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Preventing Injury and Illness During and After Hurricanes

Posted on November 6, 2018

The recent hurricane season has caused many fatalities and astronomical property damage across the United States. While initial storm conditions are extremely dangerous, countless health and safety risks persist for months or even years in hurricane-stricken areas. Hurricane survivors, relief personnel, emergency responders, and all recovery and rebuilding professionals should use the utmost care in preventing illness and injuries during and after hurricanes.

Storm Surge and Flood Waters

If you start receiving reports that your area may face hurricane conditions, continue tracking weather updates and pay close attention for calls to evacuate. Coastal cities often experience flooding from the rising sea level as high winds and heavy rain pummel structures. Anyone caught in the open during a hurricane’s landfall faces the possibility of catastrophic injuries and possibly death.

Once the hurricane winds subside and the weather starts to clear, flooding will likely affect most of the area. This not only damages structures, but can also cause sediment shifts and other geographical issues that may complicate rebuilding efforts. Flooding can not only cause significant property damage but also carry toxic substances, bacteria, mold, and other contaminants into residential areas.

Contamination and Preventing Toxic Exposure

Property owners should take care to decontaminate their properties after clearing away debris. Attempting to rebuild or renovate a structure without fully addressing water damage, contamination, or mold growth can lead to catastrophic health issues later. Flood waters usually affect the several lowest feet of a structure and will destroy most of the personal belongings, furniture, and other items affected by flood waters. In most cases, it’s difficult to salvage items contaminated by a flood.

Even if flood water appears clear, it is likely carrying dangerous contaminants that can lead to medical issues. Anyone who needs to traverse flooded areas should do so while wearing waterproof boots, waders, or some type of high-waist waterproof outerwear to prevent sickness and exposure to toxic substances. Flood water can pick up and carry vehicle fluids from the road, biological contaminants from dead wildlife, and countless other possible hazardous substances.

Evacuation and Return

Keep any supplies that you retrieve before evacuation safe from flood waters as best as you can. If you come into contact with any flood water, make sure to thoroughly clean yourself before eating, drinking, or touching your face. If you have time to prepare your home before evacuation, consider moving important items as high as possible off ground level and secure important personal effects in waterproof bags, inside a dishwasher, or in your vehicle. If you or any loved ones evacuate with food, never keep any food items that come into contact with flood waters.

It is essential that residents and property owners in an area struck by a hurricane wait for official notice that it is safe to return to their homes and businesses. Debris from destroyed structures, displaced vehicles, mudslides, and countless other issues are hazards. Disaster response teams from federal and state agencies receive special training to clear these areas so residents can return. In some areas, it may be impossible to return for quite a long time.

Find Relief Services and Focus on Essentials

One of the best methods for preventing injury during and after a hurricane is to closely follow updates from federal and state relief personnel. Evacuate as soon as you receive the evacuation order and take only absolute essentials with you. It is never worth risking personal safety or the safety of loved ones for personal belongings.

The weeks after a hurricane can be incredibly difficult, and those affected can take advantage of several types of relief and recovery assistance from government agencies. However, most home and business owners will face long-term issues with insurance claims, rebuilding efforts, and many other issues that may impact physical and mental health. Taking reasonable precautions during and after a hurricane to prevent injuries and illness helps streamline the recovery process.