What to do after the storm

What to do after the storm

John Walker (right) and Brian Hurst repair the roof of a building in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., after Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne in 2004.



If you stayed outside your neighborhood

Do not return to your neighborhood until you get the all-clear as roads may be blocked.

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You might have to show proof of residency, such as a driver license or insurance documents, before being allowed back in.

Law enforcement agencies likely will impose curfews; hours and extent to depend on damage. Anyone out would be subject to arrest.

Driving will be treacherous with traffic lights will likely be out and streets will be filled with debris and downed power lines. When traffic lights are dark, intersections become four-way stops.

If flooding occurs, try calling local government or drainage districts before calling the water management district. Don’t go to the coast or barrier islands until you get word that it’s safe to do so.

Living without power

Many hurricane-related deaths result from accidents after the storm. Among the dangers: fires from candles and gas canisters; carbon-monoxide poisoning from generators; traumatic injuries from power tools, nails and chainsaws; and heat-related injuries from no air-conditioning.
  • Turn off your circuit breakers, disconnect all electrical appliances that are still plugged in, and turn off all wall switches.
  • When resetting circuit breakers, do not attempt to touch them if you are wet or are standing in water or on a wet floor. Wear dry, rubber-soled shoes and stand on something dry and non-conductive, such as a dry piece of wood or wooden furniture.
  • DO NOT STAND IN WATER when using switches, unplugging anything, or touching an electrical appliance, wiring or tools.
  • Be careful walking around your home. Loose electrical wires, ceilings and beams might fall.
  • If your roof or windows leak, water in your walls and ceiling may come into contact with electrical wiring.
  • Don't use candles.
  • Do not use electrical or gas appliances until they're dry. Replace any appliances, gas control valves, electric circuit breakers, ground-fault interrupters and fuses that have been in water.
  • You may need a licensed electrical contractor to survey your house and make repairs, depending on the damage.
  • If the meter, the box that holds it, or any of the external pipes and wires associated with the meter are missing, bent or otherwise damaged, FPL may not be able to reconnect service until a licensed electrician makes the necessary repairs.
  • If someone in your home is dependent on electric-powered, life-sustaining medical equipment, review your emergency plan for backup power or make arrangements to relocate.
  • Open all doors and windows so noxious smells and gases can escape.
  • Check for gas leaks.
  • Don't smoke indoors until everything has dried.
  • Never use a charcoal grill inside the home or garage.

Outside the home

If your home is open to the elements or you fear it will collapse, get out. Secure it as best you can, get as many valuables out as possible and find another place to stay.

If your boat is in your yard, inspect it and document damage for insurance. Repair what you can. Pump water out, check the fuel and check the electrical systems for damage.

Inside the home

  • Don't call police, emergency or utility officials unless you have a life-threatening emergency.
  • If you must call loved ones, be brief to keep lines free.
  • Use cellphones sparingly. They may be the only working phones, and a limited number of cells will be operating.
  • Expect to redial several times before completing a cell call. If you find regular phone service is unsatisfactory, try your cellphone's text messaging or walkie-talkie features.
  • Keep children away from debris or dangerous areas.
  • Plan to wear old clothes you don't mind throwing away. They might well be stained or torn during cleanup.
  • Wear sturdy shoes, such as construction boots, if you have them. NEVER walk barefoot! The ground likely will be littered with broken glass and other sharp debris.
  • Watch your step. You easily can twist an ankle, or worse, and medical help likely won't be easily available.
  • Wash hands regularly and treat injuries promptly. Wear construction gloves if available. You'll be handling dirty and perhaps contaminated or even toxic materials.
  • Keep a flashlight handy. Even during the day you might be in dark spots.

Food and water

How to decide what will keep and what to throw out, plus safe water handling and purification tips.

When in doubt, throw it out

How to decide what will keep and what to get rid of plus safe water handling and purification tips.

Cleaning your home 

  • Clean a soaked washing machine, dryer or dishwasher with hot water or a mild bleach solution. Do not use detergents.
  • Photograph the damage for insurance.