 10 feet leverage. If you will use a stump grinder, remove the trees at ground level. 

Disposing of Debris

  • Burying debris can be expensive. Use a chipping machine to eliminate small branches and reduce the amount of burial space needed.
  • Landfilling involves placing tree debris in erosion gullies, swamps, or low-lying areas.
  • Burning is another option. Weather permitting.
    • Let the tree debris dry until the leaves begin to fall.
    • Then putt he debris in large, compact piles and cover the piles with fuel oil.
    • Fuel/tend the fires to keep them burning until all woody material is burned. In some areas, you may need a permit to burn debris. 

Using a Chain Saw

Wear protective gear including sturdy, nonslip gloves; high-top boots with nonslip soles; and a hard hat with face and hearing protection.

Chain Saw Safety:

  • Know your saw and how to operate it before turning it on. Read and understand the operator's manual.
  • Be sure the chainsaw is in good working order. The saw should be sharp and the chain should fit snugly but not be too tight.
  • Fuel the saw in a safe place. Wipe down any spilled fuel from the saw.
  • Fill a gas-powered chain saw only when the engine is cool. If the saw runs out of gas, let it cool for 30 minutes before refueling it.
  • Clear the area of other debris before beginning to saw limbs or trees.
  • Before starting the engine, make sure the chain is not contacting anything. Never let the saw rest on your leg or knee when starting the engine.
  • Shut off the motor when you are not using it.
  • Always work with a buddy, but never allow someone else to hold the wood while you cut.
  • When sawing the tree down, determine the direction it will fall. Do not allow trees to fall into other tree branches. Plan an escape route I case the tree jumps off the stump when it's cut.
  • Kickbacks are one of the greatest hazards of using a chain saw. Make sure the saw has an anti-kick back device
  • Always shut off the chain saw before putting it down.

Evaluating and Handling Food and Drinks

Check each food and drink item in you home to determine whether or not it is safe to consume. Don't taste things you believe might be spoiled. When in doubt, throw it out. 

Throw away

  • All food-even canned goods-and drinks that have been in contact with floodwater.
  • Meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, milk, leftovers , soft cheese, and other potential foods that have been above 40 degrees F for two hours or longer.
  • Food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture.
  • Cans of food that are bulging, opened, dented, or damaged.
  • Food or drink in containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps, twist caps, or flip tops that have come in contact with floodwater. 

Disposing of unsafe foods 

If garage service is not in operations:

  • Bury food at least 4-feet deep to prevent animals from digging it up.
  • Bury it in an area that will not be disturbed in the near future from nearest water well or open water source (creek, lake, river).
  • If you cannot bury it then contact law officials to learn of county burning laws 

Freezer items

  • After a power loss, if the freezer temperature was at 0 degrees F or below, a full, well-functioning freezer should be able to keep food frozen for up to two days.
  • A freezer that is only half full will keep foods frozen for about 1 day.
  • If the freezer has an appliance thermometer, check that temperature when the power is restored. If the temperature is 40 degrees F or lower, the food is safe to eat and may be refrozen.
  • Most foods and beverages that have ice crystals, except for ice cream and frozen yogurt, can be refrozen.

Disinfecting and Finding Water

  • Obey public announcements about whether your tap water is safe to drink or to use for cooking and bathing.
  • Shut off your incoming water valve if you hear reports of broken water or sewage lines, to stop contaminated water from getting into your home.
  • If the water is unsafe, use only bottled water, or boil or disinfect your water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing, washing dishes, brushing your teeth, and washing your hands.
  • If you have your own water supply, such as a well, cistern, spring, or another private source ask your health department to for sanitary quality and to show you how to keep it safe. Have the water tested for disease-causing bacteria, such as E. coli and for total or fecal coliform.
  • Disinfect all water during a disaster. Don't assume the water is safe unless you have test results to confirm it.
  • If water is limited, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to wash your hands.
  • Never ration your water. Drink the amount you need today and try to find more tomorrow. Minimize the amount of water your body needs by being inactive and staying cool. 

