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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:
If you need emergency food and water after a disaster, find an open emergency shelter or listen to local radio or TV for other disaster feeding sites. You can also check with local agencies for food assistance. If the president has declared your area as a disaster zone, you may be able to get D-SNAP—short-term financial assistance for food.
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.
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.
How to Replace Your Lost or Destroyed Vital Records
Replacing all important documents that were lost or destroyed in a flood, fire, or other disaster can be overwhelming. Although the process varies from state to state, these general steps can help you get started.
Replace your birth certificate. Find the vital records office in the state where you were born. Check to find out if you can obtain a certified copy of your birth certificate without any identification and follow the instructions. A few states don’t require a government-issued photo ID, or accept other solutions like a sworn statement of your identity. Some states allow your mother or father whose name is on the birth certificate to submit a notarized letter with a copy of their photo ID. If you do need your own government-issued photo ID to get a copy of your birth certificate, start with step 2.
Replace your driver’s license. Get this first if you cannot get your birth certificate. This task varies from state to state. In some states, you can do it online.
Replace your marriage certificate. You’ll need a certified copy as proof if you changed your name when you got married. Contact the vital records office in the state where you were married.
Government agencies usually mail replacement vital documents. But if your home was destroyed in a disaster, you might not be able to get your mail. Contact your local post office and ask if you can pick up your mail there or request to have your mail forwarded to a temporary location.
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.