After a Hurricane

Hurricanes and their subsequent flooding can cause structural damage and leave behind contaminated standing floodwater in the home. This water and added moisture in the home can result in the growth and spread of mold and other bacteria, increase the risk of pest infestation, disturb toxic building materials like asbestos, and deteriorate lead-based paint. Hurricanes can also increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning due to improper use of fuel-burning generators. Structural damage is as dangerous as these hazards and can pose an immediate risk to your health. Because of this, it is important to be aware of the healthy housing implications of the aftermath of hurricanes.

Always follow all special instructions from your local officials. This includes whether it is safe to return home if you were evacuated. Never wade in standing floodwater and avoid downed power lines.

Avoid Downed Power Lines
  • Downed power lines are dangerous.
  • Always assume that downed power lines are live.
  • Never touch or drive over downed power lines.
  • Call 911 immediately to report downed power lines.

Assess for Damage

If you have been sheltering in place or are returning home after an evacuation, you should survey your property for damage and assess if it is safe to remain or return to. You should carefully evaluate the following:

  • Structural stability.
  • Evidence of flooding or the presence of standing water.
  • Presence of pests, animals, and chemicals.
  • Damage done to plumbing, gas lines, or fuel tanks.
  • Damage done to your heating and cooling system.

Do not enter a building with structural damage until local authorities have inspected it and deemed it safe. Some signs of structural damage to look for include:

  • Sagging roofs.
  • Slanted walls.
  • Stuck doors.
  • Separated or cracked foundations.
  • Sagging floors.

Leave the building immediately if you hear shifting or unusual noises as these are warning signs of imminent collapse.

Reentering Your Flooded Home
CDC provides guidance on how to safely reenter a home that has been flooded after a natural disaster such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. [url; CDC, 2020]

Rebuild Healthy Homes: Guide to Post-disaster Restoration for a Safe and Healthy Home 
HUD’s guide to post-disaster restoration provides top tips for rebuilding healthy homes and walks residents through how to restore a healthy home including what to look for, what to do about it, and when to bring in a professional. [pdf, HUD, 2015]

Clean Out

Assuming that it’s safe to reenter your home, you may need to clean out mud, silt, or larger debris. Clean out mud and silt with a shovel before it dries and hardens. You may also need to air or dry out the building if it has been flooded to prevent mold growth. You can do this by opening windows and doors and by opening drapes or curtains to allow air and light into the home.

There are many other components of cleaning up safely after a hurricane and flooding including wearing the right safety gear, practicing proper hygiene, and preventing the spread of disease. Please visit these resources if you are planning on undertaking the task of cleaning out your home after a storm.

A Field Guide for Flooded Home Cleanup
Produced by NCHH and Enterprise Community Partners, this guide will help you safely clean up your property after a flood or storm surge. [url; NCHH, 2019]

Clean Up Safely After a Disaster
CDC’s website provides steps to protect yourself during cleanup after a hurricane, flood, or other natural disaster. [url; CDC, 2021]

How to Clean Up Safely After a Hurricane
This guide from American Family Insurance includes information on how to safely clean up your property after a hurricane, including what types of safety gear you should have, and how to disinfect and sanitize. [url; American Family]

Restore and Rebuild

After the hurricane has passed, you may need to restore your home if it has been flooded or even rebuild if it has been more severely damaged. If you have to repair your home, you can use stronger, safer, and more resilient materials. Using resilient materials during home restoration can help protect your home from future disasters. These materials include flood resistant flooring, interior walls, exterior cladding, and openings and framings.

Rebuild Healthy Homes: Guide to Post-disaster Restoration for a Safe and Healthy Home
HUD’s guide to post-disaster restoration provides top tips for rebuilding healthy homes and walks residents through how to restore a healthy home including what to look for, what to do about it, and when to bring in a professional. [pdf, HUD, 2015]

Additional Resources

 

Additional Resources for Addressing Environmental Hazards

The resources below will give you information on how to protect your health and safety after a hurricane from specific environmental hazards including mold, asbestos, and carbon monoxide.

Mold After a Disaster
CDC’s guide tells readers how to cope with mold after a natural disaster and its impact on health. [url; CDC]

What to Do About Mold After a Hurricane
This article published by the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund ofNorth America provides information on what to do about a mold post-hurricane, such as how to stay safe while removing mold, knowing when it’s safe to return home, and when to utilize professional assistance. [url; LHSFNA, 2018]

Asbestos and Natural Disasters Guide
Visit this guide on the risks of asbestos following a natural disaster, such as hurricanes. The guide lists products that commonly contain asbestos and how to cope with exposure. [url; Asbestos.com]

Hurricane Preparedness – The Threat of Asbestos After a Hurricane
This resource is an easy-to-read guide on the relationship between hurricanes and asbestos and how to take precautions. [pdf; City of Vero Beach]

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After a Disaster 
CDC’s main page provides an overview, educational materials, and additional resources on carbon monoxide poisoning and how to stay safe. [url; CDC, 2017]

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After an Emergency
Learn more about tips on how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning after an emergency and how to recognize CO poisoning here. [url; CDC]

Additional General Resources

In addition to the resources above related specifically to environmental hazards, the following resources include more information on taking care of yourself, your emotional health, and your property after a hurricane.

Stay Safe After a Hurricane or Other Tropical Storm
Visit this resource from CDC for tips on staying safe after a hurricane, such as staying out of the water, when to use flashlights and not candles, and how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. [url; CDC]

After a Hurricane
NOAA’s provides general recommendations on what to do after a hurricane, such as continually listening to weather updates, and when to return home after evacuating. [url; NOAA]

What to Do After a Hurricane: 7 Tips for Staying Safe After the Storm 
This resource provides simple tips on what to do after a hurricane and what to avoid doing. [url; Universal Property]

Recursos adicionales en español

[Esp] El moho (hongos) después de un desastre
CDC’s guide in Spanish tells readers how to deal with mold after a natural disaster and its impact on health. [url; CDC]

[Esp] Prevención de las intoxicaciones por monóxido de carbono después de una emergencia
Learn more about tips in Spanish on how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning after an emergency and how to recognize CO poisoning here. [url; CDC]

[Esp] Manténgase seguro después de un huracán u otra tormenta tropical 
Visit this website for tips in Spanish on what to do to stay safe after a hurricane. [url; CDC]

Additional Resources for Recovery and Financial Assistance

If a hurricane has damaged your home and you require financial support or assistance, we’ve gathered some resources to get you started.

Get Assistance After a Disaster: Individuals and Families
FEMA’s website provides individuals and families with support on how to recover from a major disaster. [url; FEMA, 2021]

How to Get Emergency Disaster Assistance After a Hurricane
This article from Universal Property provides information on the resources available to residents in the recovery process after a natural disaster. [url; Universal Property]

What to Do After Your Home is Damaged by a Hurricane
Disaster Safety provides information on how to report a loss and how to simplify the claims process. [url; Disaster Safety]

How Do I File a Homeowners Claim?
This resource website provides information on how to notify your insurance company of damage caused by natural disasters. [url; FLASH]

 

Latest page update: May 4, 2022.