Baltimore, MD -- Emergency officials of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the state of Maryland urge people returning to storm- and flood-damaged homes and buildings to be careful. Damage to the integrity of buildings may not be obvious from the outside.
Protect yourself: wear sturdy shoes, long pants and gloves. Carry battery-operated lights to examine interior damage. Do not use matches or other open flames because gas may be trapped inside.
Make sure the electricity is off; verify this by calling your utility company. Even though breakers are tripped, electric current may be coming into the building. Keep power off until the electrical system has been inspected. If you see sparks or broken and frayed wires, or if you smell hot insulation, call an electrician. Unplug appliances and lamps, remove light bulbs and remove the cover plates of wall switches and outlets that got wet. Make sure everything is dry before turning the power back on.
If, after power is restored to your area, you are still without power, call your electric company from your home phone. By calling from a home phone, customers without power can use an Interactive Voice Response System to notify the utility's computerized Outage Management System that power has not been restored to your home.
Photograph storm damage to both buildings and contents for insurance claims. Include photos of high-water marks on walls as well as other water damage. At the same time, beware of animals, including snakes, that may have found their way into your property. Use a stick to poke debris.
Homeowners, renters and business owners affected by recent storms should register for assistance by calling the FEMA toll-free number: 1 800 621 FEMA(3362). The TTY number is 1 800 462 7585 for those who are speech- or hearing-impaired. Recovery specialists will take calls from 7 a.m. to midnight, EDT, seven days a week until further notice. To date, 6,238 Marylanders have called to apply.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.