Hurricane Harvey aftermath in Houston, Texas
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After the Storm

2017 is already a historic year for hurricane activity, with two Category 4 storms making landfall in the United States for the first time on record—Hurricane Harvey in southeast Texas, and Hurricane Irma, which devastated much of the Caribbean before marching up the Florida coast. In both areas, these storms have left thousands of people to deal with their aftermath—injuries, damaged and flooded homes and vehicles, and a lack of cell service and electricity. NPR reports that at least 100,000 homes were affected by Hurricane Harvey, and CNN writes that about one out of every four houses in the Florida Keys has been destroyed by Hurricane Irma.

However, just because the storm has passed doesn’t mean that the danger is over for these communities. Read on for safety instructions for returning to a damaged or flooded home and neighborhood.

From Ready.gov:

  • Only return home when the proper authorities have given the all-clear.
  • When walking or driving around your neighborhood, be on the lookout for places where the roads or walkways may have been eroded by floodwaters, or blocked by debris.
  • Do not walk or stand in standing water, as it may be electrically charged from nearby downed power lines. If you see any of these downed power lines, contact the power company's emergency number.
  • If possible, turn off electricity at the main breaker or the fuse box before entering your home. Contact your local power company or a qualified electrician to help if you are unfamiliar with this process. 
  • Photograph all damage to your property for insurance purposes before you begin your repairs. If it’s possible to take precautions to prevent further damage (i.e. placing a tarp over a damaged roof) try to do that as soon as possible, as your insurance may not cover damages that occur after the storm.
  • If you are using a generator or other gasoline-powered machine at your home, DO NOT allow it to run inside of the building, including your garage. This equipment can generate carbon monoxide, which is deadly. Use this equipment outside, and far away from any windows. 

For a more complete list of how to protect yourself, your home, and your family after a flood, please refer to pages 10-11 of this resource from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1409002852888-3c5d1f64f12df02aa801901cc7c311ca/how_to_prepare_flood_033014_508.pdf

Unfortunately, there are those who take the opportunity immediately after a storm to try and prey on the confusion and vulnerability of affected communities. To learn more about how scams to be on the lookout for immediately after a storm, please refer to FEMA’s Rumor Control website: https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4332/updates/rumor-control

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