The official Atlantic hurricane season kicked off on June 1, 2019, and is estimated to run through November 30. Globally, May is the calmest month for ocean activity, and September tends to be the most active, and the height of the season is from late August through September, with the highest peak of activity around September 10. Now that hurricane season is here, it is essential to understand what to do both before and after a hurricane. This article covers the aftermath of the storm!
After a hurricane has passed, your natural inclination might be to return to your home or business immediately. However, hurricanes can cause tremendous damage and can also create serious health concerns. Floodwater from tropical storms is generally contaminated with sewage and chemicals that it has picked up after reaching land. Further, the murkiness of the water can actually hide sharp objects such as metal or glass and even larger objects such as pipes or logs that might be floating within. Entering an area that is still flooded can be extremely dangerous for both you and your family.
The most important thing you can do is as a start is wait for authorities to give you the all clear to return home. After FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) or local law enforcement has given the official all clear that the storm has passed and you can return home (or leave your home if you remained to pass the storm), you can then begin inspecting your home and property for storm damage.
Five Things to Do During Hurricane Season, After a Hurricane Hits
As you make your way back home, or out of your home, make sure to follow these five key steps to ensure you and your family are safe.
Contact your family and other loved ones.
While you may have family that has also experienced the same storm, often there are concerned relatives far away that are worried about your well-being. Take time to check in with any family members to assure them of your safety, and also to confirm that they are safe as well.
Be cautious when venturing outside.
- Watch for downed power lines, and never touch anything that is in contact with those lines, especially water in the surrounding area. If you see a downed power line, be sure to call 9-1-1 immediately to report the location. If you are driving and a power line falls on your car, stay inside the car, roll down your window, and yell (or call) for help. If you see others approaching, warm them of the dangers and encourage them to stay away. The appropriate help will come from trained law enforcement or disaster recovery workers.
- Wear rubber-soled shoes whenever you are in the vicinity of flood waters. But, understand that while these shoes may give you some protection in the event you come into contact with electricity, most common shoes have a very thin sole and are not considered electricity-safe.
- Exercise caution when walking around your home and pick up any debris that has scattered. Wear thick rubber gloves or some form of hand covering to keep your hands from coming into contact with sharp objects or various types of bacteria that have traveled with the flood water.
Take an inventory or assessment of the damages and contact your insurance company or public adjusting firm.
- You will want to provide adequate information to your insurance company in the event you need to file a claim for damages. Be prepared with a list of anything that was destroyed, damaged, or you believe is missing. If you developed an inventory in advance of the storm, use that now as a checklist. If not, work your way around your home and property and create your list from memory. Whenever possible, be sure to provide brand names, prices, and when and where the item was purchased.
- Take photographs of anything and everything that was damaged by the storm. This could include a knocked-over (or missing) mailbox, waterlogged blankets, to the food you will throw away. It is not possible to over document.
- Determine if you qualify for the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) assistance. You can register at www.disasterassistance.gov to get help. Before starting your application, make sure that you have your social security information, insurance information, bank information, as well as a documented list of the damages.
- There are a variety of applications available for download on your personal computer or mobile device that can aid in the documentation of household (or business) inventory. The Home Contents app allows you to produce an accurate and complete estimate of your belongings, including purchase date, value, serial numbers, warranty information, and more. You can take photos directly from or can upload pictures to the app to provide additional proof of ownership. Other similar apps include Nest Egg, MyStuff 2 Pro, and Stuffanizer. You can review more information on these above-mentioned apps and more in this article, courtesy of The Balance. If you prefer more of a computer-based program or a paper option over a mobile device app, you can download free printable home inventory worksheets from www.squawkfox.com.
Clean all surfaces and dispose of any food or beverage items that have come into contact with floodwater.
- Any hard surfaces in your home that have come into contact with floodwater will need to be cleaned with soap and water or a disinfectant. Ideally, use a mixture of 1/2 cup bleach to 1-quart water to ensure proper removal of molds. Do not rinse but let them air dry. Soft furniture like beds, upholstered sofas, and chairs, or carpeting that can be saved should be dried in the sun and then sprayed with a disinfectant, or steam-cleaned. If your property is still wet from the storm, you will need to look for an elevated or dry surface where you can set your items out to dry.
