- If You've Been Evacuated
Listen for emergency updates and news. Return home only when officials say it's safe.
If you cannot return home, FEMA can help you find housing. Just text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
Avoid driving unless you absolutely must. It's not worth the risk of flooded roads and still-falling debris, or endangering rescuers who may be coming to your aid.
- Assessing Damage to Your Home
Check the outside of the house for flooding, structural damage or debris like downed power lines or trees. If still dark, use a flashlight. Note: Turn the flashlight on outside before entering -- the battery may produce a spark that could ignite a gas leak. Do not use candles or torches.
Check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage. If you see any, steer clear and report them to the power company.
Use a stick to look through water or debris, watching out for critters wild or injured -- especially venomous snakes, which often hide in flood waters.
If it is safe to do so, turn off the electricity at the main breaker or fuse box. Even if the power is out in the neighborhood, it could come back on at any time and cause injury.
If the exterior area is safe, take pictures of any damage for insurance purposes. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
- Do Not Enter the Building If:
You can smell gas.
Water is pooled around the building.
There is fire damage and officials have not declared it safe.
You have any concerns about safety. Have it inspected by a certified building inspector or structural engineer if you have any concerns before entering.
- Downed Trees and Power Lines
If you see a downed power line, or a tree lying on one, do not touch either. Call the power company immediately. Don't step over or try to maneuver under downed lines either, as even getting close to a live power line can cause the electricity to arc.
Note where the tree limb is in relation to the power line, if it's in danger of falling onto it, and if the powerline is between two poles, or between a pole and the building. Power company officials will likely ask these questions.
Some power companies will clear downed tree limbs, others will not. Contact your local power company for their policy. If your power company does not clear them, contact a professional debris clearing company.
Most power companies do, however, routinely trim tree limbs to prevent problems with power lines. Be sure not to trim tree limbs yourself if they pose a power risk. Alert the power company or a professional tree-trimming service.
- Flood and Water Damage
Ventilate: Open windows and doors to ventilate in case of mildew, dust or fumes. Remove any wet items to minimize mold growth.
No Open Flames: Use only flashlights, no candles, matches, open flames or cigarettes. Gas may still be trapped inside.
Keep the Power Off: Call an electrician to inspect the house and make sure the system is safe.
Protect Yourself: Wear gloves, protective clothing and a dust mask during cleanup. Wash wet items with pine-oil cleanser and bleach. Dry them completely and watch for fungus growth over a few days.
Prevent West Nile Virus: Heavy flooding and rains can bring on hordes of disease-carrying mosquitoes. Use DEET bug repellant, avoid being outside during peak mosquito hours of dawn and dusk, and eliminate sources of standing water where the insects can breed.
Call Your Insurance: File a flooding claim.
Document: Take photos of damage (inside and out) and save damaged items.
- Gas Leaks
If you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, open a window and leave.
Turn the main gas valve off outside the house and call the gas company. They will have to turn it back on.
- Electrical System
See sparks, damaged wires, smell something burnt? If you haven't already, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker.
Don't step into water to get to them -- call an electrician first.
- Sewage and Water Lines
If you think there's a plumbing issue, don't use the toilets. Call a plumber.
If you suspect problems with the water supply, call the water department. Don't drink, wash your hands or otherwise use tap water.
- Food and Water
Throw away any food, cans included, that came in contact with flood water.
Boil water for drinking, food prep and personal hygiene until your town authorities say the water supply is safe.
See Keeping Refrigerated Foods Safe.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
American Red Cross
Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
SOURCE: FEMA, COMED, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NY State Department of Health
What to Do After a Severe Storm
From mudslides to falling trees and damaged power lines, cleanup and recovery from a big weather system can be just as dangerous as the storm itself. If you're a homeowner, it's important to know what to do - and what not to do - after a natural disaster.