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After a Disaster
Get help after a disaster finding family and friends, temporary housing, emergency food, tips to let people know you are safe and steps to replace important vital documents. Also, learn what to do before and after returning to your damaged home and how to start cleaning up.
Get help locating a missing person by using the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS). The program can help with printing missing person posters, getting free forensic services like DNA analysis, and more.
Let People Know You're Safe
If you are safe after a disaster, national emergency or overseas civil unrest and want to let people know your status or reunite with family:
Throw out any food and drink that may have been exposed to flood water. This includes foods in containers that are not waterproof, like those with screw-caps and pull tops, home-canned foods and cardboard boxes of juice, milk, and baby formula.
Clean and sanitize any undamaged, commercially-packaged, all-metal food cans and pouches, like those used for juice or tuna. That means:
Washing cans and pouches with soap and water, and rinsing with safe drinking water if available
Sanitizing by boiling cans and pouches for two minutes or soaking them for 15 minutes in a mixture of one cup household bleach to 5 gallons of water
Air-drying cans and pouches for at least one hour before opening or storing
Using them as soon as possible
Wash, rinse, and sanitize pots and pans, dishes, and utensils either by boiling in water or soaking in a bleach/water solution.
Wash countertops and sanitize with a bleach/water solution that is allowed to air dry.
Food Safety During and After Power Outages
Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. With doors closed, refrigerated foods will stay safe to eat for four hours. Frozen foods in a packed freezer will stay safe for 48 hours.
Try to buy dry or block ice to keep foods cold if the power will be out for days. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a full, 18-cubic-foot freezer cold for two days.
You can eat or refreeze food that has remained at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below or still has ice crystals.
Many foods will spoil in a refrigerator that’s been without power for four hours. These include most meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, and deli items.
If you need emergency water and can’t get bottled water, you can make safe drinking water by either boiling it or disinfecting it with bleach. Boiling water is the better choice because it kills more of the bacteria that can make you sick.
If the water is cloudy, let it settle and then filter it through a clean cloth or coffee filter.
Boil water for one minute. Let it cool before storing.
If you can’t boil it, add 8 drops (⅛ teaspoon) of 6% unscented household liquid bleach to a gallon of water. Stir it and let it sit for 30 minutes.
If you don’t have bleach, look in your medicine cabinet or first aid kit for iodine. Use five drops of 2% tincture of iodine for each quart of water. You can also use water purification tablets, found at pharmacies and sporting goods stores.
Store water in clean containers with covers.
Returning Home After a Disaster
Wait to return to your property until local officials have declared that the area is safe.
How to Replace Your Lost or Destroyed Vital Records After a Disaster
Replacing all important documents that were lost or destroyed in a flood, fire, or another disaster can be overwhelming. Although the process varies from state to state, these general steps can help you get started.
1. Make Other Arrangements for Mail Delivery If Your Home Was Destroyed
Tip: Government agencies usually mail replacement vital documents to your home.
If you lost your home, contact your local post office. Ask if you can pick up your mail there or request to have your mail forwarded to a temporary location.
2. Replace Your U.S. Birth Certificate
Find the vital records office in the state where you were born. Check to see if you can get a certified copy of your birth certificate with no identification. If you can, follow the ordering instructions.
Tip: Some states accept alternate ways to verify your ID. You may have to contact your state to find out what it requires. For example:
A state may accept your sworn statement of identity.
Another state may accept a notarized letter from your mother or father whose name is on your birth certificate, along with a copy of their photo ID.
Tip: If you do need your own government-issued photo ID to get a copy of your birth certificate, start with step 3.
3. Replace Your Driver’s License
Tip: Get this first if you can’t get your birth certificate.
Check with your state for its procedures. In some states, you can order a replacement online without providing any ID.
If you're traveling in three weeks or less, make an appointment to apply in person at a passport agency or center. If you're not traveling within three weeks, make an appointment to apply in person at an authorized passport acceptance facility. Bring your completed DS-11, a certified copy of your birth certificate or naturalization papers, and a government-issued photo ID.
After a disaster, such as a hurricane or a tornado, gas stations may raise gas prices to levels that are very high, unreasonable, and unfair. This is called price gouging and it is illegal. If you believe that you are a victim of price gouging, contact your state attorney general.
Safety During a Long Power Outage
Tips to help you and your family stay safe during a long power outage.
Safety Tips During Power Restoration
While Power Lines are Down
Avoid power lines and wires that are sparking, even if you are in a vehicle.
If you see sparking wires, call 911.
Keep children away from electrical equipment and power lines.
Only use generators outside, more than 20 feet away from your home, doors, and windows.
Use a power inlet box and transfer switch to connect a generator to your home wiring.
Use extension cords to connect electrical devices directly to your generator.
Do not connect your generator directly to your homes wiring.
Do not plug your generator into a regular household outlet or socket.
If you see utility trucks in your neighborhood, turn off your generator to keep technicians safe while they work.
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