Emergency water sources

Water heater

  • Turn off the power that heats the tank, and let the tank cool.
  • Place a container under the tank and open the drain valve at the bottom. Or, start the water flowing by turning off the water intake valve and turning on a hot-water faucet.
  • Don't turn the tank back on until utility services are restored. 

Toilet tank: The water in the tank (not the bowl) is safe to drink unless chemical treatments have been added. 

Water pipes:

  • Release air pressure into the plumbing system by turning on the faucet at the highest point in the house.
  • Then drain the water from the lowest faucet in the house. 

Outside: Rainwater and water from coiled garden hoses can be used after they have been disinfected. 

In an emergency:

  • Underground water, such as from wells or springs, is less likely to be contaminated than surface water.
  • If underground water is unavailable, you may use surface water from a creek, river, lake or pond (in that order).
  • Disinfect all underground and/or surface water before drinking it. 

Do not disinfect or drink water if it is dark in color, has an odor, contains floating material, or contains chemicals such as oil or gas. 

Purifying Water Methods 


  1. Strain water through a clean cloth, coffee filter, or paper towel into a clean container to remove any sediment or floating matter.
  2. Boil water vigorously for at least one minute.
  3. The water is ready to use after it cools. 

Note: strain the water before using chemicals. 


  • Use unscented, liquid laundry bleach. Make sure to read the product label to find the percentage of chlorine, and use this table to determine how much bleach to add to the water: 
    • Add the bleach, and stir or shake the container thoroughly. 
    • If you do not have a dropper, use a spoon and a square-ended strip of paper or thin cloth about 1/4 by 2 inches. 
  • Chlorine % Drops to be added per quart (from label)
% ChlorineClear WaterCloudy Water
4 - 6%4
7 - 10%12
  • Put the strip in the spoon with an end hanging down about 1/2 inch below the scoop.
  • Place the bleach in the spoon and carefully tip it. Water will drip from the end of the strip.
  • Let the water stand for 30 minutes. If you can smell a slight chlorine odor, the water should be safe to drink.
  • If you cannot smell a slight odor, repeat the dosage and let the water stand for 15 more minutes. 

Tincture of Iodine (From a Medicine Cabinet or First-Aid Kit)

  • For clear water, add five drops of iodine per quart of water.
  • For cloudy water, add 10 drops of iodine per quart of water.
  • If you do not have a dropper, make drops following the follow the steps as stated in bleach.
  • Let the mix stand for 30 minutes before use. 

If available, you can use purification tablets. Follow the package instructions.

Living Without Power

Plan ahead so that if the power goes out you will know other ways to cook, what foods to select, how to get light, how to communicate, how to keep cool or warm, how to get water, and how to live without a sewer system. 


  • You can cook outdoors on a camp stove, charcoal or propane gas grill, wood stove, or outdoor fire. Indoors, you can cook in a fireplace if the chimney has not been damaged or clogged by debris. Make sure the chimney damper is open. With a portable generator, you will be able to use small electrical appliances.
  • Never use camp stoves or grills indoors.
  • If you build a fire on the ground, make sure its contained with a ring of stones or metal drum around the fire bed-put fire out when finished.
  • Never use gasoline to start a wood or charcoal fire. 


If your home's water supply is cut off, bottle water should be available from local emergency supply distribution centers. 

Lights & Communication

  • Have a flashlight and batteries (all the same size) for every family member
  • Use direct current-powered lights, solar rechargeable lamps, oil or kerosene lamps, or candles (with caution) as alternatives to electric light.
  • Each home should have one phone that is connected to the wall (not a portable/cell phone), as well as a solar or DC charger for cell phones
  • With a battery-powered, crank, short-wave, or citizens band radio, you will be able to hear news reports and public announcements. 


