Health and Safety Guidelines
Recovering from an emergency is usually a gradual process. Safety is a primary issue,as are mental and physical well-being. If assistance is available,knowing how to access it makes the process faster and less stressful. This section offers some general advice on steps to take after an emergency strikes in order to begin getting your home,your community,and your life back to normal.
Your first concern after an emergency is your family’s health and safety. You need to consider possible safety issues and monitor family health and well-being.
Aiding the Injured
Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of death or further injury. If you must move an unconscious person,first stabilize the neck and back,then call for help immediately.
- If the victim is not breathing,carefully position the victim for artificial respiration,clear the airway,and commence mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
- Maintain body temperature with blankets. Be sure the victim does not become overheated.
- Never try to feed liquids to an unconscious person.
- Be aware of exhaustion. Don’t try to do too much at once. Set priorities and pace yourself. Get enough rest.
- Drink plenty of clean water. · Eat well. · Wear sturdy work boots and gloves.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water often when working in debris.
- Be aware of new safety issues created by the emergency. Watch for washed out roads,contaminated buildings,contaminated water,gas leaks,broken glass,damaged electrical wiring,and slippery floors.
- Inform local authorities about health and safety issues,including chemical spills,downed power lines,washed out roads,smoldering insulation,and dead animals.
Returning home can be both physically and mentally challenging. Above all,use caution.
- Keep a battery-powered radio with you so you can listen for emergency updates and news reports.
- Use a battery-powered flash light to inspect a damaged home. (Note:The flashlight should be turned on outside before entering –the battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas,if present.)
- Watch out for animals,especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.
- Use the phone only to report life-threatening emergencies.
- Stay off the streets. If you must go out,watch for fallen objects;downed electrical wires;and weakened walls,bridges,roads,and sidewalks.
Before You Enter Your Home
Walk carefully around the outside and check for loose power lines,gas leaks,and structural damage. If you have any doubts about safety,have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
Do not enter if:
- You smell gas.
- Floodwaters remain around the building.
- Your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe.
Going inside Your Home
When you go inside your home,there are certain things you should and should not do. Enter the home carefully and check for damage. Be aware of loose boards and slippery floors. The following items are other things to check inside your home:
Natural gas. If you smell gas or hear a hissing or blowing sound,open a window and leave immediately. Turn off the main gas valve from the outside,if you can. Call the gas company from a neighbor’s residence. If you shut off the gas supply at the main valve,you will need a professional to turn it back on. Do not smoke or use oil,gas lanterns,candles,or torches for lighting inside a damaged home until you are sure there is no leaking gas or other flammable materials present.
- Sparks,broken or frayed wires. Check the electrical system unless you are wet,standing in water,or unsure of your safety. If possible,turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If the situation is unsafe,leave the building and call for help. Do not turn on the lights until you are sure they’re safe to use. You may want to have an electrician inspect your wiring.
- Roof,foundation,and chimney cracks. If it looks like the building may collapse,leave immediately.
- Appliances. If appliances are wet,turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. Then,unplug appliances and let them dry out. Have appliances checked by a professional before using them again. Also,have the electrical system checked by an electrician before turning the power back on.
- Water and sewage systems. If pipes are damaged,turn off the main water valve. Check with local authorities before using any water;the water could be contaminated. Pump out wells and have the water tested by authorities before drinking. Do not flush toilets until you know that sewage lines are intact.
- Food and other supplies. Throw out all food and other supplies that you suspect may have become contaminated or come in to contact with floodwater.
- Your basement. If your basement has flooded,pump it out gradually (about one third of the water per day) to avoid damage. The walls may collapse and the floor may buckle if the basement is pumped out while the surrounding ground is still waterlogged.
- Open cabinets. Be alert for objects that may fall.
- Clean up household chemical spills. Disinfect items that may have been contaminated by raw sewage,bacteria,or chemicals. Also clean salvageable items.
- Call your insurance agent. Take pictures of damages. Keep good records of repair and cleaning costs.
Being Wary of Wildlife and Other Animals
An emergency and life threatening situations will exacerbate the unpredictable nature of wild animals. To protect yourself and your family,learn how to deal with wildlife.
- Do not approach or attempt to help an injured or stranded animal. Call your local animal control office or wildlife resource office.
- Do not corner wild animals or try to rescue them. Wild animals will likely feel threatened and may endanger themselves by dashing off into floodwaters,fire,and so forth.
- Do not approach wild animals that have taken refuge in your home. Wild animals such as snakes,opossums,and raccoons often seek refuge from floodwaters on upper levels of homes and have been known to remain after water recedes. If you encounter animals in this situation,open a window or provide another escape route and the animal will likely leave on its own. Do not attempt to capture or handle the animal. Should the animal stay,call your local animal control office or wildlife resource office.
- Do not attempt to move a dead animal. Animal carcasses can present serious health risks. Contact your local emergency management office or health department for help and instructions.
- If bitten by an animal,seek immediate medical attention.
Seeking Emergency Assistance
Throughout the recovery period,it is important to monitor local radio or television reports and other media sources for information about where to get emergency housing,food,first aid,clothing,and financial assistance. The following section provides general information about the kinds of assistance that may be available.
- American Red Cross.
- Salvation Army.
- Other volunteer organization
These organizations provide food,shelter,supplies and assist in clean-up efforts.
The Federal Role
In the most severe of emergencies,the federal government is also called in to help individuals and families with temporary housing,counseling (for post-an emergency trauma),low-interest loans and grants,and other assistance. The federal government also has programs that help small businesses and farmers.
Most federal assistance becomes available when the President of the United States declares a “Major Emergency” for the affected area at the request of a state governor. FEMA will provide information through the media and community outreach about federal assistance and how to apply.