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Natural Disaster Survival Tips for Families

Be Prepared...Remain Calm... Be Cautious!


Hurricanes are considered natural disasters. In order to safeguard your family, it is essential that you prepare accordingly with information involving pre-hurricane readiness and post-hurricane recovery efforts. The information below will help you and your family cope with the realities of such an emergency.


Water Quality

Hurricanes, especially if accompanied by a tidal surge or flooding, can contaminate the public water supply. Drinking contaminated water may cause illness. You cannot assume that the water in the hurricane-affected area is safe to drink.


In the area hit by a hurricane, water treatment plants may not be operating; even if they are, storm damage and flooding can contaminate water lines. Listen for public announcements about the safety of the municipal water supply.


Water for Drinking and Cooking

Safe drinking water includes bottled, boiled, or treated water. Your state or local health department can make specific recommendations for boiling or treating drinking water in your area.

Here are some general rules concerning water for drinking and cooking. REMEMBER:

  • Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, or make ice.
  • If you use bottled water know where it came from.Otherwise, water should be boiled or treated before use.Drink only bottled, boiled, or treated water until your supply is tested and found to be safe.
  • Boiling water kills harmful bacteria and parasites. Bringing water to a rolling boil for 1 minute will kill most organisms.
  • Water may be treated with chlorine or iodine tablets, or by mixing six drops (1/8 teaspoon) of unscented, ordinary household chlorine bleach (5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite) per gallon of water. Mix the solution thoroughly, and let stand for about thirty minutes. This  treatment will not kill parasitic organisms.
  • Containers for water should be rinsed with a bleach solution before reusing them. Use water storage tanks and other types of containers with caution. For example, fire truck storage tanks, as well as previously used cans or bottles may be contaminated with microbes or chemicals. Do not rely on untested devices for decontaminating water.



Handwashing in Emergency Situations

After an emergency, it can be difficult to find running water. However, it is still important to wash your hands to avoid illness. It is best to wash your hands with soap and water but when water isn’t available, you can use alcohol-based products made for sanitizing hands.

Sanitation and Hygiene


It is critical for you to remember to practice basic hygiene during the emergency period.

Always wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected:

  • before preparing food or eating
  • after toilet use
  • after participating in cleanup activities; and
  • after handling articles contaminated with floodwater or sewage.



If there is flooding along with a hurricane, the waters may contain fecal material from overflowing sewage systems and agricultural and industrial waste. Although skin contact with floodwater does not, by itself, pose a serious health risk.



  • There is risk of disease from eating or drinking anything contaminated with floodwater
  • If you have any open cuts or sores that will be exposed to floodwater, keep them as clean as possible by washing them with soap and applying an antibiotic ointment to discourage infection.
  • If a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Do not allow children to play in floodwater areas.
  • Wash children's hands frequently (always before meals), and do not allow children to play with floodwater-contaminated toys that have not been disinfected. You can disinfect toys using a solution of one cup of bleach in five gallons of water.



How to Store Food Safely

Your refrigerator will keep foods cool for about 4 hours without power if it is unopened. Add a block of dry ice to your refrigerator if the electricity will be off longer than four hours.

Thawed food can usually be eaten if it is still "refrigerator cold," or re-frozen if it still contains ice crystals. Discard any food that has been at temperatures greater than 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture.

While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep food cold for as long as possible.


If the power is out for longer than 4 hours, follow the guidelines below:

  • Use dry ice, if available. 25 pounds of dry ice will keep a ten-cubic-foot freezer below freezing for 3-4 days. Use care when handling dry ice, and wear dry, heavy gloves to avoid injury.
  • For the freezer section: A freezer that is half full will hold food safely for up to 24 hours. A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours. Do not open the freezer door if you can avoid it.
  • For the refrigerated section: Pack milk, other dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, gravy, and spoilable leftovers into a cooler surrounded by ice. Discard this food if it is held at a temperature greater than 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 2 hours.
  • Use a digital quick-response thermometer to check the temperature of your food right before you cook or eat it.


How to Prevent Injury after a Hurricane

When the wind and waters recede, people in the areas affected by a hurricane will continue to face a number of hazards associated with cleanup activities. The great majority of injuries during a hurricane are cuts caused by flying glass or other debris. Other injuries include puncture wounds resulting from exposed nails, metal, or glass, and bone fractures.


Observe the following precautions:

  • Stay away from debris areas
  • Be aware of electric cables in the ground
  • Remain calm. Most injuries occur during times of panic
  • Do not walk or allow children to play in flooded areas.
  • Try to remain indoors while affected areas are cleared.

How to Perform First Aid for Injuries

  • First aid is extremely important when exposure to waters potentially contaminated with human, animal, or toxic waste.
  • Immediately clean out all open wounds and cuts with soap and clean water.
  • If bleeding, apply pressure over the wound with a clean cloth for five minutes.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment to discourage infection.
  • Cover with a band-aid or gauze.
  • If a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, seek immediate medical attention.
  • If you are injured, contact a physician to determine the necessary type of treatment and receive a tetanus vaccine if indicated.



Prevent Musculoskeletal Injury

  • Special attention is needed to avoid back injuries associated with manual lifting and handling of debris and building materials.
  • Knee flexing is recommended when lifting heavy objects from the floor.
  • Use teams of two or more to move bulky objects.
  • Avoid lifting any material that weighs more than 50 pounds


Beware of Structural Instability

  • Never assume that water-damaged structures or ground are stable. Buildings that have been submerged or have withstood rushing flood waters may have suffered structural damage and could be dangerous.
  • Don't work in or around any flood-damaged buildinguntil it has been examined and certified as safe for work by a registered professional engineer or architect.
  • Assume all stairs, floors, and roofs are unsafe until they are inspected.
  • Leave immediately if shifting or unusual noises signal apossible collapse.


Wear Protective Gear

  • For most work in flooded areas, wear hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, and watertight boots with steel toe and insole (not just steel shank).
  • Wear earplugs or protective headphones to reduce risk from equipment noise. Equipment such as chain saws, backhoes, and dryers may cause ringing in the ears and subsequent hearing damage.


Beware of Electrical Hazards

  • If water has been present anywhere near electrical circuits and electrical equipment, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician.
  • Never enter flooded areas or touch electrical equipment if the ground is wet, unless you are certain that the power is off. NEVER handle a downed power line.
  • When using gasoline and diesel generators to supply power to a building, switch the main breaker or fuse on the service panel to the "off" position prior to starting the generator.
  • If clearing or other work must be performed near a downed power line, contact the utility company to discuss de-energizing and grounding or shielding of power lines. Extreme caution is necessary when moving adders and other equipment near overhead power lines to avoid inadvertent contact with water.

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