Once an emergency is over, you will want to go back to a state of normality. We will do everything we can to help you recover as quickly as possible, but some responsibilities have to stay with you as an individual, especially where your health and property are concerned.
Health and safety
- Be aware of new hazards created by the disaster. Watch for washed out roads, contaminated buildings, contaminated water, gas leaks, broken glass, damaged wires, slippery floors and similar situations
- Be aware of exhaustion. Don’t try to do too much at once. Set priorities and pace yourself.
- Drink plenty of clean water. Eat well and get enough rest.
- Wear sturdy boots and work gloves when working with debris. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water often, especially when in contact with floodwater.
- Inform us or emergency services about health and safety hazards, such as chemical releases, downed power lines, washed out roads, smouldering insulation, and gas leaks or dead animals.
Returning to a damaged home can be both physically and mentally challenging. Above all, use caution.
- Before going into your house, walk carefully around the outside of your home and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage. If you smell gas, do not enter your home.
- If your home was damaged by fire, do not enter until authorities say it is safe.
- Check for cracks in the roof, walls and chimneys. If it looks like the building may collapse, leave immediately.
- A torch is the best source of light for inspecting a damaged home. Caution: Switch it on outside. It may produce sparks that could set leaking gas alight, if present. Don’t use open fire inside your house, if you suspect leaking gas.
- If you cut off your gas supply before you left, it needs to be switched on by a professional and gas systems tested before you can safely use it.
- If you enter a house and smell gas or hear a hissing sound, leave immediately.
- Check electrical appliances. If they are wet, they need to be checked by a professional before use.
- Open windows and doors to get the air moving again. Especially if you have been sheltering in your house, you need to get a draught going to vent your property of any gases that may have built up.
- Throw out food, cosmetics and medicines that have been in contact with floodwater.
- Do not let your children play with toys that have been in contact with floodwater, before you have disinfected them.
- Check with your local authority or Water Supply Company before using the water; it may be contaminated.
Call your insurance provider as soon as possible. Take pictures of damages and keep good records of any repair work and cleaning costs. Be aware of bogus traders who will show up after every disaster. Always get a written quotation; your insurer will require this. Make sure that it is on letter headed paper with landline contact numbers and an address you have verified. Never pay in advance and only pay up when the work is done to your satisfaction and obtain a receipt for the payment.
Coping with disasters
Any disaster will leave you stressed and mentally affected. Don’t feel that you have to cope without help. Take special care of your children. They can be more affected than they show and reactions can be delayed. You need to be aware of signs that someone, including yourself, needs help. Check for the following:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty maintaining balance
- Easily frustrated
- Easily flaring up
- Increased use of alcohol/drugs
- Limited attention span
- Poor work performance
- Headaches/stomach problems
- Tunnel vision/muffled hearing
- Colds or flu-like symptoms
- Disorientation or confusion
- Difficulty concentrating
- Reluctance to leave home
- Depression, sadness
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Mood-swings and crying easily
- Overwhelming guilt and self-doubt
- Fear of crowds, strangers and being alone
Disasters can leave people, especially children, feeling frightened, confused and insecure. It is important for parents and teachers to be informed and ready to help if reactions to stress begin to occur. Please remember that children can also be affected by seeing drama unfurl on television.
- Children may have reactions very soon after the event, or be fine for weeks before they show worrisome behaviour.
- Reassurance is the key to helping children with trauma. Very young children will need a lot of physical contact and cuddling. They also need verbal support.
- Answer questions honestly, but do not dwell on frightening details or allow the subject to dominate family life indefinitely.
- Encourage all children to express emotions through conversation, drawing or find a way to help others affected by the same disaster.
- Contact your Children’s Services or your Children’s teachers for advice.
- Keep a normal household routine.
- Encourage children to participate in recreational activities.
- Reduce your expectations temporarily about performance in school or at home.