Preventing Injury Upon Returning to an Evacuated Home
If you’ve evacuated your home and have been away for a period of time, there are several precautionary measures you should take to avoid injury upon returning:
Don’t travel back home unless it’s truly safe
Just because the storm has passed doesn’t mean it’s immediately safe to travel home. Standing water can deteriorate roads and sweep vehicles away. Being in a car won’t protect you from floodwaters. Travel routes may also be blocked by downed power lines and trees.
You should only return home when it has been announced that it is safe to do so.
Exercise extreme caution upon re-entering your home
When it is safe to go home, try to arrive during daylight hours. Check for damage to power and gas lines, as well as structural damage. If your home has been flooded, wait to re-enter until a professional informs you it’s safe. If you hear any unusual noises, leave immediately, as these could be an indication that the structure is about to collapse.
If you need to use a flashlight, turn it on before entering any vacated building. The battery could create a spark and ignite any gas leaks present.
Minimize electrocution risks
Take extra precautions to avoid electrocution when dealing with a flooded home. NEVER turn power off or on or use any electrical appliances while standing in water. Also beware of underground or downed power lines that can electrically charge standing water. If you are in doubt, contact an electrician for assistance.
It is important to try and keep your phone charged during this time period—it will likely be a major part of your communication with loved ones and insurance agents. If your electricity is out, find creative ways to charge your phone, such as through your car or a portable charging device.
Clean safely and beware of mold
You should assume your home has mold if it has been flooded and closed up for several days. When cleaning, make sure everything is completely dried, and throw out any spoiled food. Be sure to document all damage before you begin the cleanup process.
People with lung conditions or who are immunocompromised should not enter buildings where mold may be present. Very young children should also not participate in disaster cleanup.
Be mindful of hot weather
Many hurricane survivors will be out of power for weeks, which also means extreme heat with potentially no air conditioning. Stay hydrated, and stop all activity if you are cleaning and notice you feel faint or tired.
Also, be cautious about carbon monoxide exposure and poisoning when using generators. Carbon monoxide poisoning is actually one of the leading causes of death after a hurricane.
Elderly people and children are particularly susceptible to heat, and should be relocated to hotels or other places if possible when heat is an issue.
Take care of your mental and emotional health
Stress and anxiety are common after a hurricane event. Don’t try to tough things out on your own—this can make things worse. You should also avoid any precarious clean-up situations if you feel mentally or emotionally shaken still. Talk to a loved one, call a disaster distress hotline, or speak with a counselor if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
What are Public Adjusters?
Public adjusters are professionals who represent the rights of the insured during the claims process. As licensed professionals, they are legally allowed to charge a percentage of the insurance settlement or payout (for instance, 10% of the award). They may also perform other functions like estimating and negotiating with insurance companies.
If possible, get a recommendation when selecting an adjuster — ask friends and family if they know a reliable one, or check with sources like the Better Business Bureau. Check their track record and credentials to be sure they are legitimate.
Working with a Public Adjuster vs. Hiring a Hurricane Property Damage Attorney