After a Disaster

Health and safety for you and your family will be of utmost concern after disaster strikes.  Here are some helpful tips to insure the health and safety of your family following the emergency:

  • Be aware of new hazards created by the disaster, such as washed out roads, unsafe buildings, contaminated water, gas leaks, broken glass, damaged wires, and slippery floors.
  • When working in debris, wear sturdy work boots and gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water often.
  • Inform and be informed by authorities about health and safety hazards, including chemical releases, downed power lines, washed out roads, smoldering insulation, or dead animals.
  • Drink plenty of clean water, eat well, and get plenty of rest.  There is a tendency to attempt to do too much at once following a disaster.  Set your priorities and pace yourself.  Create a manageable schedule.
  • Watch for signs of stress and fatigue.  Talk about the situation with others to release tension.  Encourage others to discuss their concerns and use professional crisis counseling if necessary.
  • Encourage children to talk about their feelings.  Explain how you plan to deal with the situation.  Involve them in cleanup activities.  Being part of the recovery process will help them cope.  Keep the family together.

For more information on emergency relief and disaster recovery, please call the Florence County Emergency Preparedness Department at 843-665-7255.

Returning Home After A Disaster

Cleaning up after a disaster can be a long and arduous procedure.  Depending on the kind and amount of damage your property sustains, you should seek professional assistance.  Use only reputable contractors who check out with the Better Business Bureau.  Keep all receipts for materials and labor for insurance and reimbursement purposes.  Also, follow these helpful tips:

  • Before going inside, walk carefully around the outside of your home and check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage.  Do not enter if flood waters remain around the building.  If you have any doubts about safety, have your home inspected by a professional before entering.
  • Wearing sturdy work boots and gloves, enter the building carefully and check for damage.  Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes.  Use a stick to poke through debris.  First check for cracks in the roof, foundation, and chimneys.  If it looks like the building may collapse, leave immediately.  Be aware of loose boards and slippery floors.  If your home was damaged by fire, do not enter until authorities say it is safe.
  • Keep a battery-powered radio with you so you can listen for emergency updates and use a battery-powered flashlight for light.  Do not use oil, gas lanterns, candles, or torches.  Leaking gas or other flammable materials may be present.  Do not smoke.
  • Check for gas leaks, starting at the hot water heater.  If you smell gas or hear a hissing or blowing sound, open a window and leave immediately.  Turn off the main gas valve from the outside, if you can.  Call the gas company from a neighbor's house.  If you shut off the gas supply at the main valve, you will need a professional to turn it back on.
  • Do not turn on the lights until you're sure they're safe to use.  Check the electrical system.  If you see sparks, broken or frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker, even if the power is off in your neighborhood.  Do not touch the fuse box, a circuit breaker, or anything else electrical if you are wet or standing in water.  Rather, leave the building and call for help.
  • Check appliances.  If they are wet, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker, then unplug the appliances and let them dry out.  Have them checked by a professional before using them again.
  • Check the water and sewage systems.  If pipes are damaged, turn off the main water valve.  Verify the safety of the water with local authorities before using it.  If you have a well, it should be pumped out and the water tested by authorities before drinking.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches and gasolines.  Open cabinets carefully.  Be aware of objects that may fall.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet.  Mud left behind by floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.  Throw out fresh food that has come into contact with floodwaters.  Check refrigerated food for spoilage.  Throw out flooded cosmetics and medicines.
  • If your basement has flooded, pump it out gradually (about 1/3 of the water per day) to avoid damage.  The walls may collapse and the floor may buckle if the basement is pumped out while the surrounding ground is still water logged.
  • Make temporary repairs to protect property from further damage or looting.  Open windows and doors to get air moving through and patch holes.
  • Call your insurance agent as soon as possible.  Take pictures of all damages and keep good records of repair and cleaning costs.

For more information on emergency relief and disaster recovery, please call the Florence County Emergency Preparedness Department at 843-665-7255.

Disaster Recovery Assistance

After an emergency and throughout the recovery period, the Florence County Emergency Preparedness Department will be coordinating efforts with government and volunteer organizations regarding where and what kind of assistance is needed.  Continue to monitor local radio or television reports and other media sources for information about where to get emergency housing, food, first aid, clothing, and financial assistance.

Direct assistance to individuals and families may come from any number of organizations.  The American Red Cross is often stationed at the disaster site to help people with their most immediate medical, food, and housing needs.  Other volunteer organizations and private groups such as the Salvation Army may provide food, shelter, and supplies, and assist in cleanup efforts.  In addition, social service agencies from local and state governments may be able to help people in shelters or provide direct assistance to families.

In the most severe disasters, the Federal government is also called in to help individuals and families with temporary housing, counseling, low interest loans and grants, and other assistance.  Businesses and farmers are also eligible for federal aid.  This assistance becomes available when the U.S. President declares a "major disaster" area at the request of the state governor.  When this happens, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sets up Disaster Application  Centers at local schools and municipal buildings to process applications for relief.

Insurance representatives are also on the scene immediately following a major disaster to speed up the handling of claims.  Notify your insurance agent or broker of any losses and your temporary location as soon as possible.  Be patient, insurance representatives will have a large number of claims to process and must prioritize them by need.  Never assume your settlement will be the same as a neighbor's, as policy forms and disaster coverage vary significantly. 

For more information on emergency relief and disaster recovery, please call the Florence County Emergency Preparedness Department at 843-665-7255.

Helping Others After A Disaster

During disasters and emergency relief efforts, citizens from around the country will want to help the victims.  If you are interested in helping, please follow these guidelines to insure you are providing the most effective support you can:

  • If you want to volunteer your services in the aftermath of disaster, listen to local news reports for information about when and where volunteers are needed.  Bring your own food, water, and emergency supplies, especially when a large area has been affected and emergency items are in short supply.  Until volunteers are specifically requested, stay away from disaster areas.
  • Do not drop off food, clothing, or any other item to a government agency or disaster relief organization unless that item has been requested.  Normally these organizations do not have the resources to sort through the donated items.  If your company wants to donate emergency supplies, donate a large quantity of a given item rather than many different items.
  • If you wish, you can give a donation to a recognized disaster relief organization.  These groups are organized to process checks, purchase what is needed, and get it to the people who need it most.  All of your donations will go towards the disaster relief; disaster relief organizations normally raise money for overhead costs through separate fund drives.