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Post-Hurricane Safety Tips

Release date: 
September 21, 2003
Release Number: 

Richmond, VA -- Hurricane Isabel caused statewide power outages and resource shortages, making daily tasks a challenge for many Virginians. Federal and state officials offer the following tips to help citizens perform storm cleanup activities and stay safe during the recovery process:


In the event of a power outage, the following should be discarded:

  • Perishable foods including meats, dairy products and eggs that have not been refrigerated for more than two hours

  • Foods that have been contaminated by flooding

If your power comes back on after food in your freezer has begun to thaw, use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature in your freezer. Food stored in the freezer at 40° F or colder is safe and may be refrozen. If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine the safety. Do not rely on appearance or odor.


Residents under a boil water notice should bring water to a rolling boil for one minute to kill any disease-causing microorganisms. The "flat" taste of boiled water can be improved by pouring it back and forth from one clean container into another (aeration), allowing it to stand for a few hours or adding a pinch of salt for each quart of water boiled. Drinking bottled water is also an option for people whose water is contaminated.

If you cannot boil water, add six drops of newly purchased, unscented liquid household bleach per gallon of water, stir well and let the water stand for 30 minutes before using it. Remember that bleach will not kill parasitic organisms. You can also use water-purifying tablets from your local pharmacy or sporting goods store.


Walking, swimming or driving through floodwaters is extremely dangerous.

  • If you are driving and come upon floodwaters, stop, turn around, and go another way.

  • A shallow depth of fast-moving floodwater produces more force than most people imagine. Even six inches of swiftly moving water can knock you off your feet and two feet of water will carry away most automobiles.

  • Do not drive where water is covering the road. The pavement could already be washed away underneath.


Portable generators can be hazardous if used improperly. In the past two days, four Virginians have lost their lives from using generators in poorly ventilated areas.

To avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning:

  • Operate generators outdoors only in a well-ventilated, dry area, away from air intakes to the home, and protected from direct exposure to rain (preferably under a canopy, open shed, or carport).

  • Never use a generator indoors or in attached garages.

To avoid electrocution:

  • Plug individual appliances into the generator using heavy duty, outdoor rated cords with a wire gauge adequate for the appliance load.

  • Observe the generator manufacturer's instructions for safe operation.

  • Do not plug the generator into a wall outlet.

  • If connecting the generator into the house wiring is necessary, have a qualified electrician hook up the standby electrical system.


With thousands of trees down across the state, many people may choose to use chainsaws to remove this debris. The following tips will help you avoid serious injury when using these powerful tools:

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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