Denver, CO -- Federal and state disaster officials urge people to take extra precautions when returning to homes, apartments or businesses after a fire or evacuation.
"The dangers are not over just because the fire is contained," said State Coordinating Officer Tommy Grier. "Fire damage can cause such hazards as exposed wires, gas leaks or a weakened foundation, which are not always obvious but can be life-threatening. We urge people to be very careful."
Steve Emory, federal coordinating officer for the disaster recovery, also warned residents to be careful of potential chemical hazards such as solvents, car batteries, propane tanks and other industrial chemicals. "If you are unsure of a situation, ask for help or seek advice from an expert," said Emory. "Play it safe."
Disaster officials are urging people to keep these safety tips in mind:
BEFORE ENTERING A BUILDING:
Check the outside of the building: Evaluate
all utilities on your property for fire damage.
Check your power lines coming into your home for any damage from the fire. Check wiring to your water wells. Call your gas company to evaluate your service. Contact your utility company immediately if you find downed power lines or detect gas leaks. (Gas leaks will emit an odor of rotten eggs.)
Look for external damage: Examine the foundation for cracks or other damage. Inspect porch roofs and overhangs to be sure they are adequately supported. If any portion of the foundation has been undermined, it may not be safe to enter the building. If you find obvious damage, ask a building inspector to check the building before you go inside. Check the roof and eaves for burning sparks.
Enter the building carefully: If the door sticks at the top as it opens, it could mean the ceiling is ready to cave in. If you decide to force the door open, stand outside the doorway to avoid being hit by falling debris.
AFTER ENTERING A BUILDING:
Look before you step: Floors and stairs may be covered with debris and may be very slippery. Watch out for broken bottles, nails and other hazards.
Be alert for gas leaks: Do not strike a match or use an open flame when entering a building unless you know the gas has been turned off and the area has been ventilated. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage.
Turn off the electricity: Even if the power company has turned off electricity to the area, be sure to turn off your circuit breakers. Do not use appliances or motors that have been damaged until they have been repaired or replaced.
Watch for animals, especially snakes: Small animals that have been burned out of their homes may seek shelter in yours. Scare them away by poking a stick into likely hiding places, taking particular care to listen for the warning sound of a rattlesnake.
Don't breathe the ash from fires: This can irritate the respiratory system. Use painter masks to protect your airway. Water down the area around your house to reduce flying ash. Keep all windows closed to prevent odors from the burned area from entering your home. If your home already smells, contact a local cleaning company.
Be careful when removing ...