FEMA Urges Residents in Hurricane-Damaged Areas to be Cautious When Returning Home

July 11, 2005

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is urging residents in areas impacted by Hurricane Dennis to heed the advice of local authorities and to use extreme caution when returning home.

Residents who were evacuated as a result of the storm should return home only when local officials have announced that it is safe to return. Residents attempting to return before an evacuation order has been lifted may interfere with critical emergency response activities. When returning home, residents should remember not to attempt to drive through standing or moving water.

“We understand that people want to return home as quickly as possible to assess damages. However, we ask them to remember that flooding and storm-related damage can still cause hazardous situations and to wait for local officials to evaluate the situation before going home,” said Michael Brown, under secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response.

FEMA also recommends that homeowners take the following precautions when returning home.

* If you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing noises, open windows and leave the house immediately. Turn off the gas at the main valve and call your gas utility company.
* Watch for downed power lines. Report them immediately to the power company, police or fire department.
* Check refrigerated foods for spoilage. If you even suspect that food may be unsafe, discard it.
* If your home has suffered water damage, open windows to provide ventilation. Remove wet contents including carpet, furniture and building materials.
* If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and contact a plumber. If water pipes are damaged, contact the water company and avoid using water from the tap.
* Take pictures of the damage to both the house and its contents for insurance claims.
* Do not allow children to play in or around debris piles, and check play areas for disaster-caused safety hazards.
* Do not try to remove any displaced propane tanks. These represent a real danger of fire or explosion. Get in touch with police or fire officials to report the location of these tanks.

For more information about safety after a hurricane, visit the FEMA Web site at www.fema.gov .

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