Returning Home After a Disaster: What Supplies to Bring

by Paul Konrardy

If you are returning home to clean or salvage items, here’s a list of suggested supplies and items to bring with you.

WHN Expert TIP – Water Damage Clean-Up Tips: 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:


  • Download and print out our Records Recovery Checklist for important documents and records to bring with you or locate when you return home.
  • Download our Returning Home After a Disaster-What to Take checklist for a more comprehensive list.
  • Bring non-perishable snacks and bottled water both for drinking and to wash your hands. Also, bring hand sanitizer and eye wash in case you get debris in your eyes.
  • Using graph paper, sketch a site plan of your property that notes the location of gas, electricity and water meters, if you know where they are located. Take this with you when you return to your home in case you need to turn off the utilities.

WHN TIP – Do It In Daylight: Re-entering your home should happen during daylight hours for maximum visibility. Artificial light may not be available due to power loss.

WHN TIP – Don’t Go Alone: Always have someone with you when you return home after a disaster in case of emergency and to provide additional assistance.


WHN TIP — Protection Tips from CDC: The CDC has useful information on personal protective equipment and clothing for flood cleanup that is applicable to other situations.

  • Coveralls or other protective clothing to protect against sharp objects and contamination.
  • Electrically insulated, watertight boots. Tennis shoes or sneakers should not be worn because they will transfer contamination and will not prevent punctures, bites, or crush injuries. Hip waders may be appropriate to help prevent contact with flood waters.
  • Heavy, waterproof, cut-resistant work gloves. Other types of protective gloves may be required if handling identified material hazards.
  • Goggles, safety glasses with side shields or full face shields. Sun/glare-protective lenses may be needed in some work settings. (Check the CDC’s page on protective eyewear.)
  • Soft hat or other protective head cover. Wear an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rated hardhat if there is any danger of falling debris or electrical hazards.
  • A dust mask or face mask. Depending on the situation, NIOSH-approved respirators may be necessary (e.g., for exposures to mold-contaminated materials/environments, or other recognized chemical, physical, or biological hazards). (The FDA has a great page on types of face masks and respirators.)

WHN TIP – Look and Smell: Watch out for debris (including nails and broken glass), and animals or reptiles such as snakes. If you see downed lines or sparks, smell burning with no visible fire or smell the “rotten eggs” odor that is added to the gas, leave immediately and notify the authorities.


  • Buckets, mops, cleaning cloths, old newspapers and paper towels
  • Trash bags
  • Camera or cell phone (for pictures or videos of the property, the inside and out of any structures, and vehicles or equipment such as lawn mowers, bikes, cars)
  • A backpack or wheeled cart to carry your supplies
  • A flashlight and extra batteries
  • Shovel, rake and broom
  • Notepad and pens/pencils to make lists of items that are damaged or anything else that needs to be documented
  • A wooden stick for going through the debris
  • A wet/dry shop vacuum for removing water from floor and rugs

WHN TIP – Learn Ladder Safety: Download the free National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Ladder Safety App for advice on extension and step ladder safety – available for both iOS and Android devices.

Cleaning Solutions

  • TSP (Tri-Sodium Phosphate)
  • Household chlorine bleach
  • Lemon juice, perborate bleach or chlorine bleach
  • All-purpose cleaners

Photo Credit: Sarah Sykes

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