Hurricanes: before, during, after
Always call 911 if you are in immediate danger and need emergency help.
Below, see EPA information for protecting health and the environment:
- Prepare for a hurricane - things you can do to get ready to minimize dangers or expected problems.
- Recover from a hurricane - safety around generators, after flooding, mold cleanup and more, for homes, schools, and facilities.
- Public Service Announcements (PSAs) - audio messages on flood water, carbon monoxide, hazardous materials and other safety precautions. These messages may be downloaded and freely re-broadcast or re-posted.
Other sites related to preparedness
- Read more: "NOAA predicts active 2013 Atlantic hurricane season"
- National Weather Service: Hurricane Prediction Center
- Ready.gov: Prepare for a hurricane
Make any preparations that can minimize injury and property damage. Households, utilities, and businesses should plan for disaster before hurricane season starts, or make any possible preparations when a hurricane is predicted.
Drinking water and food:
- Make a kit of supplies. Keep at least a 3-day water supply per person -and don't forget pets. What you can do to protect your household well.
- Prepare food supplies for an emergency. Get a fridge thermometer to be sure of safe storage temperatures if you lose electricity. Freeze extra containers of water ahead of time. Use ice chests in case power is out for more than four hours.
Water and wastewater systems
- Suggested pre-hurricane activities to help facilities prepare.
- Water resiliency planning tools for communities.
Planning for disaster debris:
Damage from a hurricane depends on the size, extent, and other factors. Damage debris can include destroyed structures, hazardous waste, green waste, or personal property. More information
This guide highlights the need for communities to plan ahead for debris cleanup after a major natural or man-made disaster, plus case studies. Read a printable version (PDF) (94 pp 1.9 MB, about PDF).
Chemical or fertilizer storage:
Properly designed or modified storage facilities enhance worker safety and minimize the risk contamination.
Summary of regulatory requirements related to shutdown operations - For complex industrial processes, shutdown operations require special care beyond normal operations. Facility owners and operators are required to minimize chemical releases during process shutdown operations; and if reportable releases occur, they must be reported immediately upon constructive knowledge of occurrence. Read more about applicable regulations: Reminder to minimize process shutdown-related releases and report releases in a timely manner.
Other sites related to recovery
- Ready.gov & FEMA:Hurricanes before, during, after
Recover after a hurricane.
ALERT: Generator exhaust is toxic. Always put generators outside well away from doors, windows, and vents. Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas. Carbon monoxide (CO) is deadly, can build up quickly, and linger for hours. More information
Report suspected spills, contamination or possible violations.
- To report oil,chemical, or hazardous substance releases or spills, call the National Response Center 800-424-8802.
- Report a suspected environmental violation on EPA's reporting page.
- Limit contact with flood water. Flood water may have high levels of raw sewage or other hazardous substances. Early symptoms from exposure to contaminated flood water may include upset stomach, intestinal problems, headache and other flu-like discomfort. Anyone experiencing these and any other problems should immediately seek medical attention.
- What do I do about water from household wells after a flood? Do not turn on the pump due to danger of electric shock. Do not drink or wash with water from the flooded well until it is tested and safe to use. Read more.
- What do I do with my home septic system after a flood? Do not use the sewage system until water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house. If you have a home-based or small business and your septic system has received chemicals, take extra precautions to prevent contact with water or inhaling fumes. Proper clean-up depends on the kinds of chemicals in the wastewater. Read more
- Mold cleanup: Mold can cause serious health problems. The key to mold control is moisture control. After the flood, remove standing water and dry indoor areas. Remove and discard anything that has been wet for more than 24-48 hours.
- Basic mold hazards
- Mold cleanup in schools and commercial buildings. Information for building managers, custodians, and others who are responsible for commercial building and school maintenance.
- More about mold from Centers for Disease Control
Boil Drinking Water
If your water may not be safe, bring drinking water to a rolling boil for 1 minute to kill water-borne diseases.
Drinking water and food
- Boiling water information– To kill all major water-borne bacterial pathogens, bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute. Boil 3 minutes at elevations above 5280 ft (1 mile or 1.6 km). Getting and disinfecting drinking water.
- Dehydration danger for older adults– Make sure older adults have enough water to drink. Older adults may feel thirsty less, and dehydration can be life threatening to an elderly person.
- Keep food safe during an emergency Don't test spoiled food by tasting it!
Home or facilities wastewater:
Pesticides, chemical and oil spills, hazardous waste:
- Call the National Response Center 1-800-424-8802 (24 hours a day every day). For those without 800 access, please call 202-267-2675.
- Industries and businesses that encounter spills or discharges in the aftermath should contact the National Response Center immediately. You or your organization may have legal requirements for reporting or for taking other actions, depending on the spill.
- National Pesticide Information Center: 1-800-858-7378. Pesticide contacts
- Report spills or environmental violations
What to do 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. How a community manages disaster debris depends on the debris generated and the waste management options available. Burying or burning is no longer acceptable, except when permission or a waiver has been granted, because of the side effects of smoke and fire from burning, and potential water and soil contamination from burial. Typical methods of recycling and solid waste disposal in sanitary landfills often cannot be applied to disaster debris because of the large volume of waste and reluctance to overburden existing disposal capacity. More information on disaster debris.
Renovation and rebuilding
Lead-safe work: By law, contractors need to use lead-safe work practices on emergency renovations on homes or buildings built before 1978. Activities such as sanding, cutting, and demolition can create lead-based paint hazards. Lead-contaminated dust is harmful to adults, particularly pregnant women, and children.
- Important information about post-disaster renovations and lead-based paint
- Ways to protect against lead-based paint hazards
Asbestos: Anyone working on demolition, removal, and cleanup of building debris needs be aware of any asbestos and to handle asbestos materials properly. People exposed to asbestos dust can develop serious lung health problems including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Although the use of asbestos has dramatically decreased in recent years, it is still found in many residential and commercial buildings and can pose a serious health risk.
- More about the dangers of exposure to asbestos
- Asbestos Standard for the Construction Industry, from OSHA