•Stay away from any floodwaters. Never try to walk, swim, or drive through such swift water. Most flood fatalities are caused by people attempting to drive through water or people playing in high water. If it is moving swiftly, even water six inches deep can sweep you off your feet, and two feet can carry away most automobiles. Drive only if absolutely necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges. Continue to follow all flood safety messages. Floodwaters may last for days following a hurricane. If you come upon a flooded road, turn around and go another way. When you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, if you can safely get out of the car, do so immediately and climb to higher ground.
•If you come upon a barricade, follow detour signs of turn around and go another way. Driving around them can be a serious risk. Local officials, to protect people, from unsafe roads put up barricades.
•Stay on firm ground. Standing water may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines. Moving water only six inches deep can sweep you off your feet.
•Help any injured or trapped persons. Do not move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Give first aid where appropriate. Call for help.
•Help a neighbor who may require special assistance – infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities. People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations. Elderly people and people with disabilities may require additional assistance.
•Avoid any disaster areas. Your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations, and put you at further risk from the residual effects of floods, such as contaminated waters, crumbled roads, landslides, mudflows, and other hazards.
•Avoid loose or hanging power, phone or cable lines; immediately report them to Power Company, police, or fire department. Reporting potential hazards will get the utilities turned off as quickly as possible, preventing further hazard and injury.
•Electrical equipment should be dried and checked before being returned to service. Call an electrician for advice before using electricity, which may have received water damage.
•Stay out of the building if water remains around the building. Floodwaters often undermine foundations, causing buildings to sink, floors to crack, or walls to collapse.
•When entering buildings, use extreme caution. Hurricane-driven floodwaters may have damaged buildings where you least expect it. Carefully watch every step you take.
* Wear sturdy shoes. The most common injury following a disaster is cut feet.
* Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights when examining buildings. Battery-powered lighting is the safest and easiest, preventing fire hazard for the user, occupants and building.
* Examine walls, floors, doors, staircase and windows to make sure that the building is not in danger of collapsing.
* Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage. Cracks and damage to a foundation can render a building uninhabitable.
* Look for fire hazards. There may be broken or leaking gas lines. Flooded electrical circuits, or submerged furnaces or electrical appliances. Flammable or explosive materials may come from upstream. Fire is the most frequent hazard following floods.
* Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas, using the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbour’s home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, a profession must turn it back on.
* Look for electrical system damage. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wire or if you smell burning installation; turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the box or circuit breaker, call an electrician first for advice. Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.
* Check for sewage and water line damage. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company, and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water from undamaged water heater or by melting ice cubes.
* Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes that may have come into buildings with the floodwaters. Use a stick to poke through debris. Floodwaters flush many animals and snakes out of their homes.
* Watch for loose plaster, drywall and ceiling that could fall.
* Take pictures of the damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.
• Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your home.
• Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If power was lost, some foods may be spoiled.
• Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are certain it is not contaminated. Hurricane-driven floodwaters may have contaminated public water supplies or wells. Local officials should advise you on the safety of the drinking water. Undamaged water heaters or melted ice cubes can provide good sources of fresh drinking water.
• Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching system as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are health hazards.
• Use the telephone only for emergency calls. Telephone lines are frequently overwhelmed in disaster situations. They need to be clear for emergency call to get through.
WHAT TO DO During a Hurricane WARNING
• Listen to a Radio, or portable, battery-powered radio or television for updated information and official instructions. Hurricanes can change direction, intensity, and speed very suddenly. Continue listening for local information.
• If officials announce a hurricane warning, they may ask you to leave your home as soon as possible to be safe. Take your Disaster Supplies Kit and go to a shelter or your family contact’s home. Call your check-in contact so someone will know where you are going. Local officials advise leaving only if they truly believe your location is in danger. It is important to follow their instructions as soon as possible. Roads may become blocked and the storm can worsen, preventing safe escape. Having your disaster supplies will make you more comfortable while you are away from home.
• If you are not advised to evacuate, stay indoors, on the first floor away from windows, skylights and glass doors, even if they are covered. Stay on the floor least likely to be affected by strong winds and floodwaters. A small interior room without windows on the first is usually the safest place. Have as many walls between you and the outside winds as possible Sometimes strong winds and projectiles may tear hurricane shutters off, so stay away from windows even if they are covered. Lie on the floor under a table or other sturdy object. Being under a sturdy object will offer greater protection from falling objects.
• Close all interior doors. Secure and brace external doors. Closed doors will help prevent damaging hurricane winds from entering additional rooms.
