My Thoughts

You and your family have been through a disaster. Your life has been turned upside down and it will take time for things to return to normal.  You need to watch out for symptoms of anxiety, stress, and fatigue.

With all the cleanup and repair jobs awaiting you, it may seem odd to talk about emotional issues, but a disaster can do damage beyond the obvious destruction and debris you see everywhere. You should recognize that the flood can take its toll on you as well as your property. This first section is designed to remind you that you need to look after yourself and your family as you focus on the obvious tasks of cleanup and recovery. Your hidden enemy is stress. Watch for it.

Care for Yourself

Your body reacts to stress in many ways. You may expect to experi­ence one or more of the warning signs as you deal with the flooding and recovery. Your body is just reminding you that times are difficult. Reactions to stress are common and usually temporary.  Need some relief? Here are some steps you can take to relieve your tensions.

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  1. Keep the family together. Even in bad times, togetherness provides mutual support for all members.
  2. Discuss your problems. Talk to family and friends. Share your anxieties. Let others talk to you to help release tension. Crying is a natural response to a disaster. It’s also a great way to release pent-up emotions.
  3. Rest often and eat well. You are more likely to suffer from stress and health problems when you are weak. Being active helps, but don’t overdo it. Your body must have proper rest and nour­ishment for you to keep going.
  4. Set a manageable schedule. You have a million things to do, but you can’t do everything at once. Make a list and do jobs one at a time. Establish a schedule to clean up and rebuild. Try to return to your pre­ flood routines as quickly as possi­ble. Routines give you something predictable to depend upon.
  5. Watch for signs of stress. You have just been through a disaster and the recovery period can be long, hard, and chaotic. Don’t be surprised if you experience tension or see signs of stress in family members. Often other people will notice problems more readily than you do. Listen to them.
  6. Seek help. If you cannot shake feelings of despair or other telltale signs of stress, get professional help. Special outreach programs and crisis counseling are often set up following a disaster because so many people need help to cope with their situation. Contact the Red Cross for programs available in your area.

Care for Your Children

Watch your children closely. You can expect to see them display fear or symptoms of stress. Fear is a normal reaction to any danger that threatens a person’s well-being. Because their daily routine has been interrupted, chil­dren may experience considerable anxiety and fear. Those feelings are real and natural. You can help your children deal with the disaster by keeping in mind the following points.

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  1. Try to keep the family together. Make an effort to establish normal family routines. Include children in cleanup activities. Children need and want to be important parts of the family.
  2. Listen to what children say. Encourage them to talk or otherwise express their feelings. Teenagers may need to talk with other teenagers.
  3. Explain the disaster factually. Children have vivid imaginations and what they don’t understand can make them fearful. Knowing the facts can help children deal better with the disaster.
  4. Reassure children. Show them through words and actions that life will return to normal .
  5. Touching and holding are impor­tant. Hugs help. Try to find or replace pets or favorite toys.
  6. Be understanding. Avoid scolding children for things that might be flood-related, such as bed wetting, thumb sucking, or clinging to you. Remember, they are also going through a rough time.
  7. Take care of yourself. Your children reflect your fears and worries. If you take care of your­self you will be better able to help your children cope.

Pets are Family, Too!

As pets have become a more important part of our family units, so has their safety and wellbeing. Yet, few of us are prepared for the event of a natural disaster. In order to make things a little easier, we’ve put together a few simple tips on how to protect your pets should your area be struck by a hurricane, tornado, flood, or fire.

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One important thing to note is that in all of these disaster scenarios it is safer to evacuate with your family and pets. However, keep in mind that boarding facilities, kennels and animal shelters require that your pets have all their vaccinations up to date, or you might be turned away. Also, many emergency shelters do NOT accept pets for health and safety reasons, so pet-friendly shelters will fill up fast.

Hurricanes
Although hurricanes have seasons (Jun.1-Nov.30 in the Atlantic and May15-Nov.30 in the Eastern Pacific), weather experts still have trouble predicting just how many storms regions will get each year and what their paths will be. Here’s what you can do:

Hurricane Preparation

  1. Designate a hurricane-safe location that will accommodate your entire family, including pets. A windowless room nearest to the ground floor is recommended.
  2. If you live in an area affected by hurricanes, get in the habit of doing “drills” with your family and pets during the off season to ensure they will all know what to do in the event of an emergency.
  3. Prepare a pet emergency kit and keep enough crates to hold each pet in the event of a storm in the designated area for each pet. Panic can give rise to out of the ordinary behaviors in pets and fast confinement will be required.
  4. If you can evacuate, don’t leave your pets behind. Take proper pet identification and emergency kits for your pets as well as your family.

During a Hurricane

If your family is weathering the storm inside the home, make it to your “safe room” and crate your pet as soon as possible. If you can, place the crates under heavy, durable furniture.

