After hurricanes pass, their aftermath remains. The effects of downed power lines, fallen trees, and flooding can be felt hundreds of miles away from where the storm passed. Here are some tips you may consider after going through the experience.
Wait for the all-clear
There's a good chance that the storm isn't over when you think it is. Since the eye of the storm is calm and can span dozens of miles, a break in the rain and wind could just signal the arrival of the second act. If you're waiting out the storm in an interior room (away from exterior doors or windows), keep your radio near you so that you know when it's safe to go outside. It is never a good idea to test the outside before receiving official confirmation that the storm has passed. Winds can strike in an instant.
Avoid buildings that you don’t know are safe
After a hurricane, use extreme caution before entering any building. Unseen and seen dangers abound - such as faulty electrical wiring, carbon monoxide poisoning from generators, and structural issues from the wind and water. You can address these concerns by:
Turning off the electricity at the main breaker (only if you are not in standing water)
Ensure any running generators are not only out of the building but also away from any open windows or doors
Keeping away from a building that’s clearly damaged or making unusual noises that indicate the structure is weakened and caving
Better yet, wait to enter until a building has been inspected and declared safe. You can start this process by contacting FEMA.
Be wary of hazardous chemicals
In the case of hazardous chemicals - compromised weed killer containers, batteries, or propane tanks, for instance - call the fire department to get the chemicals removed. In case of accidental contact with any of these materials, wash the area immediately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers detailed information on poisons and common household chemicals.
Don’t count on electricity
Storms not only knock out electric power, but they may also pose grave dangers when electricity is flowing freely. Standing water and downed power lines combine to make a deadly threat after a storm, since not only is the broken line dangerous, but it is also an electric liability because electricity travels where it should not. You don't need to come into direct contact with a power line to be hurt if there's water between you and it. Don't just be careful outside, but also inside your home. Be sure to make your first trip to the doctor after an evacuation while it's still daylight so that you can see. Be extremely careful how you use your electricity if you notice that it is on. It's all too easy to forget about standing water and power up an appliance to bad effect.
Watch out for contaminated water
In the event of flooding, contaminants get swept up into the water, which means you need to keep the water out of your body. Make sure you drink only bottled water and clean any cuts or open sores that come into contact with floodwaters immediately. Follow up with a cream containing antibiotics. If you are unsure if you cleaned a cut in time or if it becomes irritated, have a doctor look at it.
Make sure to keep children and pets away from floodwaters at all times, but also make sure to clean any wet toys thoroughly. (Recycle the items that can't be washed, such as stuffed animals or absorbent items.). You can clean toys by mixing one cup of bleach with five gallons of bottled water. Toys should be scrubbed down, then they should be allowed to air dry.
Clean up mold safely
With water comes mold, and with it comes the challenge of killing it. Mold, which causes health problems from skin irritations to asthma attacks and infections, can become a problem within the first day of being flooded. Mold is not to be taken on without a professional's help if you have asthma or a weakened immune system. You may want to hire a professional or ask a generous friend for help. In any case, I recommend following the tips below - but only after you've taken lots of pictures for the insurance company:
Protect your respiratory system. Wear an N-95 or P-100 respirator when working with mold, and use a full-face model if you’re going to be ripping out drywall or otherwise tackling substantial mold.
Cover up and wear protective gloves. Cover your eyes as well with goggles that keep out tiny particles from all angles.
Don’t transport the mold. When you leave the site after cleanup work, leave all your protective gear behind so that you aren’t carrying mold wherever you go.
Remove all the water you can. A wet/dry vac is essential for pulling the last of it from floors and furniture.
Get air flowing through the house. Open doors and windows, closets, cupboards, and drawers.
Toss what can’t be cleaned. Throw out whatever can’t be scrubbed and dried completely. Your carpet and padding, for instance.
Clean with bleach. Scrub moldy surfaces with a mixture of 1/2 cup bleach to 1-quart water. Do not rinse but let them air dry.
Dry thoroughly. After you’ve cleaned up mold, place dehumidifiers and fans throughout the house to dry out all your scrubbed areas. Don’t place fans before you’ve cleaned, as that may blow mold spores around further.
Paint only after all mold is gone. Painting over mold doesn’t kill it, so make sure you’ve addressed any moldy areas before you repaint. Start with an oil-based primer.
The ins and outs of insurance, particularly in storm-prone areas, can be quite complex and vary based on countless factors, such as whether you have wind damage or water damage. Be sure to review your insurance policies carefully to determine what is covered and who to contact. You should contact your insurance provider as soon as possible so that you can receive specific instructions about how to file a claim and document the damage.
In general, the following are good rules of thumb:
Document, document, document. Take pictures of everything affected by the storm, from your knocked-over mailbox to the waterlogged quilt your great-grandmother sewed for you. You can’t over document damage and losses.
Save receipts. You may be eligible for reimbursement for the living expenses you incur while your home is being cleaned up and repaired.
Wait for an insurance inspection. Wait to start any major repairs until an insurance inspector has been to your home and evaluated the damage.
Follow general safety guidelines
After the storm has passed, you have an awful lot to think about. Here’s a summary of the safety guidelines you are most likely to need:
Rely on local authorities. You need to know about all kinds of safety issues, from flooded roads to power issues, and whether it’s safe to return after an evacuation.
Beware downed power lines. Water and downed power lines are a deadly combination. Be extremely careful if you see or suspect a downed line, and contact your utility provider. Electrical equipment within your home may also be a danger.
Reduce electrical risk from standing water. Turn off the power in your home if you’re dealing with standing water, but only if you can do so without being in the standing water. Have an electrician inspect your home before you turn the electricity back on.
Tackle whatever emergency repairs you can. Cover broken windows or tarp your roof. Permanent repairs need to wait until you’ve had an insurance inspector review your damage.
Don’t wait to file a claim. You want to be as close as you can to the top of your insurance carrier’s to-do list. Claims are handled in order, and a hurricane certainly increases the workload.
Wait for the all-clear to drink tap water. Assume that water is not safe to drink until you receive official word that it is. Drink only bottled water in the meantime.
Note that with water come pests. You may find mice, insects, and snakes in your home post-storm.
Avoid using matches. Because gas lines may have been damaged by the high winds, using matches after a hurricane is especially dangerous. If you smell gas, get away from the building and alert the gas company immediately.
Keep track of expenses. As you address cleanup and repairs, keep careful records for when you file an insurance claim, including photographs of the damage. Inventory damaged property, including as much detail as you can — manufacturer, date of purchase, and so on.
Minimize risk from contaminated water. Standing water may be contaminated by sewage and bacteria or otherwise dangerous because of debris swept up in the storm. If you’re dealing with flooding, make sure that you wear protective clothing, like waterproof boots, rubber gloves, and goggles. If you cut yourself or otherwise have raw skin that bacteria may easily enter, make sure that you clean the area thoroughly after any contact with floodwaters. Use an antibiotic ointment as well.
Exercise caution when moving heavy objects. Make sure you wait to enlist help for anything that weighs more than 50 pounds, and rest when you need to.
Get support. You don’t just need friends and family to help you literally pick up the pieces; you probably also need emotional support as you pick through the damage, cope with losses, and work toward rebuilding your life.
Investigate temporary housing. If your home is uninhabitable after a hurricane, your insurance company may cover temporary housing. Call your agent before you make arrangements.
Contact us at www.apdroofing.com. We'll find means and ways to help you get through this and we'll assist you all the way.
MELVYN HUCKABY II
Lead Claims Consultant, IICRC Certified
Mey Cuadra Ochomogo