Below you will find resources to assist you after severe weather or other disasters have occurred.
Flood Safety and Clean Up
If your home or business was flooded during the hurricane, assume that everything touched by flood water is contaminated and will have to be disinfected or thrown out. Most clean up can be done with household cleaning products. Remember to wash your hands frequently during clean up and always wear rubber gloves, a disposable dust/mist face mask (NIOSH approved N-95 type) and, if possible, waterproof boots. If your ceiling was damaged, wear a hard hat and safety glasses. For detailed instructions on cleaning up your home after a flood see this manual produced jointly by FEMA and the Red Cross.
Dangers to Avoid
- If waters continue to rise evacuate the area immediately.
- Do not walk in, play in or drive through flooded areas. Flood water contains hidden hazards and may be deeper and faster moving than it appears. Wear shoes at all times.
- Stay away from downed power lines.
- If you get a cut or puncture wound get a tetanus booster shot if you have not had one in the past 5 years.
- Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters if it is available.
- If you don't have bottled water boil water to make it safe. Boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present. If the water is cloudy filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle and draw off the clear water for boiling. Boil the water for one minute, let it cool and store it in clean containers with covers.
- Infants under six months and pregnant women should not drink boiled water because boiling water may concentrate nitrates that could harm them. They should drink bottled water. However, if bottled water is not available, it is better for them to drink boiled water than to drink untreated water and then to switch to bottled water when it becomes available.
- If you can't boil water you can disinfect it using household bleach. Bleach will kill some, but not all, types of disease-causing organisms that may be in the water. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for disinfection. Add 1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach for each gallon of water, stir it well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. Store disinfected water in clean containers with covers.
- If you have a well that has been flooded the water should be tested and disinfected after flood waters recede. If you suspect that your well may be contaminated contact your local county health department for specific advice.
Food and Medicines
- Cans of food that have been exposed to flood water should be thrown away. Cans of food that have been exposed to rain water may be washed and sanitized using a teaspoon of household bleach to one gallon of water.
- Food in the refrigerator should be thrown away if the power has been off for more than 4 hours or if food is warmer than 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Do not open freezers or refrigerators until you plan to use or discard the contents. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods safely cold for about 4 hours without power. Most freezers will keep food safe for 36 to 48 hours if left closed.
- Once you open the refrigerator discard any foods that have been above 41 degrees for more than four hours. Also discard any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
- Thawed food can usually be used immediately if it is still at 41 degrees or colder. Do not refreeze completely thawed foods. Foods containing ice crystals may be refrozen.
- If fresh fruits and vegetables or food in plastic, cardboard or paper containers have been under floodwaters, do not eat them, throw them away.
- If you must discard food, try to bury it at least 48 inches deep. If burial is not possible place the food in a sealed plastic bag or container for disposal in your local landfill.
- Frozen food should be thrown away if it has thawed. Do not re-freeze thawed food.
- Medicines and cosmetics that have been in flood waters should be thrown away.
- Bees, wasps, fire ants, snakes and other animals have lost their homes and may be very dangerous. Avoid contact with these animals as much as possible. Be cautious in moving items where animals could be hiding.
- Standing waters are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Use insect repellant, long sleeves, pants, socks and shoes, if possible. Empty standing water from containers inside and outside the home.
- Avoid touching dead animals.
- If your septic tank has been flooded do not use the plumbing system while the septic tank is still under water.
- Do not use your plumbing system if sewage water has backed up into your home.
- Try to reduce the amount of debris that enters the septic tank or drains.
- Avoid contact with sewage from a septic tank that is not operating.
- For information on repairing or constructing a septic tank system, contact your county health department.
After the Storm: Flood Water Safety
After the Storm: Mosquitoes
After the Storm: Wounds and Tetanus
Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water
Emergency Preparedness for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing
Federal Disaster Assistance Improvement Program
FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) Locator
Mental Health in a Disaster
National Hurricane Center
National Weather Service: Hurricane Safety Tips and Resources
NC Department of Environmental Quality
NC Emergency Management Disaster Recovery
Red Cross Shelter Locator
Stay Safe During Clean-up and Recovery