Use battery-powered fans, solar fans, window shades, neck wraps saturated in water, and hats with brims to stay cool and protect from sunburn. Open windows if they are screened. 

Toilet Facilities

Make a toilet from a bucket. See Make a Kit.

Assessing Structural Damage 

Look carefully for damage. Sometimes storm damage to a structure is not obvious. 

Before you enter a structure

  • Turn off outside gas lines at the meter or tank.
  • If you turn off the gas, a professional must turn it back on.
  • Even if the power is out in your area, disconnect the fuses, main switch, or circuit breakers at your home, and disconnect all circuits.
  • If water is present, call an electrician-do not try to turn off the water yourself.
  • If the main disconnect is inside, contact the utility company for help.
  • If no water is present, follow safe procedures to turn off the power or have a professional do it.
  • Let the home air out to remove gas and odors .
  • Do not turn the power back on until you know it is safe to do so. 


  • Look for: 
    • Bulges, sways, leaning walls, leaning roof lines, broken glass, downed power lines
  • Check the structural bracing is secured as tightly as it was originally If the doors or windows do not open as they did before the storm, the structure may have shifted. There may be damage to gas lines, water lines, and electrical circuits.
  • Wooden buildings: Look for parts that are cracked (these can be hard to detect).
  • Brick buildings: Check for cracks in the masonry, especially near the corners and under and around doors and windows. If you are not sure that the building is safe, or if you see any indication of structural damage, call a building contractor, housing inspector, structural engineer, or architect to assess the building.
  • Check for sewage and water line damage:
    • If the sewage lines may be damaged, call a plumber, and do not use toilets.
    • If the water pipes are damaged, contact the water company, and do not use tap water. 


  • If possible, look at the roof from a distance. The ridge should be straight.
  • If the ridge sags on an end or in the middle, the loading bearing walls have shifted.
  • Look for missing or damaged shingles and loose nails. 
  • Check for potential leaks that could indicate structural separation. This is done more easily when it's sunny. 


  • Check to see that the building has not shifted on its foundation.
  • Make sure the foundation joints have not separated from the wall.
  • If the house is on pier, look at each pier to make sure it is in place and level.
  • For stone or concrete foundations, make sure the plate bolts are not loose. 


  • If you are sure the building is safe to enter and the utilities are off, enter cautiously.
  • Do not use a flame as a light source.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Check for gas leaks:
    • If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building.
    • Check the outside main gas valve again and turn off the gas if you can. Call the gas company from a neighbor's home.
    • If you turn off the gas, a professional must turn it back on. 
  • Look for electrical system damage:
    • Do not step in water or damp areas to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker; call an electrician for advice.
    • If you see sparks, broken, or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, check the main fuse box or circuit breaker again, and turn off the electricity. 
    • Unplug all appliances that have been flooded.
  • Check for wet insulation. If the insulation in a wall or attic is wet it must be replaced. It will not dry out because it is sealed within the structure.
  • In the attic, use a good light to help you:
    • Inspect the roof bracing. Roofs often have truss systems made out of two-by-four's and metal fasteners. Examine the truss for cracks or breaks.
    • Check that the roof plywood is attached securely tot he truss system and that the nails or staples have no separated from the truss.
    • Look for staffing ceilings, wet insulation, and pockets of water that can cause ceilings or walls to fall.
    • Check the framing for ridge separation, loose knee braces, and loose rafters where the rafters join the wall. 


Make sure the walls are vertical and straight. You can usually do this by eye or with a carpenters level.

Helping Family Members Cope 

Children can have a difficult time coping with trauma. They may be sad, afraid and reenact the disaster over and over to try and make sense of it. Their behavior may regress, and they may have problems such as loss of appetite, stomach aches, and nightmares. 

To help children (birth to age 5):

  • Reassure them and give them physical comfort.
  • Help them get back to their normal routines as soon as possible, including bed time.
  • Encourage them to talk about their losses, such as death of pets or even toys.
  • Monitor their exposure to news, media reports about the disaster. 

