Many disaster-related injuries occur in the aftermath of a tropical storm or hurricane. Here are some ways to stay safe.

  • Remain inside until local authorities say it’s safe to go outside.
  • If you must go outside, beware of fallen objects and downed electrical wires. Report downed power lines to GEBE
  • Inspect your home for damage to assure it’s safe to stay there, and check for gas leaks.
  • Contact your insurance agent. Take pictures of damage and keep good records of repair and cleanup costs.
  • Stay out of areas with extensive storm damage.
  • If you live in an area where residential and commercial uses are co-located, keep residential and commercial debris in separate piles.
  • Obey all curfew and emergency orders.
  • Place debris piles on the right-of-way, away from fences, mailboxes, storm drains, manholes and low-hanging wires.
  • Do not operate charcoal grills, propane camping stoves or generators indoors.
  • Discard any refrigerated food you suspect is spoiled.
  • When clearing storm debris, use a broom instead of a hose to conserve water. Sweep and bag debris so it doesn’t clog storm drains and cause sewage overflows.
  • Be patient and careful. Cleanup after a storm can take time.


General guidelines

After the storm has passed and you've confirmed that everyone is okay, it's time to assess the damage and begin the recovery phase. Here are some tips to keep in mind when inspecting your home post-hurricane: Before returning home after an evacuation, make sure that the authorities have declared the area safe.

  • Electrical power and natural gas or propane tanks should be shut off to avoid fire, electrocution or explosions.
  • If you suspect a gas leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows and leave the house immediately. 
  • Do not drive or walk through standing water. It may be much deeper than you realize and there may be hidden hazards.
  • When using any power equipment, always wear a safety face shield or eyeglasses and gloves.
  • Use battery-powered lanterns and flashlights instead of candles.
  • If you must use candles, make sure you put them in safe holders away from curtains, paper, wood or other flammable items.
  • Never leave a candle burning when you are out of the room.
  • Contact your insurance agent. Take pictures of damage. Keep good records of repair and cleaning costs.


Electrical damage

  • Your electrical system may have been damaged. If you see frayed wiring or sparks when you restore power, or if there is an odor of something burning but no visible fire, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker.
  • You should consult Gebe about using electrical equipment, including power generators. 
  • If a generator is online when electrical service is restored, it can become a major fire hazard. In addition, the improper connection of a generator to your home's electrical circuits may endanger line workers helping to restore power in your area.
  • Replace the electrical outlet and have the system checked by a certified electrician before turning on the circuit breakers and energizing the outlet for use.


Water damage

Following a storm, flooding may affect the interior of your property.

  • Once you have established that no structural, electrical or gas-related hazards exist in your home, dry and disinfect all materials inside the house to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.
  • Walls, hard-surfaced floors and many other household surfaces should be cleaned with soap and water and disinfected with a solution of one cup of bleach to five gallons of water.
  • Be particularly careful to thoroughly disinfect surfaces that may come in contact with food, such as counter tops, pantry shelves, refrigerators, etc. Areas where small children play should also be carefully cleaned.
  • Wash all linens and clothing in hot water, or dry clean them. For items that cannot be washed or dry cleaned, such as mattresses and upholstered furniture, air dry them in the sun and then spray them thoroughly with a disinfectant.
  • Steam clean all carpeting.
  • If there has been a backflow of sewage into the house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup. Remove and discard contaminated household materials that cannot be disinfected such as wall coverings, cloth, rugs and drywall.
  • Remove all wet or damaged carpeting and drywall to prevent molding.


Home repair after the storm

If your home is damaged and you're hiring a home repair contractor, use this checklist to avoid being a victim of fraud:

  • File a claim with your insurance company.
  • Know your contractor. Call references and beware of scams.
  • Check complaint history with consumer protection agencies.
  • Check the license and insurance.
  • Obtain at least three estimates.
  • Get promises in writing.
  • Avoid paying large sums of money up front.
  • Pay by credit card instead of cash.


PRICE GOUGING
If a state of emergency is declared by the Prime Minister, price gouging regulations come into effect.

Price gouging is considered an “unconscionable price,” determined by comparing the price asked during an emergency with what was charged for the same commodity during the preceding 30-day period. To report price gouging email idez.inquiries@sintmaartengov.org


SWIMMING POOL BARRIERS
After a hurricane, if your swimming pool barrier has fallen or is damaged, you must repair or replace it as a priority. A swimming pool poses a life safety threat even if it is empty.

Until you can replace or repair your pool barrier, a temporary contractor safety mesh may be erected. You can buy temporary mesh at local home improvement stores.

Also, if your swimming pool is not functioning normally, add chlorine on a regular basis to avoid excessivegrowth of algae and mosquito breeding conditions.


MOSQUITOES
Rainy, wet conditions that often follow a hurricane can result in an increase in mosquitoes. To reduce breeding, empty standing water in children’s toys, uncovered boats and watercraft that are not draining water, as well as from trash cans and lids.

Remember the following to avoid mosquito bites:

  • Repair screening on windows, doors, porches and patios
  • Avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are more likely to bite
  • Dress in light, long and loose clothing that covers the skin
  • Use insect repellents containing the EPA-recommended ingredient DEET