How to Recover After a Hurricane
The damage and devastation caused by a massive hurricane can make even the most storm-prepared homeowner feel helpless and alone. Disaster preparedness can protect your home as the hurricane approaches, but dealing with the aftermath requires even more careful planning.
Your most important priority is the safety of your family and pets. Your home, car, furniture and everything else can be replaced. When it's safe for you to return home, call your insurance agent immediately and start documenting the damage with photos or video.
An emergency home repair, such as removing a fallen tree or pumping water out of your basement, creates an opportunity for scams. Sadly, unscrupulous con artists posing as repairmen often take advantage of people recovering from a storm or disaster. Don’t sign anything without reading it carefully, and don't sign any contract that commits you to handing over your insurance money.
Consider this hard-earned wisdom from homeowners who have endured major disaster recovery:
Put safety first after the storm
After a hurricane passes, many hazards linger in flooded or damaged areas. Be aware of these dangers:
1. Avoid flood water, especially if it’s moving. As little as 6 inches of moving water can knock a person to the ground. If you need to make your way through, wear a flotation device and use a walking stick to test the water’s depth before you take each step.
2. Keep your disaster preparedness kit handy. FEMA recommends stockpiling enough supplies to sustain your family for 72 hours without outside help.
3. Do not attempt to drive your car through floodwater in roadways. One foot of moving water can move a small car, and 2 feet of moving water can move a large SUV.
4. Do not attempt to move or repair any power lines or electrical appliances that are in standing water. If you do, you may get eletrocuted.
5. Report gas leaks or gas odors to local utilities. If you smell gas in your home, leave IMMEDIATELY and call your gas company.
6. Do not attempt to relight natural gas-consuming appliances in your home. Flood water can damage safety features built into these appliances. Contact a licensed plumber or HVAC technician to relight the pilot lights.
7. Check with the local health department or utility company to learn whether the water is safe to drink. If a water advisory has been issued, you’ll need to boil your water before consuming it or use bottled water. To eliminate bacteria and other parasites, bring water to a full boil for at least one minute then allow it to cool.
8. If you lose power, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Your refrigerator temperature needs to be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler to safely store food. Most fridges can maintain that temperature for up to four hours if the doors remain closed. Throw out perishable foods, such as milk and meats, if the temperature rises above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t eat food that came into contact with floodwaters.
Paul F. P. Pogue is a veteran Indianapolis writer/photographer and has been a reporter for Angie’s List since 2006, investigating lead paint, electrical work, plumbing, HVAC and the nitty-gritty details of home maintenance.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on October, 6, 2016.