To help older children:

  • Give them extra attention and consideration. temporarily relax your expectations of their performance at home and at school.
  • Set gentle but firm rules for acting-out behavior.
  • Give them structured but undemanding home chores and other activities.
  • Encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings and be willing to listen. 

To help relieve stress:

  • Take care of yourself by eating healthy foods and getting plenty of rest.
  • Seek support from people you trust and spend time with family and friends.
  • Maintain your normal routine as much as possible.
  • Get physical exercise.
  • Seek trusted sources of information.
  • Participate in community recovery events to help others.
  • Be understanding of yourself and others.

Caring for Pets

  • Check your pets for injuries, and treat minor injuries with your home first-aid kit.
  • Make sure your pets have ample food and water and are contained in a safe area.
  • Your home may be a very different place after a disaster, whether you have taken shelter at home or elsewhere. Don't allow your pets to roam loose, Familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet will probably be disoriented. Pets can easily get lost.
  • Be sure your pets are wearing collars with tags that have your name, address, and cell phone number (in case land phone lines are not working).
  • Be patient with your pets it might take them time to adjust.
  • To look for lost and found pets, call your local animal shelter. Also register at
  • To report an animal needing rescue, call your county's emergency management department.

Controlling Mold 

Extensive damage and mold growth, you may need to hire a reputable firm that is licensed to repair water damage and remove mold. 

Doing the clean-up yourself:

  • Cover damaged areas of the roof with a water-proof tarp to prevent more damage.
  • Dry all wet materials as quickly as possible, If possible use air conditioning or heat with fans and dehumidifiers. If you have no power but have access to a generator, run a dehumidifier indoors.
  • Remove wet carpets right away.
  • Discard upholstered fabric furniture.
  • Cut away wet wallboard and remove all damp insulation right away, even if the wallboard looks dry.
  • Use non-phosphate detergents to clean. Phosphate residue is mold food.
  • Do all you can to speed the drying of subfloors, slabs and wall framing before replacing insulation, wall-board, and floors.
  • Before replacing insulation, use moisture meter to make sure the moisture content of the studs and sheathing is no more than 14 percent by weight.
  • Remove wet installation from the attic if it is saturated from blowing rain.
  • Protect yourself. Wear long sleeves, long pants, sturdy shoes, gloves, and a mask or respirator (N-95 or better).
  • Isolate the work area and ventilate it to the outdoors. Seal off the contaminated area from the rest of the house.
  • Clean all surfaces. remove, don't just kill, the mold. Dead spores can cause health problems.
  • Use a disinfectant to kill any mold missed by the cleaning. Use solution of 1 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water. Do not use it in the air system.
  • Remain on mold alert: Continue looking for signs of moisture or new mold growth. If mold returns, repeat the cleaning.
  • Do no rebuild or refurbish until all affected materials have dried completely. 

In hot, humid climates:

Mold can grow even if you do not have water damage but lose power.

  • Ventilate the house as much as possible.
  • Minimize the amount of moisture that you add to the inside of the home through showers, cooking laundry, etc. 

A remediation contract should specify:

  • What is to be corrected, including a diagram, that shows where the work will be done.
  • How long it will take to complete the work.
  • The materials required, such as lumber, sheetrock, carpet, padding, and paint.
  • Who will provide the renovation materials.
  • How the contaminated items will be handled.
  • Who will remove the debris from the site.
  • Warranties of work and guarantees on remediation.

Obtaining Assistance 

Assistance for you and your family

  • Your county has an emergency management plan is prepared to provide shelter, food, and water to disaster victims. Radio and television stations will have information on shelter locations and distribution centers for food and water.
  • If your property has been damaged, report it to your insurance company and file a claim as soon as possible. Be sure to let the company know how to reach you if you move to a different location.
  • If you are unable to return to work, you may qualify for unemployment insurance and/or disaster unemployment assistance, but you must first apply for regular unemployment benefits.
  • If you have suffered extensive damage and tax filing deadline is near, the Internal revenue Service (IRS) may postpone the deadline. For more information, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. 

