In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, millions of homes are without power along the East Coast, and many people have been forced to evacuate. If you live in an area that is affected by Sandy, here are a few important safety tips to keep in mind as you deal with the aftermath of the storm.
For more information on this topic, visit FEMA’s comprehensive guide on what to do before, during and after a hurricane.
1. Be overly cautious. A lot can happen to your house during a hurricane: structural, electrical, gas and water damage are all potential problems. If you evacuated your home because of Sandy, you shouldn’t reenter until it has been examined by certified professionals. Even after they give it the all clear, be extra cautious of possible hazards.
2. Gas leaks. High winds or flooding may have damaged gas lines or gas appliances during the storm. If you smell gas in your home (which will be similar to rotten eggs), leave your house immediately and alert the gas company and fire department. Do not turn on any lights or appliances because they could create a spark that leads to a fire. If possible, turn off your gas, but only if you can do it safely. For more information on natural gas issues, read: Check the Gases in Your House.
2. Electrical dangers. Flooding, wet appliances and frayed or damaged wires are all serious hazards. If your house has received a lot of water damage, and you can do it safely, shut off your main panel before exploring the rest of your house. Do not wade into standing water under any circumstances until your building has been checked by an electrician - even if your power is off, the water may still be carrying a charge that can shock you.
Also be sure to fully dry any appliances before you turn them on again. If they seem damaged, have them inspected by a professional.
3. Generators. If you are going to run a gas-powered generator, be sure to keep it outside so that you don’t release carbon monoxide in your house, which is extremely toxic and can kill you and your family.
4. Mold. Once your house is safe to inspect and explore, one of the most common post-hurricane issues is mold caused by water damage, so you want to address it as soon as possible. First, open all of the doors and windows in your house and let them ventilate for at least 30 minutes before spending an extended period of time in your house. Then, put on gloves, a facemask and long sleeve clothes to protect yourself. Even if your house only has mild water damage, it’s worth the time to carefully inspect for mold so you can identify any problems. Use fans and dehumidifiers to dry out any areas that are wet.
If your house received a lot of water damage, or you detect a musty smell but can’t visually locate any mold, you should contact a qualified professional to inspect your house for mold that may be inside your HVAC system or behind your walls.