Imagine how hard it would be after a disaster if you couldn’t prove your identity or if you didn’t have access to your bank account. Avoid difficult situations by making copies of your important documents and keeping them in a waterproof bag. Include the following items:
- Current photo IDs, driver licenses, birth records, Social Security cards, passports (always keep your social security number separate from other documents to decrease the risk of identity theft)
- Current photos of family members, in case you get separated
- Health insurance and prescription cards
- Medical records, medications, and dosages
- Phone numbers (family, friends, doctors)
- Bank account information
- Insurance documents (homeowner, renter, flood, life)
- Property deeds, leases, mortgages
- Vehicle titles, insurance, leases, loan documents
- Inventory of household possessions and their value (take photos of every room, every drawer, every closet)
- Backup computer files on a USB drive
- Copies of important keys
- Utility bills (to prove where you live)
People with Disabilities and Those with Access and Functional Needs:
Think about your day to day needs for independence. Plan now for your health away from home. Label medical equipment with your contact information.
- Wheelchairs, walkers, and canes
- Cooler with cold packs for medications
- Extra medications and dosages
- Copies of prescriptions and medical alert tags
- Food for special diets
- Medical supplies (oxygen, glucose monitoring strips, syringes, etc.)
- Hearing aids with extra batteries
- Communication devices
- Supplies and documentation for service animals
Each year, more deaths occur because of flooding than any other hazard related to thunderstorms. The most common
flood deaths occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous floodwater. Fortunately, you can take steps to protect yourself,
your family, and your home.
Don’t drive in flooded areas — turn around, don’t drown!
Floodwater can pose a drowning risk for everyone— regardless of their ability to swim. Swiftly moving shallow water can be deadly, and even shallow standing water can be dangerous for small children.
- Always follow warnings about flooded roads.
- Don’t drive in flooded areas—cars or other vehicles won’t protect you from floodwaters. They can be swept away or may stall in moving water.
Stay out of floodwater.
Floodwaters contain many things that may harm health. We don’t know exactly what is in floodwater at any given point in time. Floodwater can contain:
- Downed power lines
- Human and livestock waste
- Household, medical, and industrial hazardous waste (chemical, biological, and radiological)
- Coal ash waste that can contain carcinogenic compounds such as arsenic, chromium, and mercury
- Other contaminants that can lead to illness
- Physical objects such as lumber, vehicles, and debris
- Wild or stray animals such as rodents and snakes
During a Flood Watch or Warning
- Gather emergency supplies, including food and water. Store at least 1 gallon of water per day for each person and each pet. Store at least a 3-day supply.
- Listen to your local radio or television station for updates.
- Have immunization records handy (or know the year of your last tetanus shot).
- Store immunization records in a waterproof container.
- Bring in outdoor possessions (lawn furniture, grills, trash cans) or tie them down securely.
- If evacuation appears necessary, turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve.
- Leave areas subject to flooding such as low spots, canyons, washes, etc. (Remember: avoid driving through flooded areas and standing water.)
After you return home, if you find that your home was flooded, practice safe cleaning.
After Flooding Occurs
- Avoid driving through flooded areas and standing water. As little as six inches of water can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
- Do not drink flood water, or use it to wash dishes, brush teeth, or wash/prepare food. Drink clean, safe water.
- If you evacuated, return to your home only after local authorities have said it is safe to do so.
- Listen for boil water advisories. Local authorities will let you know if your water is safe for drinking and bathing.
- During a water advisory, use only bottled, boiled, or treated water for drinking, cooking, etc.
- When in doubt, throw it out! Throw away any food and bottled water that comes/may have come into contact with floodwater.
- Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Use generators at least 20 feet from any doors, windows, or vents. If you use a pressure washer, be sure to keep the engine outdoors and 20 feet from windows, doors, or vents as well. Never run your car or truck inside a garage that is attached to a house even with the garage door open.
The initial damage caused by a flood is not the only risk. Standing floodwater can also spread infectious diseases, bring chemical hazards, and cause injuries.