Assistance for your small business

  • If you are self-employed or own a small business, contact the Small Business Association (SBA) disaster recovery center. The SBA makes physical disaster loans to help repair property as well as replace inventory and loans to help with financial losses. Apply for assistance from SBA as soon as possible. To apply, you will federal income tax information, a short history of business, personal financial statements, and business financial statements.
  • If you have business insurance, file a claim with your company as soon as possible. Whether you have insurance or not, file a claim with SBA first so you don't miss the filing deadline.
  • Have your business structure inspected by a structural engineer and get a detailed report of the damage. Also make a comprehensive inventory of losses. 

Salvaging Important Papers, Books, and Photos

  • Dry papers, books, and photos before mold sets in. For best results, dry them slowly.
  • Before drying, wipe book covers with a solution of one part rubbing or denatured alcohol and one part water.
  • Carefully remove framed items from their frames. If an object is stuck to the glass, do not remove it; take out the backing material and dry the object inside the frame, glass side down.
  • If papers or photos are muddy or dirty and are still wet, rinse them very gently in a bucket of cold, clean water before drying. Do not rinse books.
  • If the items are very damp:
    • Blot them gently with a clean, dry sponge, clean paper or bath towels. Do not blot on hand-written ink or fragile surfaces. Do not use newspaper for blotting.
    • Sprinkle papers, photos, book pages with cornstarch or talcum powder to absorb mixture. Leave the powder for several hours and then brush it off.
  • To dry papers and photos. lay them flat on a surface covered with absorbent material. Separate the papers if possible.
  • You might to wait until they are partially dry before you can separate them. Place books on the top or bottom edge with leaves separated. Do not stand books on the front edge.
  • Dry items out of direct sunlight. use an oscillating fan to increase air circulation but don't let it blow directly on the items.
  • When books are partially dry, place them on a flat surface with a slight weight to keep the page from warping. •Alternate drying and pressing the books until they are thoroughly dry. This helps prevent mildew.
  • For valuable books that are nearly dry, consider pressing eh pages with an electric iron set on low. Although this is tedious process, it may be worth the effort. Separate the pages to prevent musty odors.
  • When books are thoroughly dry:
    • Close them and use C-clamps to help them retain their shape.
    • Wipe vinyl and leather book covers with a light coating of petroleum jelly, leather, or vinyl dressing.
  • If you don't have time to clean and dry your books and papers immediately:
    • Put each book or paper in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer to prevent mildew.
    • Place wax paper between layers of paper bundles or books so they can be separated easily when removed.
  • Even if your papers appear to have dried successfully, they may disintegrate because of substances that were in the floodwater or rainwater. To be certain valuable or historic papers and photos are preserved, take them to a professional conservator. To find one near you, contact the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation at 202-452-9545. 

Homeowner's Property Insurance

  • If your property has been damaged, contact your insurance company immediately. The company will let you know what your policy covers, when the deadline is for filing a claim, and how much you must pay as a deductible. The company will also tell you whether you should get estimates for repair work or wait until a claims adjuster has assessed the damage. Never make extensive permanent repairs until a claims adjuster has visited your property to assess the damage.
  • Prepare for adjustor's visit by gathering documents to substantiate your losses. You might make an inventory of lost or damaged items or provide the adjuster with photographs from before and after the disaster. Also gather any receipts you have for lost or damaged items.
  • Prepare a list of everything you want he adjuster to check, including structural damage (cracks in walls, floor and roof damage etc.).
  • If you must relocate because your home isn't livable keep your lodging receipts.
  • If a Presidential Disaster Declaration has been issued for your area, you should register with Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), or call 1-800-621-3362, to determine whether you are eligible for deferral assistance.