In the wake of Hurricane Ian’s devastating impacts to the Southwest Florida region, with cities including Sanibel, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Naples among the hardest hit, consider these five tips for staying safe as cleanup and recovery continue. And if you’re looking for ways to contribute to the recovery process, here’s how you can help through volunteer work and donations.
5 Tips for Staying Safe After Hurricane Ian
Each tip is relative to the extent of the damage sustained by the city where you live:
- Be cautious near damaged structures
- Drink safe water, and eat safe foods
- Stay out of floodwater
- Be mindful of your emotional health
- Protect yourself from pests and wild animals
Let’s walk through each tip in greater detail.
Tip #1. Be Cautious Near Damaged Structures
Avoid entering a damaged structure until local authorities have deemed it safe to do so, since the extent of the damage caused by a hurricane may not always be apparent and can make a building unsafe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you leave your home or a building if you begin to hear shifting, or other unusual noises, since that could indicate the structure is about to collapse.
Tip #2. Drink Safe Water, and Eat Safe Foods
Stay aware of guidance from your local officials on precautions to take when using water in your home. Don’t use water that you think, or have been advised, is contaminated—whether it’s to wash and prep foods, prepare baby formula, brush your teeth, wash your hands, make ice, or to wash dishes.
Bottled water, water that’s been boiled, and water that’s been treated are all safe to drink and to use for cooking and personal hygiene. Florida state and local health departments will make recommendations for boiling or treating water where you live.
When it comes to foods be sure to throw away items that have, or may have, come in contact with flood or storm water. Food that’s been tainted can make you sick, although it may look, smell, and even taste normal. And if you’ve got perishable foods that haven’t been properly refrigerated because of power outages, throw them away. Also, toss out any foods that have developed an unusual smell, color, or texture. If you’re unsure whether or not food items have maintained proper refrigeration, or have been tainted, throw them out.
Tip #3. Stay Out of Floodwater
Floodwaters have likely receded in your area, but keep these tips in mind if you experience severe flooding from an extreme weather event:
Although a flooded street my appear to be passable, don’t attempt to navigate it. In many instances it can be difficult to discern the depth of the water, and cars and other vehicles can stall, or even be carried away.
If you must be in or near floodwater, it’s best to wear a life jacket—especially if waters are rising. Since floodwater can contain germs, hazardous chemicals, waste from humans and livestock, as well as wild or stray animals—all of which can make you sick—wash your hands with soap and water if you have the opportunity. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use alcohol-based sanitizer or wipes.
Tip #4. Be Mindful of Your Emotional Health
During and after the devastation of a hurricane it’s normal to feel a range of intense emotions. It’s important to address those feelings by seeking support and help from your family, friends, and your community. Caring for your emotional health, and that of your family, can enable you to help others who may be in need.
Tip #5. Protect Yourself From Pests and Wild Animals
If you have access to insect repellent, use one that contains DEET or picaridin for protection against mosquitoes and other pests. When you’re outdoors you may opt to wear pants instead of shorts, as well as long sleeves and socks.
If you encounter dead animals after a storm be sure to notify your local officials. Also, steer clear of wild animals, and reach out to your public health department regarding them.
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