10 most common questions people have after a weather event
Picture this: A big storm hits your city. The question on everyone’s mind is: Now what? You’re not sure where to begin with the cleanup—or if it’s even safe to return to your home at all. At ONLY CONTENTS (www.onlycontents.com or 1.855 KLEAN 79), we know how stressful a weather event can be. To help relieve some of your anxiety we’ve put together a list of answers to the 10 most common questions people have after a weather event. Store this list in a safe place, and the next time a storm hits you’ll be better prepared to deal with the aftermath.
How do I know if my water is safe to drink?
Immediately after a big storm that has caused citywide damage (such as a tornado or hurricane), you should not use tap water for brushing your teeth, preparing meals, washing fruits and vegetables, ice or as drinking water (for you and your pets). Your city may issue a boil order, meaning all water should be boiled for at least one minute before consumption. Your local media outlets will provide you with information on the state of the city’s water, including when it’s finally safe to drink it again!
If you have a well that was flooded, don’t drink the water or use it for bathing until you have checked with your local health department about disinfecting it.
How do I contact a loved one who’s in a storm-struck area?
When you’re watching a storm unfold on television from hundreds of miles away, it can be heart wrenching to think of your loved ones who are riding out the storm. Naturally, you will want to get in touch with them to make sure they’re safe. The first step is a phone call directly to your loved ones. Be aware, however, that electricity—including landlines—may be knocked out, and that the cell networks may be overwhelmed. It may be difficult to reach them directly. The good news is that cell phone providers are working on strengthening their networks in storm-prone regions for emergency situations, so this may not be as problematic as it has been in the past.
In the event of a major disaster, the National Emergency Family Registry and Locator System will be activated to help you find individuals and families displaced by the storm. The Red Cross also maintains a searchable Safe and Well list that you can check to see if your loved ones have registered themselves.
How do I begin drying out my home after it’s been flooded?
If you happen to return home after a storm and find that it’s been flooded, it’s natural to want to eliminate the intruding water as quickly as possible. If you pump all the water out of your basement or first floor at once, though, the pressure from the water-heavy soil outside could cause the entire structure to collapse! In the event that your home is severely flooded and you’re feeling overwhelmed, call a professional like ONLY CONTENTS (www.onlycontents.com or 1.855 KLEAN 79) to help you survey the damage and restore the contents of your home to their former state.
How do I find a missing pet?
If poor Fido or Spot managed to get loose during the storm, first take a look around your neighborhood for any signs of your beloved pets. If you still can’t find them, call your local animal control office—they should have information on where lost pets are being housed, and you can make a trip to see if your pets are boarding there.
When is it safe to return to my home after a weather event?
Although it’s tempting to head to the comforts of home immediately after a traumatic storm like a tornado or hurricane, do not return to your home until officials determine that it’s safe to do so. Their evaluation will take water and sewage levels, electricity, natural gas levels and accessibility into account. The Environmental Protection Agency will likely be in contact with these officials and will announce when it is safe for residents to return to their homes.
How can I rid my home of smoke after a wildfire?
Cleaning your home after a wildfire depends on the amount of smoke exposure your home had. If the wildfires weren’t in your immediate region and the smoke smell is faint, you can use an air purifier to clean and remove pollutants from the air. If, however, your home was significantly affected by the fires, you need to call in a professional to restore your home and help protect the health of your loved ones from the effects of smoke damage.
What should I do if I smell gas or suspect a leak after a storm?
If you smell natural gas (which smells like rotten eggs), hear a hissing sound or see a broken gas line in your home after a storm, ventilate by opening a window or door and evacuate immediately. Do not turn on the lights, light a match or use the telephone in your home. Call the gas company immediately from a neighbor’s house or a local business; if you cannot get in touch with the gas company, call 911. Finally, don’t return to your home until you’ve been told that it’s safe to do so.
How should I evaluate my home after a weather event?
After a big weather event has passed and it’s safe to return home, you’ll have to evaluate your house for damage. Make sure you wear sturdy shoes and protective clothing, and bring a flashlight (not candles!) in case your electricity is out. You also should bring a camera and take photographs of every room to document the damage for insurance. Be cautious when entering your home, and be on the lookout for any frayed wiring that you’ll need to report to your electrical company. Watch out for broken glass and nails, and report any larger issues—downed power lines, gas leaks, or structural hazards—to the proper authorities immediately.
How do I help my children cope with what’s happened?
A natural disaster is frightening for everyone, but it’s especially traumatic for children who may not fully comprehend what has happened and why. After a storm, explain to your kids that storms are natural events. It may help to read a book with them that’s specifically geared toward the type of storm you’ve experienced. Listen to their fears and offer reassurance that the situation isn’t permanent. Finally, include your child in small clean-up activities—it can be comforting for kids to have something to do after the storm, and can help them feel like everything is returning to normal.
How do I cope after a disaster?
After surviving a terrifying natural disaster, it’s normal for you to feel dazed or numb. You may find you have trouble sleeping or experience frightening dreams, a loss of appetite, and you may even develop a shorter temper than usual. These are all natural reactions to stress.
To cope, try sticking to your regular schedule as much as possible. Do what’s best for your body—eat right, get enough sleep and exercise frequently. Talk through your feelings with a family member or friend, and limit your exposure to news stories revisiting the event. Finally, if the stress is too much for you to handle alone, seek help from a professional immediately. It will take time for you to heal from the weather event, and you don’t have to do it alone!