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Cleaning up After a Tropical Storm

Storm Preppers - Cleaning up After a Tropical Storm

Cleaning up after a tropical storm is a task that can affect you physically and emotionally. For some, the devastation might be minimal and damage to property may also be minimal. For others, the devastation may be unbearable and can cause a toll emotionally. Depending on the severity of the storm, you may be faced with a disastrous situation that can last days, weeks, months or years.

In a worst-case scenario, there may be a loss of life and life changing injuries. Infrastructure damage may include properties that were destroyed; broken windows and doors; downed trees and vegetation; utility poles and power lines strewn on the ground; flooding; and wind and water damage.

Learn how to prepare for the next tropical storm with the Hurricane Preparedness for the Home and Family guide.

What to Do After the Storm

In the aftermath of a tropical storm, people are always tempted to explore and inspect their neighborhoods to see what damage has been done. It is not rare to see people driving and walking around. However, you must wait until the all-clear has been given by the authorities.

If you evacuated your home, do not return until you receive an official confirmation that it is safe to do so. If you stayed at home, you must also wait for that official go ahead before venturing outside. And even after you receive the all-clear, you should still exercise caution when out and about.

The first thing to do, is to make sure that your family and pets are safe. If there are any injuries, check to see if you can handle them with the items in your first aid kit. If they are severe injuries, try to get to a hospital or contact your local disaster management agency for immediate aid and assistance.

Here are some additional precautions to take:

  1. If your home has visible storm damage, do not enter. The building may be unstable, and you can be at risk of injury for falling debris.
  2. Check that electricity and gas are turned off.
  3. If the house is flooded, do not enter because electrical outlets may be under water.
  4. Always use a flashlight when entering dark homes and do not use candles or open flame illuminators.
  5. If you smell gas, do not enter the property. Call your local gas company or public utility office.

Potential Hazards

When surveying your property, be cognizant of the hazards and dangers that persist. Keep an eye out for damaged power lines, debris and flooded areas. At this stage, you should focus on your health and safety. Do not attempt to move large branches or objects on your own. Instead, focus on taking photographs of all damage and losses which will be useful when filling out insurance claims.

Here is a list of hazards which you should be aware of before cleaning up:

  1. Carbon monoxide poisoning: Can occur if there is a build-up of carbon monoxide in a building.
  2. Electrical hazards: Electrical circuits and equipment that got wet or are submersed in water.
  3. Gas Leaks: Cracks and punctures in gas lines can cause gas to escape into your home.
  4. Chemical Exposure: Toxins may be in floodwaters as a result of chemical leaks and spills.
  5. Diarrheal Diseases: Ground water may be contaminated with wastewater and sewage.
  6. Hygiene-Related Diseases: Floodwaters may contaminate food, surfaces and objects.
  7. Mold: Warm and wet climates can encourage mold growth.
  8. Mosquito-Borne Diseases: Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and thus can speed up the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

Cleaning up After a Tropical Storm

When cleaning up after a storm, safety should be at the forefront. You should use safety gear such as goggles, hard hats, masks, work gloves and waterproof boots. Goggles will protect your eyes, hard hats will protect your head from falling objects, and masks will prevent harmful particles from entering your lungs.

As mentioned previously, another consideration when cleaning up, is to avoid moving heavy objects on your own. Instead, you should work in a team of two or more people who can help you lift and move bulky objects. When lifting heavy items, get a good grip of the object, try to keep your back straight, and do not twist your body as you lift.

Use these water-activated flood bags to block and divert flood waters away from your home.

Cleaning up is tiring work, so make sure you pace yourself. If you tire easily, take periodic rests between cleaning activities. You will not get through everything in one day, so decide which tasks are priority and focus on them. Also make sure that you stay hydrated when working. Remember to drink water often, only work outside when it is cool, and always wear light and loose-fitting clothing.

If you are using heavy equipment such as a chainsaw, always take safety precautions. Chain saw injuries can occur if you do not follow the manufacturer’s instructions or use safe practices. Follow the steps outlined in the CDC’s guide on preventing chain saw injuries.

Further Reading

Here are some helpful guides on cleaning up after a tropical storm:

CDC: Fact Sheet: Clean Up After a Disaster
Zurich Insurance: How to Clean-up and Recover Safely from a Severe Storm
Lowe’s: How to Clean Up After A Hurricane, Tornado or Flood
AARP: 12 Tips for Cleaning Your Home After a Flood, Hurricane or Tornado
Sourgum: How to Clean Up After A Flood or Hurricane
NSW Health: Household Clean-up for after a Flood or Storm
Budget Dumpster: How to Clean Up After a Storm
Australian Red Cross: Cleaning up after a Disaster

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Image: Greg Johnson via Unsplash

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