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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

After the Storm - Performing a Home Safety Check

After any natural or man-made disaster, you should always evaluate the safety and structural integrity of your home. This is simply a good common sense practice. A tragic situation can go from bad to worse in a very short period of time if you fail to take certain steps to make sure that there aren’t any further dangers to you and your family.

If you are uncertain whether it is safe for you to stay in your home, you may need to make alternate living or shelter arrangements. Unfortunately, if the event was severe enough to damage your home, it probably created further hazards as well. Highways and roads may be unusable due to ruined pavement, fallen trees, downed electric wires, or flooding. The traffic conditions may also be so utterly congested by others trying to leave the area that any travel may be next to impossible. Your best option may be to simply camp out in the backyard for a while or to take shelter in an alternate dwelling or structure, such as a shed or garage. You may simply have to spend a few nights sleeping in your vehicle.

The first thing you will need to do is determine if there is any major damage to the structural stability of your home. Short of having a professional engineer available to do a proper evaluation of damages, use your best judgment and a lot of common sense to determine whether conditions are safe enough for you to remain in your home. If there is any doubt where you and your family’s safety are concerned, make other arrangements and don’t risk possibly deadly consequences.

Missing portions of your roof, exterior walls with gaps or openings or interior walls that are severely bowed or buckled could be further signs of serious problems. Cracked or shifted foundations could be other signs of structural instability. Broken rafters or support beams could also be indicators of possible problems. Wet or muddy conditions due to flooding could also pose a health risk due to mold and mildew. Large trees, power poles or power lines that may have fallen on your home can also create potentially life threatening hazards. Broken water mains or gas lines are other hazards that may make it unsafe to stay in your home or to try and return before it is actually prudent to do so safely. Basically, if it doesn’t look safe, it probably isn’t. Don’t take unnecessary chances. It is simply not worth the risk.

Strange or funny noises could also be indicators of a lack of structural integrity which may lead to a potential failure or collapse. You will also need to be ready for the real possibility of changing conditions in any type of structure which has been damaged and will need to be ready to get out quickly if the situation changes.

Should you determine that the structural integrity is intact to a degree where you can safely enter or remain in your home, you will need to clean up any hazardous debris that may be in the area. Broken glass from windows, splintered wood from walls or roofs or other objects such as furniture that have been disturbed from their normal place in the home can all create possible safety problems.

Let common sense be your guide. Take the time to properly evaluate any damages you may have sustained before risking your life and the lives of your family. If you have the slightest doubt, try to seek professional help and guidance at the first available opportunity.

Staying above the water line!



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