Out of respect for victims of recent disasters in the United States, I refrain from my usual fire-dogisms in this post. Check back next time for my unique take on all things safety-related.
Millions of Americans struggle to recover after earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards, fires, mudslides and myriad other natural disasters that devastated residential and commercial properties across the country. Disasters are currently so widespread, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is spending $200 million per day to aid recovery efforts. Although each type of disaster brings unique challenges, no matter which situation you face, recovery is the first order of business as soon as the dust settles. One such disaster is the Montecito Mudslides, which thousands of volunteers and disaster response teams are currently managing.
After disaster strikes, follow these recovery steps:
- After the immediate danger of a disaster has passed, exercise caution so you can stay safe during the clean-up and recovery process.
- In the case of biological, chemical or radiological threats, listen for instructions on local radio or television stations about safe places to go.
- Check for injuries. Do not attempt to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of death or further injury. If you must move an unconscious person, stabilize the neck and back, then immediately call for help. If the victim is not breathing, carefully position the victim for artificial respiration, clear the airway, and commence mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Maintain body temperature with blankets. Be sure the victim does not become overheated. Never try to feed liquids to an unconscious person.
- For lesser wounds and injuries, wash with soap and water. To help prevent infection, use bandages and replace them if they become soiled, damaged or waterlogged.
- After a disaster, some additional natural hazards—like severe storms, flooding, mudslides or earthquakes may follow. If a new or similar hazard strikes, exercise safety protocols. For an earthquake aftershock, DROP, COVER and HOLD ON–just as you did during the initial quake.
- Emergency responders need access to open telephone lines to coordinate response. So, avoid using cellular telephones as well as landlines. Immediately post-disaster, use the telephone only to report life-threatening conditions and to call one pre-determined out-of-town emergency contact.
- Remain calm. You may find yourself in the position of supervising other people. Listen carefully and deal patiently, prioritizing urgent situations. Be aware of exhaustion. Don’t try to do too much at once. Set priorities and pace yourself. Get enough rest. Drink plenty of clean water. Eat well. Wear sturdy work boots and gloves.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water often when working in debris.
- Be aware of new safety issues created by the disaster. Watch for washed out roads, unsafe buildings, contaminated water, gas leaks, broken glass, damaged electrical wiring, and slippery floors.
- Inform local authorities about health and safety issues, including chemical spills, downed power lines, washed out roads, smoldering insulation and dead animals.
- If you are told to leave your home, return only when advised to do so by local authorities. Be sure to carry photo identification, since authorities may limit entry to people who own property in disaster-affected areas.
- Keep roads clear for rescue and emergency vehicles. Drive only in extreme emergencies or if told to do so by emergency officials. If you must drive, do not drive on roads covered with water, which could be damaged or eroded. Vehicles can float in as little as six inches of water.
- If the disaster was widespread, monitor news sources for instructions from local authorities. Information may change rapidly after a widespread disaster, so continue to check regularly for updates. If the power is out, listen to a battery or hand-crank-powered radio, television or car radio.
- If the area was flooded and children are present, warn them to stay away from storm drains, culverts and ditches. Children can get caught and injured in these areas. Discard food that could have been contaminated by water or sewage.
Disaster Recovery Resources:
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