No matter where you live, you'll encounter storms. Most of the time these are routine, but some cause serious and dangerous problems. Here are tips for preparing for storms, and weathering them safely.
- Always keep a battery-powered radio in your home so that you can tune to radio stations if you lose electricity. Check or change the batteries frequently.
- Keep a flashlight in an easily accessible spot on every floor of your home. Check the batteries monthly, and replace them as needed.
- Keep a supply of candles on hand for power failures.
- As a safety precaution before leaving the house on vacation, unplug all electrical appliances except for those lights connected to automatic timers.
- If you live in a storm-prone area, nail down roof shingles or use adequate adhesive to keep them from blowing off in a violent wind. For roofs with shingles that are not the seal-down type, apply a little dab of roofing cement under each tab.
- A lightning-protection system should offer an easy, direct path for the bolt to follow into the ground and thus prevent injury or damage. Grounding rods (at least two for a house) should be placed at opposite corners of the house.
- Don't go out during a hurricane unless you have to; however, if flooding threatens, seek high ground, and follow the instructions of civil defense personnel.
- When a major storm is imminent, close shutters, board windows, or tape the inside of larger panes with an "X" along the full length of their diagonals. Even a light material like masking tape may give the glass the extra margin of strength it needs to resist cracking.
- When a tornado threatens, leave windows slightly ajar.
- The basement is not a good shelter during a tornado -- it's too close to gas pipes, sewer pipes, drains, and cesspools. A better shelter would be underground, far from the house (in case the roof falls) and away from the gas and sewer systems. Let all family members know where the shelter is.
- Keep an eye on large trees -- even healthy ones -- that could damage your house if felled in a storm. Cut them back, if necessary.
Prepare for a Flood:
- Keep emergency building supplies on hand, such as lumber, plywood, nails, hammer, saw, sandbags, shovel, crowbar and plastic sheeting.
- Plan an evacuation route and meeting place. Practice the plan with your family.
- Keep an emergency weather alert radio on hand. Be sure to always have backup batteries.
- Make a written and video inventory. Keep insurance policies and a list of personal property in a safe location outside your home.
- Prevent floodwater backup by having check valves installed in your plumbing.
- Move electrical system components to a higher location. If possible, secure shelves and water heaters to walls.
During a Flood:
Keep safe during a flood by following these tips:
- Listen to your radio or TV for emergency information. Evacuate immediately if told to do so.
- Do not walk or drive through floods. Even 6 inches of moving water is dangerous.
- Move to higher ground.
- Avoid storm drains and sewers.
- Look out for snakes and animals that seek shelter in your home.
- Keep away from power lines.
- Do not enter buildings surrounded by flood water.
After a Flood:
What do you do after your home has been flooded? Follow these tips from the American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
- Wait for the water to go down before entering your home.
- Report downed power lines and gas leaks.
- Turn off the electricity at the main breaker or fuse box. If you have to step in water to get to your electric box, call an electrician.
- Turn off the gas if you have gas appliances. Then clean the mud out of the pilot and burners.
- Check for structural damage.
- Check the ceiling for signs of sagging. Poke a hole at the edge of the sag to drain water.
- Find and protect the "irreplaceable" valuables such as money, jewelry, insurance papers, photographs and family heirlooms. Then freeze them in plastic bags to protect them from mildew and further damage.
- Circulate air through your home by opening windows.
- Patch holes in the roof, walls or windows with boards, tarps or plastic sheeting.
- Repair sagging floors or roof sections with 4x4s to brace weak areas.
- Remove debris such as tree limbs or other trash.
- Check for broken or leaking water pipes. Do not drink, clean dishes, wash clothes or cook with tap water until it has been declared safe.
- Drain water in your basement slowly and carefully. Pump 2 to 3 feet of water out and wait overnight. If the water level has risen, it is too early to drain your basement. Draining basements too early may result in serious structural damage.
- Shovel out as much mud as possible.
- Hose the house down, inside and out.
- Hose heating and air conditioning ducts which may have mud in them to rid them of health hazards.
- Hose out light sockets and electrical boxes. First, make sure the electricity is off.
- Wash ducts work with a disinfectant or sanitizer, such as the quaternary, phenolic or pine oil-based cleaners.
- Keep records of damage to the building, damage to the contents, receipts for cleanup and restoration expenses, such as material, labor and equipment rental, and receipts for flood-related expenses such as motel bills.
- Replace wallboard which can act like a sponge and soak up health hazards in water.
- Allow wood to dry naturally. It will usually regain its original shape.
- Collect cleaning supplies such as brooms, mops, brushes, sponges, buckets, hoses, rubber gloves, rags, cleaning products, disinfectants, lubricating oil, trash bags and a hair dryer.
- Clean and disinfect everything in your house, including the walls, floors, closest, shelves, contents-every flooded part of your house.