AUSTIN, Texas -- Hurricane Ike may have passed, but the disaster is far from over. "Everyone in the path of Ike must remain vigilant throughout the recovery process," said Federal Coordinating Officer Sandy Coachman of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Evacuees should not return home until state or local officials say it's safe. Those who try to return prematurely may face downed power lines and trees, impassable roads, flooding, and hazardous materials. In some areas, power may be out for days or weeks. Phones won't work. Stores and gas stations most likely will be closed; food and fuel will be hard to find. Medical services will be limited or nonexistent.
"Premature travel into the most impacted areas could hinder the efforts of our public safety officials," said State Coordinating Officer Joan Haun of the Texas Governor's Division of Emergency Management.
Even after storm victims are allowed to return home, they may face a daunting array of issues. Recovering from a hurricane is a big job-taxing your body and your spirit. Adhering to the following suggestions will help you cope with the aftermath:
- Keep tuned to local media for information about caring for your household, finding medical help, and applying for possible financial assistance.
- Don't risk electrocution!
- Check all electronic equipment for water damage. If you are uncertain, throw them away.
- Watch for loose or dangling power lines. Assume any downed wire is a live wire.
- Stay away from power lines when clearing fallen trees with a chainsaw.
- Drive only when and where necessary. Closed roads are for your protection-they may be weakened and could collapse.
- Limit your telephone use to emergency calls only.
- Open doors and windows to ventilate your home.
- Use bottled water until local officials have determined the water supply is safe.
- Guard against food poisoning.
- If the power was disrupted, food in the refrigerator may have spoiled.
- Do not refreeze food once it begins to thaw.
- Only use generators outdoors in a well-ventilated area.
- If your property is damaged:
- Contact your insurance agent as soon as possible.
- Take photographs or video of the damage.
- Keep a detailed record of cleanup costs.
- If your property had flood damage and you have flood insurance, you also must contact the company or agent who handles your flood insurance. (Most homeowner's insurance policies do not handle flood damage.) FEMA administers the National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP) through the Federal Insurance Administration. The NFIP makes flood insurance available in communities that adopt and enforce flood control ordinances.
- Be a good neighbor. Do everything you can to make sure those around you are safe and have the help they need.
- Be good to yourself. Get help, especially if you or your loved ones feel anxiety, stress or fatigue.
- Remember, recovering from a disaster takes time, and know that help is available. If you are in a designated county, register online at www.fema.gov or call FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.