• Have a supply of flashlights and extra batteries handy. Avoid using open flames (candles and kerosene lamps) as a source of light. Flashlights provide the safest emergency lighting source. Between 1984 and 1998, in the US candle-related deaths from home fires following hurricanes were three times greater than the number of deaths related to the direct impact of hurricane. Kerosene lamps require a great deal of ventilation and are not designed for indoor use.*
• Store drinking water in clean bathtubs, sinks, plastic bottles, and cooking utensils. Public water supplies and wells may become contaminated, or electric pumps may be inoperative if power is lost. Survivors of community-wide disasters have said the individual’s rates need following the disaster is water.
• If power is lost, turn off major appliances to reduce the power “surge” when electricity is restored. When electricity is restored, the surge from many major appliances starting at the same time may cause damage or destroy the appliances. Turning off or unplugging major appliances will allow you to decide when it is best to turn them back on.
• Be aware that the calm “eye” is deceptive; the storm is not over. The worst part of the storm will happen once the eye passes over and the winds blow from the opposite direction. Trees, shrubs, buildings, and other objects damaged by the first winds can be broken or destroyed by the second winds. The opposing winds begin suddenly, and have surprised and injured many people who ventured out during the eye.
• Watch out for flooding. Hurricanes and tropical storms often drop large amounts of rainfall and cause severe flooding, even when they are weakening or are no longer a named storm. “Weak” tropical storms are just as capable of producing heavy rainfall and flooding as major hurricanes.
Insurance requirements after a disaster
Protect yourself and others:
- Wait for an all-clear announcement before leaving your home or shelter.
- Check people around you for injuries. Begin first-aid and seek help if necessary.
- Watch out for downed utility lines.
- Restrict telephone use to emergency calls.
- Avoid collapsed or deteriorated bridges.
- Check your water heater and appliances for damage. Do your checking with a flashlight, not matches or candles. If you smell gas, open windows and turn off the main valve. Don't turn on lights and appliances until the gas has dissipated and the system has been checked. If electric wires are shorting out, turn off the power.
- Use your emergency water or boil tap water before drinking until you are told the water supply is safe.
- Food that came in contact with flood waters may be contaminated and should be discarded.
- Check refrigerated food for spoilage. Make a list of spoiled or contaminated food and save the list for your claim representative. Damaged food may be covered by your insurance policy.
- Debris in the streets, downed power lines and flooding may make driving hazardous. If flooding is a potential hazard, stay away from rivers and streams.
Protect your home and personal property:
- Look for damage, including roof damage, that could allow rain into the house. (Don't climb onto the roof.)
- If your power is out, unplug all small and sensitive items to prevent electrical spike damage. (This includes TV, VCR, computers, etc.)
- Take reasonable steps to prevent further damage. This may include temporary roof repair, window glass replacement, boarding up holes with plywood and covering leaks with plastic sheeting.
- Remove water from saturated floors and carpet.
- Separate items that may be cleaned and/or repaired.
- Dry and clean wet furniture and clothing as soon as possible. Save your receipts; the costs for these emergency steps are possibly covered under your insurance policy.
- Check with your claim representative before you dispose of any items you plan to claim as damaged.
- Document the time you spent cleaning up, what you did and the number of hours.
- Make a list of all damaged items, include quantity, description and age.
Protect your car from further damage:
- If your car was under water, do not try to start it. Take extra steps to remove the water and speed up the drying process.
- Cover windows, holes, etc. to prevent more water from coming in.
- Find your vehicle and registration, you'll need it to file your insurance claim.
- If you need to have your vehicle towed, or get temporary repairs, save all receipts.
If your home is damaged so severely you can't live in it:
- Payment for expenses that are beyond your normal living expenses may be available.
- Find temporary housing for your family. (There is no coverage under most flood policies for this expense).
- We suggest that you not enter into any long-term leases until you talk to your insurance company claim representative.
- Keep all receipts associated with the temporary housing, meals and other miscellaneous expenses.
What is a disaster?
The United Nations defines a disaster as: "A serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society causing widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses which exceed the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources." (from the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction)
A disaster is defined and 'declared' when local resources are overwhelmed; when more resources are required than those immediately available. A disaster simply defines the point of escalation where outside help is required: 9/11 was a disaster for the city of New York within minutes of occurrence. As moving resources to overwhelmed areas is a management problem, the term disaster management has come into use to describe larger scale processes of disaster relief and disaster recovery as opposed to emergency management of the more routine sort. Some disasters, such as a pandemic, may preclude any help arriving "from outside", as there may "be no outside" since many areas are affected at once. For this and other reasons, resilience rather than after-the-fact relief has become the primary goal of many agencies.