We’ve suffered a devastating storm. Those of us who reside in the Northeast are now in the throes of trying to pick up the pieces of our lives and our homes. Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey with such strength and force that she ripped up and knocked down almost everything that stood in her path. The famed Atlantic City Boardwalk, a popular tourist attraction since the mid 1800s, no longer exists as we know it. New York City’s downtown area still remains in the dark after the Hudson River came pouring into her streets, homes and shops, into the Lincoln Tunnel and into Ground Zero. Up and down the Eastern Seaboard homes have been torn apart, flooded and ravaged by fire. Many millions are still today, 3 days after the storm, without power. Our homes are cold and dark. We shouldn’t be complaining, we have homes. While natural disasters can take a toll on our emotional and physical well being, we still need to stand back up and rebuild or fix our homes. For those of us who have to start over completely from scratch the task is daunting and arduous. It is not always much easier for the rest of us. Most of us know what to do to prepare for a storm and yet most of us are not quite sure what to do once the storm has hit and passed us. The following is information I have gathered from FEMA, our Federal Emergency Management Agency. Regardless of where you live, these tips are valuable and can be lifesaving!
Until the storm has passed continue listening to a weather station or the local news for the latest updates. It may seem antiquated but listening to a battery operated radio is a must. Cell phone batteries deplete quickly and you will need to remain in the know. There may be important information for you to follow, such as mandatory evacuation notices and other important pieces of information telling you what you may need to do for safety purposes, as well as informing you as to immediate weather conditions – whether the situation is getting better or worse.
Have a family evacuation plan. If you haven’t devised one before the storm do so as soon as possible. If you have become separated from your family, use your family communications plan or contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS/ 1-800-733-2767 or visit the American Red Cross Safe and Well site:www.safeandwell.org
If you have evacuated from your home do not return home until officials say it is safe. For those who have longer-term housing needs, FEMA offers several types of assistance, including services and grants to help people repair their homes and find replacement housing. You can start applying for these grants now, and in most cases you can be immediately accommodated.
Stay inside your home. Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed – out bridges. Stay off the streets. In some cases it is safer to be inside your damaged home than out of it. If your home is flooded get to the highest level possible. If a tree has fallen on your home get to a safe spot in your house. In both cases call the appropriate authorities. If you must go out watch for fallen objects; downed electrical wires; and weakened walls, bridges, roads, and sidewalks.Many injuries and fatalities can occur long after a storm has passed. If your home is uninhabitable, stay inside your sheltered area until you have been told it is safe to go outside. Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company. Live and dangling wires can cause fire and further damage or destroy your home.
Check your home carefully. Inspect your home for damage. Walk carefully around the outside your home and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage before entering, and report any findings to the appropriate authorities. Stay out of any building if you smell gas, flood-waters remain around the building or your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe. If you are uncomfortable doing so yourself hire a qualified building inspector or structural engineer to do so for you. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes. Contact your insurance company and other necessary agencies as soon as possible. The sooner you apply for help, the sooner you can start to rebuild.
Use battery-powered flashlights in the dark. Do NOT use candles. Note: The flashlight should be turned on outside before entering – the battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present. I did not know of this potential fire hazard and many I have spoken with did not either.
Save the phone for emergency purposes. If you have a landline use the telephone only for emergency calls. Use your cell phone to keep up to date with updates from media and your local power company. Social media and the internet have become valuable tools in helping us save our homes and our lives.
Most importantly: NEVER use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas Even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation, generators must be kept outside at a safe distance from the home. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off. As I write this, my home and many others remain in the dark. I am grateful to have available wi-fi and cell service that allows me and many others to keep in touch as we all begin to adjust and recover, rebuild and restore. We at Freshome extend our thoughts, prayers and well-wishes to all those whose lives and homes have been touched by the devastation caused by Sandy, one of the worst hurricanes in American history.