Natural disasters can be life-altering. They can destroy property, valuables, and memories. If you followed my last blog post Disasters: Preparing for the Worst, you have a better knowledge about how to have yourself and your family ready for emergency situations. But what happens when you’ve survived the disaster and are now unsure of how to return to normalcy?
There are many factors involved in returning home, cleaning up, and getting back on track with your day-to-day life. I’m going to try to do these in order of priority, but note that some things might not apply and others might need to come first depending on your situation. Once again, this is not a comprehensive list.
In some situations returning home is simple. You were evacuated, but the disaster didn’t hit your area, and now you are free to go home. But it isn’t always this easy. Be sure to check with local authorities to find out whether your evacuation notice has been lifted.
In the mean time, make sure you have shelter. In the case of larger disasters, communities will often set up evacuation shelters in local town halls, churches, or other large buildings. This information may be told to you by the police or whichever authority has informed you of the evacuation notice. If you haven’t been told where to go, these updates might be transmitted over the radio. Listen to your local news stations or check local news websites for more information.
Once the okay has been given to return home, do not enter your home immediately. Inspect all around the outside of your home. Look for any damage to the structure or the foundation of your home. Check for any sinking or disruption to the ground that your building is located on. Look for power lines and gas leaks. If you aren’t sure whether it’s okay to enter, have your home inspected by an engineer, building inspector, or fire chief before entering.
This next part is very important so I am going to directly quote www.ready.gov.
Do not enter if:
Once you have decided to enter, use extreme caution when inspecting the inside of your house. Again, if you smell gas, open a window and leave right away. Check everywhere for cracks, electrical issues, gas, unsettled objects that might fall, chemical spills.
Finally, watch out for animals that might have taken refuge in your home.
Once you are safe, take photos of everything. Be thorough in documenting the damage. Then contact your insurance provider.
Once again, if it is not safe, do not enter. Return to a safe area, call a building inspector. Determine whether you can return home, and prepare to find some place to stay long-term while your home is being restored.
After all of the safety issues have been taken care of, it’s time to clean up. If you experienced any flooding or water leaks, you might need a sump pump to remove the water slowly from your basement, crawlspaces, or bottom floor. Call a local restoration company, or purchase one yourself.
During the period after you’ve returned home, keep an eye out for any foundational issues your house might experience. While it may appear safe immediately, your place might still be dangerous to occupy. If you are ever concerned, leave immediately and, again, contact a building inspector.
Carefully clear debris from your yard. Be sure if you have pets or children, not to let them run around the property before inspecting it for any sharp or dangerous objects such as nails, splintered pieces of wood, glass, or metal shards.
Disasters can have long lasting effects on our lives. PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or ASD (Acute Stress Disorder) can commonly affect disaster victims. If you are having symptoms such as: feeling detached, being unaware of your surroundings, feeling like you are in a strange environment, feeling like your emotions are unreal, forgetting things about the disaster that you should be able to remember, seek medical help.
This is just a simple run-through of a few things you might have to think about after a disaster. The most important part is safety. Be careful, stay safe. Below are a few resources to check out for more information about recovery and disaster assistance programs.