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For Individuals and Families

For Water Treatment Plants and Industrial Facilities

Addressing issues with private water wells

Do not drink or wash from the flooded well to avoid becoming sick. Man-made wells are best disinfected by a well or pump contractor because it is difficult for a private owner to thoroughly disinfect these wells. If you suspect that your well may be contaminated, contact your local or state health department or agricultural extension agent for specific advice on disinfecting your well. Learn more about pump and well safety and about septic systems.

Audio, en Español, Tiếng Việ | Brochure (3 pp, 382 KB), en Español (3 pp, 715 KB), Chinese (4 pp, 249 KB)

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Boiling water

Drinking water supplies may be contaminated during an environmental emergency. Listen to local media for information on the safety of your area’s drinking water; you will not be able to tell if your water is safe to drink just by looking at it. lf you are advised to treat water before drinking, cooking, or brushing your teeth, bring it to a rolling boil for at least one minute. If possible, strain the water through clean cloths before boiling. If you cannot boil your water, you can sanitize it with household bleach or iodine. Be very careful to follow packaging instructions if you use those methods.

Learn more about disinfecting drinking water | Getting water (fema.gov)

Audio, en Español, Tiếng Việ | Brochure (4 pp, 310 KB), en Español (4 pp, 320 KB),Chinese (5 pp, 250 KB)

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Contacting poison control

Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 right away if someone may have been poisoned or if you have questions about poisons. When you call this number, you talk to specially trained nurses, pharmacists and doctors. A poison center is an emergency telephone service.

More information on Poison Control Centers

Audio | Brochure (1 p, 21 KB)

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Dealing with disaster debris

Disasters can generate tons of debris, including building rubble, soil and sediments, green waste (e.g., trees and shrubs), personal property, ash and charred wood. The method used by a community to manage disaster debris depends on the type of debris and the waste management options available. Please do not bury or burn debris, (except when explicitly permitted by local authorities), because of the hazardous side effects of these methods. Since using regular landfills and recycling facilities is often not possible during a disaster, communities typically devise their own plans for dealing with debris. Your local media should provide specific guidance from your area’s sanitation authorities on how they will collect post-disaster debris.

Planning for disaster debris | Dealing with debris and damaged buildings after a disaster | Safety with debris piles | Audio | Debris Management Guide (160 pp, 15 MB)

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Disposing of household hazardous waste

Household products containing corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients are considered to be "household hazardous waste" or "HHW." Such products, including paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, and pesticides, require special care when it is time to dispose of them. Do not pour them down the drain, on the ground, into storm sewers, or, in some cases, put them out with the trash. The best way to get rid of them depends on the type of product and facilities available. Check with your local environmental, health, or solid waste agency for more information on HHW management options in your area.

More information on household hazardous waste

Audio | Brochure (1 p, 23 KB), en Español (2 pp, 23 KB), Tiếng Việ (1 p, 118 KB), Chinese (3 pp, 158 KB)

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Finding family members

As with many aspects of dealing with disaster, it is best to prepare before such an event occurs. You and your family can establish a designated meeting point should you become separated. Choose a place to meet that is away from your home, like a relative’s home in a neighboring city. If you want to let your family and friends know that you are safe following a disaster, you can list yourself on the Red Cross “Safe and Well” Internet registry. You can also use this registry to search for others who have been affected by a disaster.

Information from USA.gov on finding friends and family | Audio | Brochure (1 p, 23 KB)

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Keeping mold under control

Mold can cause serious health problems. The key to mold control is moisture control. After a flood, remove standing water and dry indoor areas. Remove and discard anything that has been wet for more than 24-48 hours.

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Preparing to come home

Returning to homes and businesses after a disaster can pose significant health and environmental challenges, like leaking natural gas lines, carbon monoxide poisoning, and asbestos exposure. First, be sure your local authorties have cleared your area for re-entry. Before you begin cleaning, seek advice from public health authorities and help from specialty contractors. Although these services may be difficult to contact after an emergency, EPA strongly advises against attempting to remove potentially contaminated material yourself. Exercise caution when disturbing building materials to prevent physical injury or other health effects. Building materials may contain hazardous substances such as asbestos that when carried by the air can be breathed in and cause adverse health effects. If you are unsure whether something contains asbestos or another hazardous substance, treat it as if it does. Do not attempt to remove it yourself; wait until a professional can do it for you.

Audio, en Español, Tiếng Việ | Coming Home Precautions Brochure (2 pp, 28 KB), en Español (2 pp, 32 KB), Tiếng Việ (2 pp, 153 KB), Chinese (3 pp, 259 KB) | Remodeling Brochure (26 pp, 807 KB)

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Protecting companion animals

Plan ahead to protect your pets during a disaster. Since Red Cross and other public family shelters cannot accept pets, make arrangements to drop them off somewhere safe in case you have to evacuate your home. You can assemble a portable pet disaster kit with food and supplies. Act to protect your pet as soon as any warnings of approaching disaster are given. In general, what is best for you and your family during an emergency is best for your pets, too.

Audio | Preparing Your Pets Brochure (2 pp, 1.9 MB)| Disaster Supply Checklist for Pets Brochure (2 pp, 307 KB)

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Protecting yourself from adverse health effects of smoke

Smoke from fires can be just as dangerous as the flames themselves. Pay attention to local air quality reports and stay alert for health warnings related to smoke. If it looks smoky outside, avoid physical activity outdoors and do not let your children play outside. Keep your indoor air as clean as possible by keeping windows and doors closed. Run your air conditioner with the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean. If you do not have an air conditioner, staying inside with windows closed may be dangerous in extremely hot weather, so you should seek alternate shelter. Avoid burning things like candles or fireplaces inside. If you have a lung or heart disease, are an older adult, or have children, talk with your doctor about whether and when you should leave the area.

Audio | Brochure (1 p, 21 KB)

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Using generators safely

When power lines go down during a storm and cause electrical outages, portable generators are a popular alternative source of electricity; however, they also can be a source of danger. A primary hazard when using a generator is carbon monoxide poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, carbon monoxide can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. At lower levels, carbon monoxide causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. The effects of carbon monoxide exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure. Learn more about carbon monoxide.

Never operate a generator inside your home, basement or garage. Put generators outside, away from doors, windows and vents. Read the accompanying brochures for more safety tips while operating a generator.

Audio, en Español, Tiếng Việ |Portable Generators Brochure (1 p, 159 KB), en EspaƱol (2 pp, 104 KB), Tiếng Việ (2 pp, 112 KB), Chinese (2 pp, 179 KB) | Carbon Monoxide Brochure (2 pp, 66 KB)

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Emergencies phone number 800-424-8802


Use caution when entering damaged homes and buildings.

Bring unsafe drinking water to a rolling boil for one minute.

Be careful with potentially dangerous household products.

Use generators safely

Useful Resources
Poison center
Finding family
Companion animals
Audio files

Related Information from State and Federal Agencies

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During a hurricane
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Recovering from disasters.
Health and safety guidelines, returning home, seeking assistance, more - Federal Emergency Management Agency

After the hurricane
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