What To Do If: Useful Tips for Surviving Hurricane Sandy

hurricane_sandy_satellite_imageA lot of damage can happen during a storm and we want to make sure you all stay safe. So we've compiled a list of advice for you on what to do. If you have any other tips please add them to the comments and we'll update this post.

What to do if...

You lose power...

Apart from cracking open a book, losing power is all about preparation.

From FEMA:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

In addition, follow these food safety tips to prevent as much spoilage as possible.

From RedCross:

What Do I Need?

  • One or more coolers. Inexpensive styrofoam coolers can do an excellent job.
  • Shelf-stable foods, such as canned goods and powdered or boxed milk. These can be eaten cold or heated on the grill.
  • A digital quick-response thermometer. A digital thermometer should be a necessity in your kitchen anyway. With these thermometers you can quickly check the internal temperatures of food for doneness and safety.

What Should I Do?

  • Do not open the refrigerator or freezer. Tell your little ones not to open the door. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold enough for a couple of hours at least. A freezer that is half full will hold for up to 24 hours and a full freezer for 48 hours. Instead, eat shelf-stable foods.
  • If it looks like the power outage will be for more than 2-4 hours, pack the important items in your refrigerator, such as milk, dairy products, meats, fish, poultry, eggs, and left-overs into your cooler surrounded by ice. Keep temperature at or below 40 degrees. Throw away any items that have been exposed to temperatures greater than 40 degrees for more than two hours.
  • If it looks like the power outage will be prolonged beyond a day or so, prepare another cooler with ice for the items in your freezer.


There's a downed wire in your area...

From Dominion:

  • Consider all wires ENERGIZED and dangerous. Even lines that are de-energized may become energized at any time.
  • Stay at least 10 feet away from the wire.
  • Electricity can travel through the ground. Therefore, a live wire touching the ground can harm you even if you don't touch the wire.
  • Electricity can also travel through tree limbs. Never remove tree limbs or other items that are touching or near a downed wire. Read more about tree-trimming services provided by Dominion.
  • Never use any object to move a downed wire.
  • If a broken power line should fall on your vehicle:
  • Stay inside the vehicle until help arrives, as your car may be energized.
  • Warn others not to touch the vehicle and have them call for help.
  • If you must leave the vehicle, jump as far away as possible with both feet landing on the ground at the same time. DO NOT touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time.
  • If someone makes contact with a downed power line, don't try to rescue them because you risk becoming a victim yourself. Call 911.

Call us about downed power lines: 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357).


You have pets...

From ABC News:

  • Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster.
  • Make sure all pets wear collars and ID tags with up-to-date identification. Micro-chip your pet as a more permanent form of identification.
  • Keep a pet emergency kit and supplies handy with items such as medical records, water, pet food and medications, and pet first aid supplies. Take this with you if you evacuate.
  • Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. Do not leave your pets behind.


You need shelter...

The City of Alexandria recommends that you shelter in place - here is a fact sheet for more info: Shelter in Place Fact Sheet

If you cannot stay home, Red Cross can help you find a shelter near you by visiting this link, or by texting SHELTER + your zip code to 43362 (4FEMA).


A tree falls on your house or car...

From Fairfax County Emergency:

  • Get everyone safely out of your house. If your family has a pre-determined meeting place, head there, or go to a nearby shelter (another home or open public facility) to stay dry and out of the elements.
  • Use your cell phone or go to a neighbor and call 911.
  • Stay away from the home until public safety employees can access the home for structural stability and ensure utilities are controlled.
  • Only after all of these safety measures have taken place should you call your insurance company.
  • In all cases, stay away from downed wires near downed trees. Electricity can travel through tree limbs. Never remove tree limbs or other items that are touching or near a downed wire.

If trees do fall in your neighborhood, here’s who to call in the days ahead regarding removal:

  • Adjacent to Public Roads: Contact Virginia Department of Transportation at 1-800-FOR-ROAD, TTY 711.
  • On County Parkland: Contact Northern Virginia Park Authority at 703-352-5900.
  • Private Property: Removal is the property owner’s responsibility.

Before you contact your insurance company, be sure to read these tips from Connecticut Insurance Department.

  • Keep your important insurance documents in a safe place
  • Contact your insurer as soon as possible
  • Take photos of the damage
  • DO NOT make permanent repairs until your insurer has inspected the property
  • Keep a diary of all contact, conversations with your insurer
  • If you can still live in the home, talk with your agent about critical repairs that need to be made. Whether you make the repairs or hire someone, save the receipts for your claim.
  • If you need to find other lodging because of damage to your home, keep records of expenses and all receipts. Homeowners and renter’s insurance generally provide limited coverage for expenses like: meals, rent, utility installation and transportation.


If your basement floods...

From the Washington Post:

  • Electrical risk: Before you enter a basement that has been flooded to several inches or more or above the outlet line, you need to turn off the power. If the circuit breaker box is out of reach in the basement, call an electrician.
  • Remove possessions from the flooded space as quickly as possible. Mold and mildew start to work their way in within hours. Rescue things in order of importance, financial or sentimental: family photos, tax records, artwork, computers, documents. Putting valuable or cherished papers in the freezer will stop mildew growth and deterioration until you can attend to them.
  • If you have less than a couple of inches of standing water, a wet vac usually can handle the job. For basements with deep water and no drains, you may need to call in a professional. Look in the Yellow Pages under Fire and Water Damage Restoration.
  • As soon as possible, get air circulating. Turn on fans and a dehumidifier or two. Open doors, windows and closets. Keep the air conditioner running at a low temperature to pull additional moisture out of the room.
  • Deal with soaked flooring. Large rugs or wall-to-wall carpeting may have to be pulled up entirely; some can be wet vac-ed, then dried on a driveway or other outdoor area. Or get them cleaned as soon as possible to get rid of mold and odor. Wet padding should be discarded because it will start to rot and mildew and cannot be cleaned.
  • Vinyl tile, linoleum and other hard surfaces can be scrubbed with a solution of no more than one cup of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water (a ratio of 1 to 16). Never mix bleach with ammonia. Keep windows and doors open, and wear gloves and protective eyewear.
  • Examine indoor and outdoor basement drains for debris buildup. You may be able to unclog them with your hands (wear rubber gloves), a plunger or a plumber's snake. Also check for blocked downspouts and gutters.
  • Inspect damage to walls. Those made of cinder block or brick can be scrubbed with the bleach solution. Damp or wet drywall, baseboard molding and the insulation behind the wall are ideal breeding grounds for mold. You may have to remove the wet drywall and insulation up to the water line and discard it. Let the inside of the wall dry out before replacing the damaged materials.
  • If the water has snuffed out the gas water heater's pilot light, call a plumber or your gas utility to ask about relighting it or replacing submerged parts to avoid disaster. Depending on the damage, the entire heater may have to be replaced.
  • Separate what can be salvaged from what is now trash. Put the trash in plastic bags closed tightly to contain mold. Put salvaged items somewhere safe to dry out. Do not stack dry boxes on top of wet ones because the moisture will wick upward.
  • If there is a large amount of soggy trash, you (or friends with a van or truck) can haul it to a dump; or call or check out the Web site of your local jurisdiction to ask about bulk trash pickup. 
  • How did the water get in? If you can't tell, call a roofer or a home inspector.


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