Hurricane safety: 10 tips to stay safe when returning home after a natural disaster

While much attention is placed on storm preparedness, the period just after a natural disaster can be particularly dangerous. Weary residents who are eager to return to their homes are at increased risk for a variety of life-threatening situations, including carbon monoxide poisoning, electrocution, mold exposure and food poisoning. The following tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help keep you and your family safe.

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  • Be aware of fallen electrical wires and avoid coming in contact with them.
  • Don't use any electrical appliance that has become wet, and don't operate an electric tool or appliance while standing in water.
  • If you smell gas, leave the premises immediately and call 911.
  • Place generators, charcoal grills, camp stoves and other fuel-burning devices outside and away from open doors, windows and air vents to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Wear waterproof boots and gloves to prevent floodwater from touching your skin. If skin comes in contact with floodwater, clean it promptly. For hands, a gel with alcohol in it can be used if clean water is not available.
  • It's imperative to act quickly to prevent mold. Fix leaks and remove water-logged items that cannot be saved from the home. When removing mold, never mix bleach and ammonia because the fumes from the mixture can be lethal.
  • Until the water supply is declared safe by local officials, use bottled water, disinfect water or boil it before consuming.
  • If a boil water advisory is in effect in your area, do not drink tap water or use it to brush your teeth unless water has come to a rolling boil for at least one minute or is treated with unscented household chlorine bleach. To treat water, add one-quarter teaspoon of bleach to 1 gallon of cloudy water or one-eighth teaspoon of bleach to 1 gallon of clear water. Stir well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it.
  • Do not eat food that smells bad, looks bad or has come in contact with floodwater.
  • Seek prompt medical attention for any injuries suffered during the return home. Wounds that have been exposed to floodwater require immediate medical attention to prevent tetanus and other infections.
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