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Office of Emergency Management
Critical Information for After a Storm

FOOD AND WATER TIPS

After a power outage:

  • Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out!
  • If food in the freezer is colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Most food requiring refrigeration can be kept safely in a closed refrigerator for several hours. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours.
  • Use bottled, boiled, or treated water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene. Learn more on the CDC website.

For More information  visit: Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency or https://www.ready.gov/food

EMERGENCY GENERATOR SAFETY

When considering or using an emergency generator: 

  • Consult an electrician or engineer before purchasing and installing.
  • Only use generators away from your home and NEVER run a generator inside a home or garage, or connect it to your home's electrical system.
  • For more information visit: Using Backup Generators

INSPECT, REPORT, AND REPAIR DAMAGE TIPS

Report any damage you have here. 

READY.GOV HAS SOME TIPS FOR RETURNING HOME

  • Before you enter your home
    • Inspect your home carefully before entering.
    • 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.
      • 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.
      • As you return home, watch for fallen objects; downed electrical wires; and weakened walls, bridges, roads and sidewalks.
    • 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
    • Be cautious when entering your home after a disaster.
    • 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.
  • Be Wary of Wildlife and Other Animals
    • 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. Call your local animal control office or wildlife resource office.
    • Wild animals often seek higher ground which, during floods, eventually become submerged (i.e. islands) and the animals become stranded. If the island is large enough and provides suitable shelter, you can leave food appropriate to the species (i.e. sunflower seeds for squirrels). Animals have a flight response and will flee from anyone approaching too closely. If the animal threatens to rush into the water, back away from the island or you may frighten the animal into jumping into the water to escape from you.
    • 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.
    • Beware of an increased number of snakes and other predators. These animals will try to feed on the carcasses of reptiles, amphibians and small mammals who have been drowned or crushed in their burrows or under rocks.
    • If bitten by an animal, seek immediate medical attention.

CLEAN UP TIPS

  • Protect yourself with rubber boots and waterproof gloves. Disease-causing microorganisms can enter the body through the eyes, nose, mouth, and cuts and abrasions.
  • Remove and discard contaminated household goods such as wall coverings, rugs, cloth, and drywall that cannot be disinfected.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water following the cleanup or handling of articles contaminated with sewage.
  • Small children, pregnant women and people with health problems should stay out of affected areas until cleanup is complete.

INSURANCE TIPS

  • Do you have storm damage and need to make an insurance claim? The Virginia State Corporation Commission's Bureau of Insurance has some tips to think about when preparing to and contacting your insurance company. 

DEBRIS REMOVAL

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