Flood waters rising at Wappingers Creek (C) Daniel FriedmanFlood Damage Repair Procedures: Step 1 - take care of yourself
FEMA/ARC booklet, expanded & annotated

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Flood damage response to evaluate & repair flooded buildings,

Step 1: take care of yourself, your family, your neighbors. This article, part of our flood, hurricane, fire or other disaster recovery procedure series emphasizes personal health and safety for yourself and your family.

Adapted and expanded from Repairing your Flooded Home, American Red Cross & FEMA & from additional expert sources.[1] NOTICE: neither the ARC nor FEMA have yet approved the additions & expansions we have made to the original document.

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STEP 1 - First Response to a Hurricane, Earthquake, Flood or Disaster: Take Care of Yourself First

You and your family have been through a disaster. Your life has been turned upside down, and it will take time for things to return to normal. Take a few minutes to review the safety and health precautions listed at the top of this document. Also, you should watch out for symptoms of anxiety, stress, and fatigue.

With all the cleanup and repair jobs awaiting you, it may seem odd to spend the first chapter of a flood recovery book talking about emotional issues. But a disaster can do damage beyond the obvious destruction and debris you see everywhere. You should recognize that the flood can take its toll on you as well as your property. This first section is designed to remind you that you need to look after yourself and your family as you focus on the obvious tasks of cleanup and recovery. Your hidden enemy is stress. Watch for it.

Care for Yourself

Your body reacts to stress in many ways. You may expect to experience one or more of the warning signs as you deal with the flooding and recovery. Your body is just reminding you that times are difficult. Reactions to stress are common and usually temporary. Need some relief? Here are some steps you can take to relieve your tensions.

Keep the family together

Even in bad times, togetherness provides mutual support for all members.

Discuss your problems. Talk to family and friends. Share your anxieties. Let others talk to you to help release tension. Crying is a natural response to a disaster. It’s also a great way to release pent-up emotions.

Rest often and eat well. You are more likely to suffer from stress and health problems when you are weak. Being active helps, but don’t overdo it. Your body must have proper rest and nourishment for you to keep going.

Set a manageable schedule. You have a million things to do, but you can’t do everything at once. Make a list and do jobs one at a time. Establish a schedule to clean up and rebuild. Following the steps in this booklet will help you. Try to return to your pre- flood routines as quickly as possible. Routines give you something predictable to depend upon.

Watch for signs of stress. You have just been through a disaster and the recovery period can be long, hard, and chaotic. Don’t be surprised if you experience tension or see signs of stress in family members. Often other people will notice problems more readily than you do. Listen to them.

Seek help. If you cannot shake feelings of despair or other telltale signs of stress, get professional help. Special outreach programs and crisis counseling are often set up following a disaster because so many people need help to cope with their situation. Contact the Red Cross for programs available in your area.

Warning Signs of Stress • Short tempers, frequent arguments • Greater consumption of alcohol • Smoking more than usual • Getting upset over minor irritations • Difficulty sleeping, bad dreams • Aches, pains, stomach problems • Apathy, loss of concentration • Depression STEP

Helping Children deal with a disaster

Floodproof as you rebuild.

People who are prepared ahead of time are better able to deal with disasters. Getting ready for the next flood can give you a sense of control over the future. Besides, floodproofing will be a definite improvement to your property.

Watch your children closely. You can expect to see them display fear or symptoms of stress.

Fear is a normal reaction to any danger that threatens a person’s well-being. Because their daily routine has been interrupted, children may experience considerable anxiety and fear. Those feelings are real and natural. You can help your children deal with the disaster by keeping in mind the following points.

Try to keep the family together. Make an effort to establish normal family routines. Include children in cleanup activities. Children need and want to be important parts of the family.

Listen to what children say. Encourage them to talk or otherwise express their feelings. Teenagers may need to talk with other teenagers.

Explain the disaster factually. Children have vivid imaginations and what they don’t understand can make them fearful. Knowing the facts can help children deal better with the disaster.

Reassure children. Show them through words and actions that life will return to normal . Touching and holding are important. Hugs help. Try to find or replace pets or favorite toys.

Be understanding. Avoid scolding children for things that might be flood-related, such as bed wetting, thumb sucking, or clinging to you. Remember, they are also going through a rough time.

Take care of yourself. Your children reflect your fears and worries. If you take care of yourself, you will be better able to help your children cope.

Stay healthy

Infants, pregnant women, and people with health problems should avoid the flooded area until cleanup is complete. Small children tend to put things in their mouths. Pregnant women need to be cautious to avoid injury and exposure to disease. People with health problems are more likely to get sick or be injured.

The Red Cross can help you replace medicine or lost prescriptions after a disaster.

Your body is used to being clean. When you work in an area that has been flooded, you will be exposed to dangerous chemicals and germs that you are not used to and can make you very sick.

Wash your hands with soap and water, thoroughly and often. This is especially important before handling food, eating, or smoking. If possible, use an antibacterial soap on your hands. Avoid biting your nails.

Confirm that the water is clean and safe. Don’t drink it or wash dishes until you’re sure. (See Step 5).

Disinfect dishes and all items that floodwaters touched. Instructions for cleaning and disinfecting appliances and household items are covered in Step 6.

Don’t hurt yourself. Items are much heavier when wet. Don’t try to move large objects by yourself. Unfortunately, injuries, especially back injuries, are a common side effect of cleaning up after a flood.

Watch out for fatigue. When your body is tired, you are more prone to accidents. Set a realistic schedule for the work you will do each day.

Be Safe Around Poisons. Many of the products you will use to clean, disinfect, and repair your home are poisons. Read and follow label instructions. And

keep all chemical products out of the reach of children. Have the number for your local Poison Control Center posted by your telephone and call right away if anyone is poisoned.

Report health hazards. Tell the Health Department about animal carcasses, rats, dangerous chemicals, and similar hazards on your property.

Be patient. Above all, try to be patient with your family, your neighbors, the local, state, and federal authorities, and volunteer agency personnel. Remember that many others are in the same situation you are in, and it may take time for everyone to get service. You may have to wait your turn.

Staying Healthy - summary

Flood Damaged Building Inspection, Repair, Damage Prevention


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