Safety Rules after a Natural Disaster – Recovery Procedures and Rescue Operations
For those living within the area struck by a natural disaster, the first concern is to locate family members and pets. Then people begin to assess the damage to their homes and property and begin to take the steps toward recovery.
The information in this article is intended to assist people living in a natural disaster zone in the immediate period of time after a disaster. Remember that the advice and recommendations of local emergency management officials always take precedence over information in this article.
Immediate concerns after a natural disaster are safe drinking water, food supplies, power shortages and sanitation. It is important for sanitary conditions to be maintained as much as possible to prevent the spread of disease. This article discusses conducting rescue operations, emotional recovery, meal preparation, disinfecting wells and dealing with problem insects and wildlife.
Insurance and financial concerns are on the minds of many people after a natural disaster. Advice in this article can help people deal with a money crunch and recover from their property losses. Helpful tips for local government officials can help communities get back on track with economic redevelopment and rebuilding. See that your family is safe from flood crests, fire or falling buildings.
Safety Rules and Recovery Procedures after a Natural Disaster
- Cooperate fully with local authorities, rescue squads and local American Red Cross chapters.
- Walk or drive cautiously. Debris-filled streets are dangerous. Snakes and rodents may be a hazard. Washouts may weaken road and bridge structures and could collapse under a vehicle’s weight.
- Help locate shelter, food, clothing, transportation, medical supplies and medical help for victims.
- Obey health regulations for personal and community protection against disease epidemics. Report any violations.
- Set priorities. Accomplish the most important tasks first, and avoid physical overexertion.
- Be sure children are safe and being cared for at all times. Never leave young children alone or allow them to play in damaged buildings or areas that might be unsafe.
- Prior to entering a building, check for structural damage. Make sure it is not in danger of collapsing. Turn off any outside gas lines, and let the house air for several minutes to remove escaping gas.
- When entering damaged buildings, use flashlights only. Do not use matches, torches or any open flame. Watch for nails, splinters, holes in walls or floors, wet or falling plaster, undermined foundations and gas leaks.
- Do not use the electrical system in a damaged building until it has been checked by a professional electrician.
- Wait until any flood waters are below basement level before trying to drain or pump a basement.
- If the premises have been flooded, flush plumbing fixtures with buckets of water to be sure they are open. Have health authorities inspect sanitary disposal systems. Water may have backed up into the septic tank, which in turn backs up into the plumbing system. This could be a health hazard.
- Do not use water from private supply until health authorities have tested it. Boil drinking water 10 minutes, or chlorinate by adding 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach per gallon of water.
- Do not use food that has come in contact with flood waters. Some foods can be salvaged if properly packaged. Consult local health officials if in doubt.
- Sanitize dishes, cooking utensils and food preparation areas before using them.
- Start clean-up as soon as possible, especially if flooding has occurred. Thoroughly dry and clean house before trying to live in it. Delay permanent repairs until buildings are thoroughly dry.
- Control rodents and insects.
- Keep chemicals used for disinfecting and poisons used for insect and rodent control out of the reach of children.
- Wear protective clothing on legs, arms, feet and hands while cleaning up debris. Wear rubber gloves while scrubbing flood-damaged interiors and furniture.
- Remove sediment from heaters, flues and motors before using them. To speed drying, start stoves and furnaces as soon as they have been checked for safety.
- Take all furniture and rugs outdoors to dry.
- Dry and air bedding, clothing and rugs as soon as possible to prevent mildew.
- Give special attention to cleaning children’s toys, cribs, playpens and play equipment. Boil any items a toddler or baby might put in his mouth. Discard stuffed toys, water-logged toys and non-cleanable toys.
Also read: How to survive a natural disaster
Safety Rules for Rescue Operations after a Natural Disaster
- Do not go into disaster areas unless you have real help to offer.
- Use caution, especially in boats. Floating objects and objects under water can be dangerous. Live electrical lines are extremely dangerous when they are close to or touching water.
- If there is any doubt about the safety of flooded buildings, do not enter them.
- Let buildings air for several minutes before entering them. When checking buildings for gas leaks, use your sense of smell only. Do not smoke, strike matches or carry open flames such
- as lanterns or torches. If the building smells like gas, open windows and doors, turn off the main gas valve, and leave. Notify the gas company, and do not re-enter until officials indicate the building is safe.
- When entering flooded buildings, look for fire hazards such as damaged wires and short circuits. Also be on the lookout for falling debris such as wet plaster, and for buckled walls, loose bricks, cracks or any shifting of the foundation. Turn off the gas at the meter or tank. Do not turn on the electrical system.
- Do not go into flood water unless it is absolutely necessary for rescue operations. Flood waters carry disease bacteria. Getting a cut from an unseen object could cause serious infection.
- Remember that a flood current is deceptive. It is usually much stronger and faster than it looks. Do not try to swim in flood water.
- Do not try to use small boats to rescue livestock caught behind fences. Cut the fences to release the animals. They can usually swim to safety if water is free from obstructions and if the current is not too swift.
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