After you return home, if you find that your home was flooded, practice safe cleaning. Remove and throw out drywall and insulation that was contaminated with floodwater or sewage. Throw out items that cannot be washed and cleaned with a bleach solution: mattresses, pillows, carpeting, carpet padding, and stuffed toys. Homeowners may want to temporarily store items outside of the home until insurance claims can be filed. See recommendations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Clean walls, hard-surfaced floors, and other household surfaces with soap and water and disinfect with a solution of one cup of bleach to five gallons of water.
Avoid electrical hazards inside or outside your home.
After a hurricane, flood or other natural disaster you need to be careful to avoid electrical hazards both in your home and elsewhere.
- Shut off electrical power and natural gas or propane tanks in your home to avoid fire, electrocution, or explosions.
- NEVER touch a fallen power line. Call the power company to report fallen power lines. Avoid contact with overhead power lines during cleanup and other activities.
- Do not drive through standing water if downed power lines are in the water.
- If you believe someone has been electrocuted, call or have someone else call 911 or emergency medical help.
Preparing for a Winter Storm
During extremely cold weather or winter storms, staying warm and safe can be a challenge. Winter storms can bring cold temperatures, power failures, loss of communication services, and icy roads. To keep yourself and your loved ones safe, you should know how to prepare your home and your car before a winter storm hits.
Weatherproof your home.
- Insulate any water lines that run along exterior walls so your water supply will be less likely to freeze.
- Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
- Insulate walls and attic.
- Install storm or thermal-pane windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
- Repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on your home or other structure during a storm.
Have your chimney or flue inspected each year.
If you plan to use a fireplace or wood stove for emergency heating, have your chimney or flue inspected each year. Ask your local fire department to recommend an inspector or find one online.
Check out our infographic, Be Ready! Winter Weather for tips on getting your family, home, and car ready for a winter storm.
Install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector.
- If you’ll be using a fireplace, wood stove, or kerosene heater, install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Test them monthly and replace batteries twice a year.
- Keep a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher nearby.
- All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside.
- Each winter season have your furnace system and vent checked by a qualified technician to ensure they are functioning properly.
For older adults, keep an easy-to-read thermometer inside your home.
If you or a loved one are over 65 years old, place an easy-to-read thermometer in an indoor location where you will see it frequently. Our ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age. Older adults are more susceptible to health problems caused by cold. Check the temperature of your home often during the winter months.
Create an emergency car kit.
It is best to avoid traveling, but if travel is necessary, keep the following in your car:
- Cell phone, portable charger, and extra batteries
- Items to stay warm such as extra hats, coats, mittens, and blankets
- Windshield scraper
- Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Water and snack food
- First aid kit with any necessary medications and a pocket knife
- Tow chains or rope
- Tire chains
- Canned compressed air with sealant for emergency tire repair
- Cat litter or sand to help tires get traction, or road salt to melt ice
- Booster cables with fully charged battery or jumper cables
- Hazard or other reflectors
- Bright colored flag or help signs, emergency distress flag, and/or emergency flares
- Road maps
- Waterproof matches and a can to melt snow for water
Listen to weather forecasts, and check your supplies.
Listen to weather forecasts regularly and check your emergency supplies, including your emergency food and water supply, whenever you are expecting a winter storm or extreme cold. Even though we can’t always predict extreme cold in advance, weather forecasts can sometimes give you several days of notice to prepare.
Bring your pets indoors.
If you have pets, bring them indoors. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate shelter to keep them warm and make sure they have access to unfrozen water.
Get your car ready.
Have maintenance service on your vehicle as often as the manufacturer recommends. In addition, every fall, do the following:
- Have the radiator system serviced or check the antifreeze level yourself with an antifreeze tester. Add antifreeze as needed.
- Replace windshield-wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture.
- Make sure the tires on your car have adequate tread and air pressure. Replace any worn tires and fill low tires with air to the proper pressure recommended for your car (typically between 30-35 psi).
- Keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
- Keep your car in good working order. Be sure to check the following: heater, defroster, brakes, brake fluid, ignition, emergency flashers, exhaust, oil, and battery.
Stay Safe During & After a Winter Storm
Winter storms are dangerous. They can bring cold temperatures, power failures, loss of communication services, and icy roads. This can make being outside dangerous, so you should limit your time outside. Although staying indoors as much as possible can help reduce the risk of car crashes and falls on the ice, you may also face hazards inside your home.
