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Managing the aftermath of a hurricane

image of hurricane

Any natural disaster that hits and does damage can have lasting affects. We focus on preparing for a natural disaster like a hurricane, but what do you do after one strikes and you are left to deal with the impact? This article shares some resources to help you start the road to recovery.

If you evacuated, do not return until local officials say you can.

Depending on the severity of the storm, you may be better off staying where you are for a while and at least until power is restored and water is available. Otherwise, you are returning to an environment that may not be suitable for safety. Be sure to have your identification and proof of residency with you in case it is needed.

Conduct an initial damage assessment of your immediate area.

When as safe as possible, take a look around your immediate area to make sure there are no continuing hazards such as live power lines, gas leaks, etc. Know where shut-off valves are for electricity, natural gas and water are and turn them off if needed.

Stay tuned to local media and emergency officials.

This will be a critical time for information about ongoing threats, conditions, and sources of assistance. Continue to follow the advice of emergency officials during this time.

Do not drink or prepare food with tap water until notified.

Contamination of the water supply, particularly if you have an on-site well, is possible. Do not drink or prepare food with tap water, if functional, until notified by officials or until your well has been professionally inspected and tested. If there is low water pressure, refrain from bathing or using the water for any other purpose. Water supplies should be reserved for fire fighting. Residents with questions regarding any precautionary boil-water notice may contact the Collier County Water Department at 239-252-6245. You may also find information at and social media channels including and

Do not grill or operate gasoline-powered machinery indoors.

Carbon-monoxide poisoning sickens or kills many people long after the storm has passed. This is often the result of using generators, charcoal grills, or other gasoline-power equipment in poorly ventilated areas.

Stay out of flood waters.

Playing in flood waters might seem like fun. However, there are many hidden dangers present. There could be raw sewage, hazardous chemicals, bacteria, dangerous wildlife, and underwater hazards that could severely injure or kill you.

Be prepared for road closures and blockages.

Although city, county and state transportation officials have plans to clear major roadways quickly, it may still take a few days to get most roads open. Secondary side streets may take a even longer.

Be prepared for extended power outages.

The impact of storms like these can be wide reaching and can take days, weeks and sometimes longer to restore power to homes.

Practice food safety.

It is important to know that perishable foods that have not been adequately refrigerator can cause severe health problems. Items in a full freezer will stay frozen for about two days with the door kept closed; in a half-full freeze for about one day. Refrigerated foods can keep for up to four hours. Discard any perishable refrigerated foods that have been above 40°F for more than two hours. Discard any foor with an unsual odor, color or texture.

Take lots of pictures. and contact your insurance company.

Most major insurance companies will likely send representatives and set up special claims centers for larger events. If not, attempt to contact your insurance company to start a claim as soon as possible. Take as many pictures of your personal damage as possible to help justify your claim.

If it's too bad to stay, leave or seek help elsewhere.

In some situations, people may find that they underestimated the impacts that a hurricane may have on their homes or lives. If it's too bad to stay, don't be afraid to leave the area for a while and come back when it's more stable. You may need to seek shelter or assistance from disaster relief agencies for a while. This is especially true if you have kids, elderly, people with special needs, or pets in your care.

If there is a federal Presidential Disaster Declaration, contact FEMA as soon as possible.

If you sustained damage and need assistance from a storm that receives a federal Presidential Disaster Declaration, you are encouraged to contact FEMA as soon as possible to request assistance. Call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or register online. For Information on how to apply for FEMA you can click here. This is a helpful document that goes through the necessary differentiation between wind and flood damage.

Use only licensed professionals for repairs. Beware of scams.

It is good to get on vendor lists for repair sooner vs. later (e.g. roofer, water mitigation, etc). Many people will come out of the woodwork after a disaster trying to make a buck. Be sure to use only state licensed contractors. If you need help finding a contractor, try the Disaster Contractor's Network. Beware of fraudulent "up-front" loans that promise immediate cash for repairs while you await a FEMA or insurance claim. Beware of contractors going door-to-door looking for work, that offer you discounts for finding other customers, "just happen to have" materials left over from a previous job, ask to be paid up-front for a substantial or full amount, or request to be paid in cash. Obtain at least three written estimates, as required by most insurance companies. Attorney General Ashley Moody has activated Florida’s price gouging hotline for all consumers in Florida. Collier County officials urge consumers to report price gouging to 1(866) 9NO-SCAM.

Properly dispose of damaged or destroyed property or debris.

Check with local officials for cleanup instructions before disposing of debris. You can help get your garbage picked up faster if you separate it into different piles: yard debris (trees, bushes, leaves, etc); building materials (shingles, plywood, glass, screens, carpets, etc.); appliances and electronics; furniture; and regular bagged garbage (including food). Collier county has reported that Hurricane debris pickup will be from a separate service provider than the normal trash service and will not begin until at least October 5th. The length of the debris collection in previous hurricanes took 4 months after Irma & 5 months after Wilma so set realistic expectations for this aspect of the recovery mission. They are asking that you not mix hurricane debris with your normal household garbage that goes into the trash/recycling bins.

NOTE: Household hazardous waste can also be taken to one of Collier County’s Recycling Drop-Off Centers

Prevent mold and mildew growth.

First step is to prevent things from getting even more wet; cover openings and prevent leaks. Eliminate puddles of standing water. Tear out any carpet and padding that was significantly saturated. If water soaked up into drywall, you may need to have a professional cut parts of it out and replace it. Get the air moving with fans. Allow as much sunlight in as possible. Turn up the air conditioning, if possible. Dry all wet clothing. Dispose of any furniture or items with "stuffing" that got wet inside or porous surfaces that cannot be completely cleaned or dried out (e.g. bean bags, couches, and mattresses). Harder materials such as glass, plastic and metal can be cleaned and disinfected.

If you are able to help others there are lots of opportunities.

Anyone who wants to help with recovery efforts, Collier County recommends these organizations: Collier Community Foundation (239) 649-5000; United Way (239) 261-7112; American Red Cross (800) 733-2767; The Salvation Army (239) 775-9447. Other ways to help include donating blood: And volunteering through credible relief organizations: to donate to Florida Disaster Fund

Be safe and reach out if I can ever be of assistance.

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