Picking up the pieces after a natural disaster

After any major disaster, be it a flood, a tornado or an earthquake, etc., Your family's safety is most important when putting your lives back together. Here are tips for dealing with a natural disaster. 

Picking up the pieces after a natural disaster

Stay away from danger areas

  • First of all, stay out of disaster areas; not only are they dangerous but your presence might hamper rescue efforts.
  • Use your phone for emergencies only; you don't want to tie up lines that might be needed for rescue efforts.
  • Don't drive if it's not absolutely necessary.
  • If you do drive, be alert to downed power lines, damaged roads and mudslides.
  • Above all, stay out of damaged homes and buildings until professionals have deemed them safe.
  • Do not enter any building that is surrounded by water. Floodwaters often undermine foundations, causing sinking and cracks and breaks in floors. These structures can collapse, leaving you trapped inside.

Cleaning up

  • Open your windows. You want to get the inside of your house dry before mildew or toxic moulds set in. If a window sticks, use a pry bar to open it.
  • Unplug appliances, clean and dry them, and spray electrical components and other working parts with contact cleaner (available at hardware and electronics stores).
  • Unplug appliances, clean and dry them, and spray electrical components and other working parts with contact cleaner (available at hardware and electronics stores).
  • Check drains and have them cleared if they're stopped up. Check the valves in the sewer traps.
  • Shovel and hose out mud and silt, then scrub and disinfect the floors and woodwork.
  • Let walls, floors and insulation dry thoroughly before covering or repainting them.
  • If a wall is waterlogged, replace the wallboard and insulation to above the waterline.
  • Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems as soon as possible to prevent health hazards.

Safety when re-entering your home

  • When you finally reenter your damaged home, take great care (even if it's been deemed safe).
  • Wear sturdy shoes to avoid cutting your feet.
  • Carefully watch every step you take, and use a flashlight or a battery-powered lantern to light your way.
  • Never use candles. Even lighting a match can be dangerous if there is a gas leak.
  • As you move through the house, take photos of all damage and check for the following: If you smell gas, turn off the gas line and get outside at once.
  • Keep a lookout for unstable floors, walls, staircases and windows. If you find any, get out of the house until they're fixed.
  • Check for electrical system damage, such as ruptured wires. If the power is still on and you find electrical damage, turn off the power immediately and call for help.
  • Check for sagging ceilings or loose plaster or drywall. Have a contractor repair the damage before you return to the house. Check the house foundation for cracks. I
  • f there's a water leak in your house, turn off the water supply. Also check for damaged water lines. If you find any, call a plumber and avoid using water from the tap.
  • Check for damaged sewage lines. If you suspect damage, don't use the toilets. Call a plumber.
  • Clear away spilled medical supplies, toxic cleaning materials and all flammable materials.
  • Watch for animals and snakes that may be hiding in the house. Use a stick to poke through debris.
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