After a Hurricane

  1. Always be extra careful when going outdoors following a hurricane. Only exit the home after you and your family are certain the storm has passed.
  2. Keep your pets secured at all times. Cats should remain in their carriers, and dogs on a leash.
  3. Don’t allow your pets to go near water or other liquids on the ground; debris from the hurricane may have contaminated the area or live power lines may be laying in the water.
  4. Keep everyone (including yourself) away from downed power lines.

Don’t Over Do It!

Your body is used to being clean. When you work in an area that has been flooded, you will be exposed to dangerous chemicals and germs that you are not used to and can make you very sick..

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  1. Infants, pregnant women, and people with health problems should avoid the flooded area until cleanup is complete. Small children tend to put things in their mouths. Pregnant women need to be cautious to avoid injury and exposure to disease.
  2. Don’t work if you’re sick. People with health problems are more likely to get sick or be injured.
  3. Replace prescriptions. The Red Cross can help you replace medicine or lost prescrip­tions after a disaster.
  4. Your body is used to being clean. When you work in an area that has been flooded, you will be exposed to dangerous chemicals and germs that you are not used to and can make you very sick.
  5. Wash your hands with soap and water, thoroughly and often. This is especially impor­tant before handling food, eating, or smoking. If possible, use an antibacterial soap on your hands. Avoid biting your nails.
  6. Confirm that the water is clean and safe. Don’t drink it or wash dishes until you’re sure.
  7. Disinfect dishes and all items that floodwaters touched.
  8. Don’t hurt yourself. Items are much heavier when wet. Don’t try to move large objects by yourself Unfortunately, injuries, especially back injuries, are a common side effect of cleaning up after a flood.
  9. Watch out for fatigue. When your body is tired, you are more prone to accidents. Set a realistic schedule for the work you will do each day.
  10. Be Safe Around Poisons. Many of the products you will use to clean, disinfect, and repair your home are poisons. Read and follow label instructions. And keep all chemical products out of the reach of children. Have the number for your local Poison Control Center posted by your telephone and call right away if anyone is poisoned.
  11. Report health hazards. Tell the Health Department about animal carcasses, rats, dangerous chemicals, and similar hazards on your property.
  12. Be patient. Above all, try to be patient with your family, your neighbors, the local, state, and federal authorities, and volunteer agency personnel. Remember that many others are in the same situation you are in, and it may take time for everyone to get service. You may have to wait your turn.

First Things First

It is dangerous to go back into your home because the flood may have caused structural, electrical and other hazards. After you have made things safe, take steps to pro­tect your home and contents from further damage. This is the time to attempt to rescue your most valuable and irreplaceable items.

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There is plenty of work to go around after a flood. Do only those jobs you can do well and without injuring yourself If you cannot afford to get professional help, check with your Red Cross chapter, your local emergency management agency, or your building department to see if there are any volunteer programs avail­able to you.

  1. Construction Experience.  If you do not have experience in construction and electrical repair, do not try to do this work yourself.  Hire a qualified contractor or an electrician. Even if you have some experience with construction and electrical work, do not attempt any job if you feel uncertain about the right thing to do or you wonder if the job is beyond your skill or physical strength.

  2. Make Sure It Is Safe to Go Back In.  Some floods have more than one crest or peak. Even though the water looks like it’s going down, it may rise again and trap you. Stay tuned to your radio or TV to find out if and when you can go back home. If you are not sure whether you can return, contact your local emergency manager.  Each year about 150 people die because of floods. Many of those fatalities are due to electrocution or other accidents that occur after the floodwaters have gone down.

  3. Check Your Home Before You Go In.  If there is standing water next to the outside walls of your home, don’t go in.

  4. Turn off the electricity.  Electricity and water don’t mix. Turn the power off at your home!

  5. Turn off the gas.  Remember that if the electrical or gas controls are inside the home, do not turn them off until you can safely enter your home.  Gas appliances and pipes may have moved or broken during the flood, creating a gas leak. If you suspect a leak or smell gas, leave your home immediately and call the gas company from a neighbor’s home. Leave the door open and, if the gas meter is outside, turn off the gas.

  6. Go Inside carefully.  If the door sticks and has to be forced open, it is probably swollen. If it only sticks at the bottom, it can be forced open.  If it sticks at the top, your ceiling may be ready to fall. You can force the door open but wait outside the doorway for a minute where you will be protected if something falls.  If the door won’t open easily, it may be easier for you to enter your home through a window.  Look carefully at the ceiling before you go in to be sure it is not ready to fall.  Do not smoke or use candles, gas lanterns, or other open flames in your home. Air out your home completely-there may be explo­sive gas.

  7. Rescue the Most Valuable Items.  Find and protect the “irreplace­able” valuables such as money, jewelry, insurance papers, pho­tographs, and family heirlooms.

Recovery Plan

Before you try to clean up and repair everything, you need to assess your damage and develop a recovery plan. An organized approach will make the best use of your time and money. If your structure is substantially damaged, you need to ask yourself if you should rebuild at all-it may be smarter, safer, and cheaper to relocate. If you do rebuild, your recovery plan should include the flood proofing measures that can be incorporated with repairs and can save you thousands of dollars in the future.