- To prevent the growth of mold, you will want to clean up and dry out your home as soon as possible after the storm is over. Generally, it is recommended that clean-up take place within 24 – 28 hours after the storm has passed. However, in the event that you needed to evacuate, it might not be possible to get started on the clean-up process until quite a bit later. When you are able to start cleaning, open doors and windows to let in the fresh air. Make sure you wear a disposable particulate respirator over your mouth and nose to prevent mold inhalation. Be careful of broken glass from damaged windows, and ensure those areas are properly cleaned-up and boarded until a new window can be installed. Use fans to help move the air, as well as dehumidifiers that can help lower the humidity which can trigger common allergies. If you live in a hurricane zone, it is likely that you already have a humidifier in your home, so now is the time to test its limits. Also, a wet/dry vac can be especially helpful for pulling moisture from floors and furniture.
- If your carpet is so damaged that steam-cleaning will not restore it to reasonable health, you will need to remove it from the home. However, understand that carpet removal should be done carefully, using the proper tools. In most cases, you can use a utility knife, pliers, and a hammer, but when removing carpet damaged by floodwaters, it is also wise to wear protective goggles and a disposable particulate respirator over your mouth and nose to prevent the inhalation if any potentially toxic substances.
- Food and beverages that are wet from the storm should be thrown away immediately. In fact, The Food and Drug Administration suggests that people should discard prescription drugs, even if in the original container, as they may no longer be safe for consumption.
- NOTE: If you have significant damage to your home and it appears unsafe to enter, trust your instinct and vacate the premises. In this situation, it is probably best to delay clean-up and contact a restoration company and your insurance company to have them do the clean-up for you. Standing water creates risk for electric shock, and fallen trees and other damage can create personal injury.
Stay on top of the news in your area, and offer assistance to others.
- Make sure that you stay on top of the news in your area, by checking the radio or television, or from a news app on your mobile device. Local agencies may be offering aid in your area and can offer assistance. Further, staying engaged will ensure you are up to date on the process to dispose of waste from the storm.
- The Red Cross often offers assistance to families impacted by a hurricane. In fact, they respond to more than 62,000 natural disasters (and man-made disasters) every year, so chances are that they will be in your area to offer hurricane relief. Pay attention to where they are set up so that you can take advantage of food, water, and other relief supplies. Also, as hurricanes can also cause personal injury, the American Red Cross will often have a blood drive where healthy individuals can offer blood to those in need.
The key to remember after a storm is to always put safety first. While this might seem quite elementary, it is easy to forget the various dangers that you can be exposed to when you are in fight or flight mode, or when you are stressing and anxious about the damage to your home or property. By being properly prepared before hurricane season begins, it is more likely that you will have a successful post-hurricane experience.
As we learned from Hurricane Irma in 2017, many people lacked water and gasoline for the trip required to safely evacuate the Florida Keys. And, supplies depleted rapidly throughout the islands, causing a surge in angry property owners. As a result of this, emergency officials have developed processes to provide information further in advance to areas that are likely to be affected during the hurricane season. If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, it is important to pay attention to the advanced warnings and to begin preparation immediately. Further, as store inventory is always constrained right up before a storm because of everyone flocking to the stores to stock up, it is not a bad idea to get in front of the storm by starting to stock up on non-perishable food items and water, long in advance.
Also, while it is rare, it is possible to be hit by more than one hurricane during the same hurricane season. It is also possible for two hurricanes to converge at the same time, such as was the case in 1964 when Hurricane Ethel merged with Hurricane Dora. Because there is always the risk of a secondary or tertiary occurrence, it is suggested that you start stocking up again for another storm, as soon as your current supplies start to run low.
The most important items to stock up for in the event of a hurricane include (but are not necessarily limited to):
- Canned and boxed food
- Jumper/ booster cables
- Maps – do not assume the maps on your mobile device will be active
- Roadside emergency kit (these can be purchased ready-to-go online or in most local hardware or home improvement store)
- A stocked first aid kit with instructions
- A portable fire extinguisher
- Sleeping bags – one for each member of your family. As these items can be bulky, have them packed and ready to go near your front door so that you can grab them when you depart.
- Flashlights (one per person) and enough batteries for each
Each year, the United States experiences an average of ten tropical storms, and six of those become hurricanes. While many of these remain at a distance out over the ocean, storm paths can and do change at a moment’s notice, and our nation experiences about five hurricanes hitting land every three years. With the prevalence of storms running high, the more prepared you are before the storm, the better off you will be after the storm.
As you prepare for hurricane season, remember to keep Bulldog Adjuster’s contact information as part of your hurricane season preparedness kit. After a storm, you’ll want experts on hand to analyze the damage to your home and help you get the largest possible settlement from your insurance company. Contact us today and save our information somewhere safe so that we can help you and your family get back on track after a storm.