What to Do After a Hurricane Disaster

Above: The path of Hurricane Sandy is captured by NASA’s GOES-13 weather observation satellite. The weather effects of this hurricane disaster impacted cities as far west as Chicago.

Preppers in New England had their chance to put home disaster plans to use in the wake of Hurricane Sandy this week. While Living Ready spends a good deal of time on preparing ahead of disasters, it’s no less important to know what to do after the weather settles down.

Here are tips for what to do after a hurricane disaster or other devastating natural event.

Get to a Smart Phone

Using a phone after a hurricane disaster

Having a mobile phone is good following a hurricane disaster, but a smart phone is even better.

Many people carry smart phones that enable access to the Internet. In 2012, this is the post-hurricane disaster lifeline. Standard mobile phones are also helpful, but it’s the Internet access that’s just as important as the ability to make calls. The Internet offers weather updates, condition reports and quick communication channels.

If you don’t have an operating phone, find someone who does. If this isn’t possible, get to wherever a large group of people has gathered. You’ll need information just as much as you need food, water and shelter.

Note: In some cases, mobile technology won’t be available anywhere. For more on what to do then, click here to read The Day the Cell Phones Died.

Save Battery Power with Social Media

If you don’t have the ability to charge your mobile phone, use it sparingly. This is where having a smart phone with Internet access becomes essential.

Using social media, you’re able to stay in contact with quick messages that don’t require monitoring. You can make a post on your Facebook page, turn off the phone and check the post for replies later. In seconds, you’ll have reached more people than you could in several minutes of calling. You also won’t waste power listening to voice messages.

Again, if communication by phone becomes impossible after a hurricane disaster, seek out places people have gathered. This keeps you “in the loop” and makes coordinating your next moves clearer.

How to Find Family Members

Hopefully, you already have a family communication plan in place. If you don’t anticipate making one, go right now to SafeandWell.org and bookmark it in your browser (better yet, in your smart phone’s browser). Tell your family and friends to do the same as part of your post-disaster communication plan.

This website is operated by the Red Cross specifically for letting family and friends know you’re OK post-hurricane disaster. Survivors can list themselves as “safe and well.” Others can browse for your listing.

The real benefit of this site is that it’s used almost universally post-disaster. Even if you didn’t set up a family communication plan pre-disaster, it’s the go-to website for finding loved ones. Relief workers and other officials may encourage survivors to list themselves there.

Of course, the site only works if you’re able to access it. For finding those not “safe and well,” you’ll need to contact area hospitals.

Calling people using a mobile phone is instinctual, but be careful about using battery power.

Returning Home

Just because officials allow residents to return to their homes after a hurricane disaster doesn’t mean caution can be thrown to the wind. Watch for down power lines, unusual smells (such as gas), shattered glass underfoot and dead ends on the roads. It’s not that you won’t do these things anyway, but putting your guard down is the first step to getting hurt.

Finding your home in ruins is a devastating experience. The variables that situation presents won’t be covered here, but there are steps to take if your home is no longer liveable.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) runs a shelter locator that works via text message. Text the word SHELTER, followed by your ZIP code, to 43362. (That spells out 4FEMA.) As an example, you’d text SHELTER 54990. Information will be texted to your phone with information about the nearest shelters.

You can also call 1-800-RED-CROSS for shelter information.

If you’re in need of long-term shelter, apply for assistance at FEMA.gov or head here for rental information.