Protect yourself and your loved ones during a winter storm. Take extra steps to make sure you heat your home safely, and follow the tips below.
Heat your home safely.
If you plan to use a wood stove, fireplace, or space heater, be extremely careful. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and remember these safety tips:
- Turning on the stove for heat is not safe; have at least one of the following heat sources in case the power goes out:
- Extra blankets, sleeping bags, and warm winter coats
- Fireplace that is up to code with plenty of dry firewood or a gas log fireplace
- Portable space heaters or kerosene heaters. Check with your local fire department to make sure that kerosene heaters are legal in your area.
- Use electric space heaters with automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements. Make sure to keep them away from any flammable materials, like curtains or blankets.
- Use fireplaces, wood stoves, or other combustion heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside and do not leak gas from the flue or exhaust into the indoor air space.
- Have your heating system serviced by a qualified technician every year.
- Do not burn paper in a fireplace.
- Make sure you have proper ventilation if you must use a kerosene heater.
- Use only the type of fuel your heater is designed to use—don’t substitute.
- Keep heat sources, like space heaters, at least 3 feet away from drapes, furniture, or bedding. Never cover your space heater.
- Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.
- Never leave children unattended near a space heater.
- Make sure that the cord of an electric space heater is not a tripping hazard, but do not run the cord under carpets or rugs.
- Avoid using extension cords to plug in your space heater.
- If your space heater has a damaged electrical cord or produces sparks, do not use it.
Check out our infographic, Be Ready! Winter Weather for tips on getting your family, home, and car ready for a winter storm.
Light your home safely.
If there is a power failure:
Use generators and other appliances safely.
- Generators should be located at least 20 feet from any window, door, or vent and in a space where rain and snow will not reach them.
- Protect yourself from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by installing a battery-operated CO detector.
- Never using generators, gas or charcoal grills, camp stoves, or similar devices inside your home, in basements, in garages, or near windows. The fumes are deadly.
- Plug in appliances to the generator using individual heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cords.
- Do not use the generator or appliances if they are wet.
- Do not store gasoline indoors where the fumes could ignite.
- Some gas-fueled heaters, such as vent-less gas fireplaces, require some ventilation. Otherwise, if you don’t need extra ventilation, keep as much heat as possible inside your home.
- Avoid unnecessarily opening doors or windows.
- Close off unneeded rooms.
- Stuff towels or rags in cracks under doors.
- Close draperies or cover windows with blankets at night.
Make sure babies and older adults stay warm.
Infants less than one year old should never sleep in a cold room because they lose body heat more easily than adults. Follow these tips to keep your baby safe and warm during the extreme cold:
- Remove any pillows or other soft bedding. These can increase the risk of smothering and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Dress babies in warmer clothing such as footed pajamas, one-piece wearable blankets, or sleep sacks.
- Try to maintain a warm temperature inside your home. If you’re not able to keep your home warm, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere.
- In an emergency, you can keep your baby warm using your own body heat. If you must sleep, take precautions to prevent rolling on or smothering your baby.
Older adults often make less body heat because of a slower metabolism and less physical activity. Check on elderly friends and neighbors often to make sure their homes are heated properly.
If you are over 65 years of age, check the temperature in your home often during extremely cold weather.
Keep a water supply.
Extreme cold can cause water pipes in your home to freeze and sometimes rupture or break. When you are expecting very cold or freezing temperatures:
- Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
- Keep the temperature inside your home warm.
- Allow heated air to reach pipes. For example, open cabinet doors beneath the kitchen and bathroom sinks.
- If your pipes do freeze, do not thaw them with a torch. Thaw the pipes slowly with warm air from an electric hair dryer.
- If you cannot thaw your pipes, or the pipes have broken open, use bottled water or get water from a neighbor’s home.
- As an emergency measure, if no other water is available, snow can be melted for water. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most germs but won’t get rid of chemicals sometimes found in snow.
- Visit Keep Food and Water Safe After a Disaster or Emergency to learn more.
Children handle emergencies in different ways. Resources are attached below for preparation and understanding weather related emergencies.