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How to Clean Up After Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy left a trail of debris in her wake. If your home was damaged in the storm, follow these tips to stay safe during cleanup.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, some homeowners affected by the storm have a lot of cleanup to do on their properties. With debris, yard damage and water destruction to homes, cleaning up can be a daunting and overwhelming task.

That's especially true for Long Island, where flooding did major damage.

To help you safely clean up external and internal damages to your home after a hurricane, here are some safety tips provided to the NYPD by state and federal emergency management officials.

Building Safety:

  • Before entering a building, be sure to check for downed or loose power lines and gas leaks, which will smell like rotten eggs. If you think there is a leak, call Con Edison immediately. If you see a downed power line, move away from it and do not try to touch it with any other object, such as a broom. Do not drive over a downed line.
  • Look for external damage by examining your home’s foundation, roof and chimney for cracks. Inspect porch roofs and overhangs. If you find damage, contact a building inspector before you enter the house.
  • If the door sticks at the top as it opens, it could mean the ceiling is ready to cave in. If you force it open, stand outside to avoid being hit by falling debris. If the ceiling is sagging, leave the building immediately.
  • After entering a building, double check for gas leaks. Return to your home during daylight to avoid turning on lights. Do not light candles or cigarettes until you are sure it is safe.
  • If you smell gas or hear a hissing or blowing sound, open a window and leave immediately. Turn off the main gas valve from outside if possible. Call your gas company from a neighbor’s home or from a cell phone away from the building.
  • You may want to have an electrician check your wiring. Do not turn on the lights if you feel unsure whether they are safe to use.
  • Check your water and sewage systems. If pipes appear damaged, turn off the main water valve.
  • When you begin cleaning up, wear protective clothing. If you have cuts on your hands or other body parts, protect them from contact with water or debris. Try to wear face filtering masks and gloves when cleaning.

Water Damage

For water damage inside the home, the CDC offers these tips:

  • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.
  • Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected area.
  • Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings and most paper products).
  • Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.
  • Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.
  • Help the drying process by using fans, air conditioning units and dehumidifiers.
  • After completing the cleanup, wash your hands with soap and warm water. Use water that has been boiled for 1 minute (allow the water to cool before washing your hands).
  • Or you may use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (solution of ⅛ teaspoon [~0.75 milliliters] of household bleach per 1 gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use a solution of ¼ teaspoon (~1.5 milliliters) of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.
  • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.
  • Wash clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent. It is recommended that a laundromat be used for washing large quantities of clothes and linens until your onsite waste-water system has been professionally inspected and serviced.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.

Mold Removal

Additionally, to stop mold growth, follow these tips:

  • Take out items that have soaked up water and that cannot be cleaned and dried.
  • Fix water leaks. Use fans and dehumidifiers and open doors and windows to remove moisture.
  • To remove mold, mix 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water, wash the item with the bleach mixture, scrub rough surfaces with a stiff brush, rinse the item with clean water, then dry it or leave it to dry.
  • Check and clean heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems before use.
  • To clean hard surfaces that do not soak up water and that may have been in contact with floodwater, first wash with soap and clean water. Next disinfect with a mixture of 1 cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water. Then allow to air dry.
  • Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles when cleaning with bleach. Open windows and doors to get fresh air. Never mix bleach and ammonia. The fumes from the mixture could kill you.

The NYPD also generally suggests putting together a cleanup kit that includes rubber gloves, cleaning products, bleach, sponges, goggles, spatula, cleanup suits, rubber boots, odor-control products, trash bags, hydrogen peroxide, adhesive bandages, antibiotic ointments and work towels.

To apply for disaster assistance, call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362. This number is available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

TELL US: Do you have any hurricane clean up tips that have worked well for you?

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