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Q&A: Riding Out the Storm Safely

How to Stay Safe in Hurricane Sandy's Aftermath

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Q: What about water? If we run out, what supplies can we tap?

Use ice, soft drinks, and fruit juices as water substitutes. Remember that older adults, nursing mothers, and children need more water than others.

Check hidden sources of water: the hot water tank, water in the plumbing, the reservoir toilet tank (not the bowl). These water supplies need to be disinfected, however.

To disinfect by boiling, bring water to a rolling boil for one or two minutes, then cool. If you have no power, disinfect with bleach. Bleach will kill some but not all organisms that could be in the water. Add eight drops to a gallon. Stir, then let stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for disinfection.

If you have iodine tablets, follow package directions. Be sure their expiration date has not passed.

Q: What precautions do I need to take for medications that need refrigeration, such as insulin or reconstituted drugs?

If power has been out for a lengthy period, thrown them out. However, if you have no way to obtain new supplies and the medicine is crucial, such as insulin, continue to take it until you can get fresh supplies.

Pills that have gotten wet from flood waters should be discarded, as they could be contaminated.

Q: What about the risk of hypothermia, a dangerous drop in body temperature?

If you are without heat and the temperature drops, first close off rooms you don't need.

If you have a fireplace, or wood stove, be sure it is adequately vented to the outdoors. Don't use propane in the house to stay warm.

Dress in layers. Use blankets. Wear a hat to keep body heat up. Be especially sure elderly family members and infants follow these measures. They are more vulnerable to hypothermia.

Q: If water gets into my house, how do I avoid electrocution?

If flooding is likely, turn off natural gas and electricity. If you don't have a chance to do that and the basement floods, do not enter the basement. If any electrical wires are in contact with the water, electric shock can occur.

Call the electric company immediately.

Q: Is it OK to use a portable generator?

Generators should only be operated outdoors, as carbon monoxide can build up and cause lethal poisoning if used indoors. Only use the generator in a dry outdoor location, which may be impossible in the hurricane's aftermath.

Q: What about reducing the risk of mold?

As soon as possible, get standing water out of your house. Remove standing water by using a mop, pail, or a wet/dry shop vac, if you have power. Open the windows. If you have a fan and power, use it to help reduce remaining moisture.

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