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If disaster strikes in your area, it is not always possible for emergency personnel to get to everyone immediately. For this reason, it is a good idea to know what to do immediately after a severe weather event or emergency takes place such as a tornado, earthquake, flash flood, hurricane, severe thunderstorm, or other disaster.
If you are instructed to take shelter immediately, do so at once. You cannot help others unless you keep yourself safe. Wait until an official notification that the weather is all clear before emerging from your safe room or shelter.
If you are instructed to evacuate, follow these steps:
Listen to the radio or television for the location of emergency shelters and for other instructions from local emergency officials.
Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
Take your disaster supplies kit.
Use travel routes specified by local authorities. Because certain areas may be impassable or dangerous, don't take shortcuts.
After a Disaster
Once the "all clear" has been given by your local officials, you can come out of your safe room or evacuation shelter. Use extreme caution when doing so. If your home suffered structural damage, then get you, your family, and your pets out until it is inspected by a professional. This may take some time, but it's worth the wait. There are many dangers awaiting you in the post-storm mess.
Move slowly and thoughtfully. Do not allow yourself to get too upset when you see the damage. Remember, the safety of you and your family is the most important thing. Everything else can be replaced.
Here are some things to do in the immediate aftermath of a storm or disaster:
Administer first aid and get help for seriously injured people.
If the emergency occurs while you are at home, check for damage using a flashlight. Do not light matches or candles or turn on electrical switches.
Locate the fire extinguisher before attempting to turn the power back on.
Supervise children at all times.
Check for fires, electrical, and other household hazards. Spilled bleach, gasoline, and other liquids may produce deadly fumes when chemicals mix or produce fire hazards. Contact your local fire department for information on how to clean up spilled chemicals.
Shut off any damaged utilities.
Do not drink the tap water unless you have been assured by officials that it is safe. You may be under a "boil water" order for some time. You can sterilize dirty tap water by straining it through a clean cloth or let it stand for 24 hours until the sediment settles to the bottom. Next, bring the water to a rolling boil for three to five minutes. You can also sterilize it by adding 12 drops of tincture of iodine or eight drops of pure household bleach per gallon of water. Water purification tablets are available at most drug stores.
Check on your neighbors, especially those who are elderly or disabled.
Call your out-of-town contact. Do not use the telephone again unless it is a life-threatening emergency.
Stay away from downed power lines or water puddles near downed power lines.
Listen to local radio and television for information about where you can get disaster relief assistance.
Do not pile debris near power poles. You may block repair crews from accessing utility poles.
Call your out-of-town emergency contact to let them know you are okay.
Be aware of any curfews in effect in your local area. Curfews are put into place to prevent personal injury on streets and sidewalks and to control looting.
Use caution when approaching someone else's property. You could be mistaken for a looter.
If Electrical Power is Lost
Follow these steps if you have lost power:
Call your local power company.
Use a flashlight or battery-powered lantern. Do not use candles for emergency lighting. Candles and kerosene lanterns are fire hazards.
Turn off all major appliances. They could overload electric lines when power is restored, causing a second outage.
Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Food can be kept cold for a day or two if the doors are kept closed.
Use portable generators cautiously. Make sure they are operated only out-of-doors in a well-ventilated area. Refuel a generator only after it has cooled. Do not connect a generator to your home's electrical system except through an approved transfer switch installed in compliance with local electrical codes.
In cold weather, drain pumps, supply lines, water heaters, and boilers. Lines can freeze when power is lost. Traps in drains of tubs, sinks, commodes, washing machines, and dishwashers can also freeze. To avoid burst pipes, close the main water valve and open the spigots and supply lines and drain them.
*This information is general and is not intended to replace or override any of the advice, warnings, or information given by local officials, FEMA, NOAA, or any other official regulatory organization or government branch regarding storm safety in the form of thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, hail storms, floods, or any other natural disaster or man-made disaster. Always follow take-cover recommendations, evacuation orders, and any other advice given by local officials for your area, regardless of whether it is similar to or different from this information.