After the Storm
After the storm, it's time to assess the damage. Keep your battery-operated radio close for news reports about damage, road closures, power outages and other emergency instructions. With 3 to 7 days of uncertainty depending on the storm, you'll need to rely upon what you've stored for food, water, medications, and entertainment. If the city is hit with a major hurricane, it could be weeks or months before life gets back to normal. The following safety steps will help you during your recovery.
Who Can Help You
Palm Beach County's Hurricane Guide (PDF) includes helpful phone numbers if you require immediate assistance after a hurricane. Palm Beach County's Hurricane Preparedness website also provides listings of available gas stations with transfer switches, Home Depot and Lowes stores powered by generator, as well as Publix stores powered by generator.
Food Safety & Guidelines
Power outages caused by hurricanes can present health concerns from food spoilage. Tips to help keep you safe:
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Minimal door openings can keep items safe for longer.
- For more information about food safety, visit the Palm Beach County Health Department or call 561-840-4500.
A boil-water order can be issued during a hurricane or any other significant event that affects the drinking water supply. This means there is a possibility of some microbial contamination in tap water. While there are advanced and expensive filters and specialized water treatment tablets on the market that can make your water safe to drink, there are 2 methods that are typically used by homeowners:
- Boiling which is the most effective way to kill bacteria, viruses and parasites in water. According to the Florida State Health Department and the Center for Disease Control, a pot of water that has been brought to a full rolling boil for 1 minute is enough to kill pathogens and make the water safe to consume. Let the water come to room temperature before drinking.
- Bleach which is a less effective way to sanitize water but can work if you don't have access to power or cooking fuel. Add 1/8 teaspoon of common unscented household bleach (it should contain 5.25% sodium hypochlorite) per gallon of water and let the water stand for at least 30 minutes.
Remember, these methods work with water that is clear but possibly contaminated, not with murky water taken from a ditch, for example.
Home generators provide limited power during a prolonged power outage. Use them to keep a refrigerator cold, run a fan, recharge your cell phone or operate a microwave oven. Generators can help make your storm recovery more comfortable, but they can also kill if not used correctly. Read instructions carefully and fully understand how to use your specific generator. Generator safety tips:
- Carbon Monoxide (CO): A colorless, odorless gas produced from burning fuel that is deadly in very small amounts.
- Always use generators outdoors, away from doors, windows and vents. NEVER use them in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces or other enclosed or partially-enclosed areas, even with ventilation.
- Install battery-operated or battery-backup carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Test these alarms often and replace batteries when needed.
- Electrical Hazards: Generators create electricity, which can kill if you receive a shock.
- Keep the generator dry. Operate on a dry surface in an open area. Dry your hands before handling it.
- Plug appliances directly into generator or use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord that is free of cuts or tears and has all 3 prongs, especially a grounding pin.
- Never plug the generator into a wall outlet. This practice, known as backfeeding, can cause electrocution risk to utility workers and others served by the same utility transformer.
- Fire Hazards: Generators use flammable fuels, increasing the chance of an accidental fire that can threaten your life and property.
- Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool.
- Always store fuel outside and store fuel away from any fuel-burning appliance.
While it is necessary to clear downed trees and branches, use great caution when operating a chainsaw. Safety tips to help keep you safe and injury-free:
- Before starting the saw:
- Read your owner's manual, wear proper safety gear, and check all parts to ensure they are functioning properly.
- Fuel your saw at least 10 feet from sources of ignition and clear debris that may interfere with cutting.
- While running the saw:
- Keep hands on the handles, and a secure footing.
- Do not cut directly overhead or overreach with the saw and be prepared for kickback.
Improperly disposed human waste can lead to outbreaks of cholera, dysentery, and other diseases. Tips for a sewer outage:
- Do not use kitty litter in your emergency toilet. This cannot be flushed after the sewage system is operational.
- Use a chemical toilet if one is available. Also, create an emergency toilet by using your toilet bowl or a 5-gallon plastic bucket with a tight fitting lid. Line either with a heavy-duty trash bag and use household bleach as a disinfectant. If using your toilet bowl, first turn off water and flush 1 time to empty before lining with trash bag.
- Wash hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap and water after handling the emergency toilet.
- When instructed, do not use or flush your toilet. Powered sewer lift stations may be out of order, which could lead to a sewage back-up into homes.
A hurricane can turn a familiar road into an unfamiliar and dangerous one very quickly. Driving safety tips:
- Constantly scan for pedestrians who can quickly lose their footing.
- Do not drive through standing water. You will not know the depth of the water nor will you know the condition of the road under the water.
- Drive with car lights on and slow down.
- Know where you are going and give yourself ample time to get there.
- Maintain a safe distance from the car in front of you.
- Match your speed to road conditions. Cars can quickly become uncontrollable when driving on damaged, debris-choked roads.
- Not all damaged or destroyed road signs have been replaced; be prepared to yield to a pedestrian or another driver or to stop unexpectedly.
- Obey all road closed signs. Just because you can't see road damage doesn't mean it is safe.
- Traffic patterns may be shifted in work zones; obey posted work zone speed limits at all times. Be aware of equipment and workers.
- Treat any intersection with non-working traffic signals as an all-way stop. Be prepared to stop at every intersection.
- Visibility may be limited. Increased traffic on congested roadways and large trucks can obstruct your line of sight.
Re-entering the County
If you have evacuated out of the area, returning home can have some challenges if a storm has done significant damage to the city. Bridges and roads may be closed due to damage, flooding or debris. Officials may have entire areas closed off to everyone, even residents. It's important to remember that coming home is not a guarantee. So before heading home, be sure to watch or read the news to learn the latest information about road conditions and damage reports for Palm Beach County and surrounding areas.
Depending on the severity of the storm, the city's contracted waste hauler, Waste Management, Inc., will pick up household garbage on your regularly scheduled pick up day. A separate hauler will pick up:
- Construction and demolition items (such as roof shingles, siding, concrete material, drywall, furniture, or carpet)
- Vegetative (such as unbagged sticks, limbs, branches, or cut tree stumps)
- White goods (large appliances)
Do not mix debris types. These items are handled differently and must be collected separately. Please contact Public Works at 561-804-7000 for information regarding waste pick up after a storm.