Surviving the Aftermath of a Disaster

Taking these steps in the wake of a disaster could mean the difference between life and death, as well as financial ruin or stability.

Often the deadliest moments of a disaster occur not during the storm but after the storm as a direct result of our actions or inaction. Here are some tips to help you move forward in a safe and incident free manner. The less danger you and your family face after a disaster strikes, the less likely you are to incur more damage to property or expensive medical bills from injury.

  • Remain where you are until the official “All Clear” notification is given by local emergency management officials. If you had to evacuate, be sure to get clearance from the local authorities before returning.
  • Use your battery-operated radio at home to monitor conditions and receive the latest instructions.
  • If you are returning home following a hurricane, be aware that travel times will be long and roadways may be hazardous.
  • Assess immediate family needs.
  • Assess immediate hazards and conditions in your area.
  • Assess damage to your house and property, recording and photographing when possible to protect your assets.
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
  • Listen to your local radio or TV after the storm to find out if there are any flooded areas. Remember to avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges.
  • Use flashlights when examining buildings; not candles.
  • After power is restored, leave the main circuit breaker off until water has receded.
  • Do not turn on appliances that are damp or wet.
  • Leave air conditioner off until power has stabilized.
  • Use extreme care with chain saws and generators.
  • Avoid downed wires and debris which can cause injury.
  • Follow boil water directives, purify as necessary, and use only uncontaminated water for drinking, brushing teeth, and cleaning contact lenses.
  • Coordinate with insurance agents and city officials for permanent repairs.
  • Avoid puddles and standing water especially if there are downed power lines outside your home. Report loose or dangling power lines immediately to your power company and steer clear. Make sure that your pets and kids stay away, too.
  • If a building has water all around it, do not enter. Parts of your home may be collapsed or damaged, approach entrances with extreme caution. If you hear a hissing sound or smell gas, vacate the home and call the fire department. Wear protective clothing when examining your home. Do not enter damaged buildings.
  • Flood waters may have carried with it poisonous snakes, be on the lookout.
  • Conduct a thorough inspection of your home and take pictures of damages for insurance purposes.
  • Until you are certain that the water is safe, do not drink, cook, wash dishes, or brush your teeth with it as it may be contaminated. Be sure to boil and treat it before use. Your local health department can provide you with tips for treating water that may be contaminated.
  • Make sure that your refrigerated food is safe for consumption. If you aren’t sure, throw it away.
  • Wear rubber gloves and boots when cleaning up. Handle hazardous products carefully to avoid injury. Handle with care and throw away batteries, paints, contaminated fuel.
  • Don’t forget about your animals and pets.
  • Seek shelter if there are power outages in extremely cold conditions.
  • Avoid driving in sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or fog.
  • Wear warm loose-fitting, lightweight clothing to protect from frostbites and hypothermia.
  • Do not use generator or grill or other propane devices inside your home. In addition to increased chances of causing a fire, they emit carbon monoxide gases that are poisonous and deadly. You may use these appliances in a garage or basement but, locate unit away from doors, windows and vents.
  • Don’t forget to install carbon monoxide alarms. Your smoke detectors do not detect carbon monoxide. If the alarm sounds get some fresh air immediately by going outside or opening windows and doors.

Weathering a Financial Storm

Many families find themselves in a financial state of emergency in the wake of a storm and have questions about paying bills, insurance, and unemployment benefits. If you are in a financial emergency, these tips may help your financial situation during a crisis.

  • Contact your lenders and take advantage of grace periods on mortgage and credit card payments that are offered to disaster victims if you are concerned about paying your bills.
  • If you are renting, through renters insurance, it is the landlord’s responsibility to pay for damage or loss of your personal property. Inform them of any damages immediately.
  • File for state unemployment benefits if you have lost your job, or your employer is no longer in business as a result of the storm.
  • Be careful who you give personal information to. FEMA, insurance companies, and banks may need to get details like social security numbers to verify your identity. Most other organizations do not need this information.
  • Be careful with contractors. Get estimates from more than one licensed, bonded, reputable contractor; check licenses and permits; get contracts in writing and find out what neighbors are paying for similar work.
  • Also, pay as the work is getting done, not up front. Be sure all official inspections and approvals are in place before making a final payment.

Consolidated Credit can help you pick up the pieces

If a disaster has left you in an emergency state and has wreaked havoc on your budget and overall financial health, our certified credit counselors can help you through the recovery process. Call Consolidated for free at or to find out how far you’re behind with a request for a free Debt & Budget Analysis online.