5 Tips for Returning Home After a Disaster

by Susan Evans

While it’s very difficult, think of this as an extremely extended camping trip as you cope over the next few weeks and months.

Be safe. Be smart. Be patient.

Be Proactive about De-Stressing

This is a time of emotional and physical stress. Look after yourself and your family during cleanup and repairs.

  • Keep a manageable schedule. Make a list and do one job at a time.
  • Rest often and remember to eat.
  • Even when there is rebuilding or cleanup to be done, playtime with children is time well spent.

Get the Essentials

When you shop or ask for clothing or personal items from relief workers, imagine that you’re preparing for a camping trip. Don’t forget

  • underwear (or diapers for the baby)
  • shoes and socks
  • pajamas
  • personal care items like toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, deodorant
  • towels and washcloths

Follow Food Safety Rules

Your fridge may have been off for some time. Take precautions to avoid food poisoning.

  • Power outage? Some foods may be spoiled.
  • Do not consume any food, beverages and medicine exposed to flood waters, mud or other contaminants.
  • Don’t assume frozen food is safe to eat. It may have defrosted and then refroze when power was restored.
  • Read our Food Safety Guide on what foods could be contaminated and which items may be salvaged. Remember: When in doubt, throw it out.

Take Water Safety Precautions

Think of water in your yard as swamp water. Waterborne illnesses may be present.

  • Do NOT allow children to play in floodwater areas
  • Make sure you and your family wash your hands frequently (always before meals) with soap and water.
  • Do NOT allow children to play with floodwater-contaminated toys that have not been disinfected.

WHN Reader TIP – Have a Clean Zone: Make a “clean zone” to play, eat and sleep in. Choose a dry, non-contaminated area to keep toys and important items. Try to stay in the clean zone as much as possible and keep it clean.

  • Avoid drinking tap water until or unless an authority gives the OK; public supplies may be contaminated. Undamaged water heaters or melted ice cubes are good sources of fresh drinking water.
  • Standing water leads to an increase in insects. To protect yourself from mosquitoes, use screens on dwellings, apply insect repellent and wear long-sleeved and long-legged clothing. Read our article on mosquitoes for more information about safe protection from bites and disease.

Clean Safely

  • Read Cleaning Your Possessions and Home for tips on cleaning your clothing, walls, carpets, important papers, furniture, photographs, etc.
  • Toxic cleaning products and solvents may have been blown from their cabinets or your neighbors’ garages. Steer clear. Do not try to clean up the toxic products yourself. Call a professional or emergency worker for assistance.
  • Wear rubber gloves and a face mask to protect yourself.

WHN Expert TIP – Greg Kistler, a ServPro cleanup and restoration specialist from South Washington County in Minnesota, provides water damage cleanup advice in this podcast.

Was the disaster fire-related? Greg also has fire cleanup tips in this podcast:

Photo Credit: Andrew Gaines

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