Tropical Storms & Hurricanes: What to do After

Immediately After the Storm

Stay inside until the storm has completely passed. 

It is critically important that you do not attempt to go outside until the winds have calmed down significantly.  Keep in mind, that unlike the start of the storm, there is now a ton of debris out there that can fly around a lot more easily.  This is where keeping your battery operated radio functional is important, so you can hear from forecasters and local officials about when the threat has passed. 

If you evacuated, do not return until local officials say you can. 

Depending on the severity of the storm, you may be better off staying where you are for a while.  There's no point in rushing back to Tallahassee.  There's a good chance you won't be able to make it back anyways with all the trees and power lines down.  Some areas, such as barrier islands, may have specific re-entry requirements.  Be sure to have your identification and proof of residency with you. 

Conduct an initial damage assessment of your immediate area. 

When as safe as possible, take a look around your immediate area to make sure there are no continuing hazards such as live power lines, gas leaks, etc.  If a hazardous condition exists, flee that area immediately.  Seek a safer location elsewhere.  Know where shut-off valves are for electricity, natural gas and water are and turn them off if needed. 

Stay somewhere safe, refrain from sight-seeing. 

Even after the storm passes, there are many additional hazards that can harm you.  Many people are injured or killed walking or driving around after the storm.  Live power lines, gas leaks, dangling tree branches, flooding, damaged roadways and dangerous wildlife (e.g. snakes, alligators) can be life-threatening.  Do not go sight-seeing unneccesarily; the added traffic may prevent essential personnel for getting people who need their help. 

Attempt to contact your family or friends outside the area. 

As soon as possible, contact your family or friends outside the impact area to let them know your condition. 

Stay tuned to local media and emergency officials. 

This will be a critical time for information about ongoing threats, conditions, and sources of assistance.  Continue to follow the advice of emergency officials during this time. 

Do not drink or prepare food with tap water until notified. 

Contamination of the water supply, particularly if you have an on-site well, is possible.  Do not drink or prepare food with tap water, if functional, until notified by officials or until your well has been professionally inspected and tested.  If there is low water pressure, refrain from bathing or using the water for any other purpose.  Water supplies should be reserved for fire fighting. 

Help your neighbors, but refrain from venturing too far. 

Americans are very resilient and known for their willingness to help others after a disaster.  Keep in mind that this may still be a very dangerous time. Refrain from venturing too far from your safe space until authorized by local officials. However, if you are able, check in on your neighbors and lend assistance, if possible.  Be careful to not exceed your knowledge, skills and abilities.  Many well-intentioned volunteers have been injured or killed conducting tasks they are not qualified to do. 

Do not grill or operate gasoline-powered machinery indoors. 

Carbon-monoxide poisoning sickens or kills many people long after the storm has passed.  This is often the result of using generators, charcoal grills, or other gasoline-power equipment in poorly ventilated areas. 

Stay out of flood waters. 

Playing in flood waters might seem like fun.  However, they are many hidden dangers present.  There could be raw sewage, hazardous chemicals, bacteria, dangerous wildlife, and underwater hazards that could severely injure or kill you. 

Refrain from using candles. 

Using candles is very dangerous, for obvious reasons.  Remember, the fire department may not be able to respond to put any fires out. 

Days Afterward

Be prepared for road closures and blockages. 

Although city, county and state transportation officials have plans to clear major roadways quickly, it may still take a few days to get most roads open.  Secondary side streets may take a even longer.   

Be prepared for extended power outages. 

Tallahassee's biggest weakness facing tropical storms and hurricanes is our beautiful tree canopy.  Even a weak to moderate tropical storm can cause extensive trees and power lines down.  Many areas of Tallahassee were without power for over a week after Hurricane Kate, which was barely a category one hurricane when it passed through.  We have had about three decades of tree growth since then.  The stronger the storm, the longer we are likely to be without power in our community. 

Practice food safety. 

It is important to know that perishable foods that have not been adequately refrigerator can cause severe health problems.  Items in a full freezer will stay frozen for about two days with the door kept closed; in a half-full freeze for about one day.  Refrigerated foods can keep for up to four hours.  Discard any perishable refrigerated foods that have been above 40°F for more than two hours.  Discard any foor with an unsual odor, color or texture.  

Contact your insurance company.  Take lots of pictures.

Most major insurance companies will likely send representatives and set up special claims centers for larger events.  If not, attempt to contact your insurance company to start a claim as soon as possible.  Take as many pictures of your personal damage as possible to help justify your claim. 

If it's too bad to stay, leave or seek help elsewhere. 

In some situations, people may find that they underestimated the impacts that a hurricane may have on their homes or lives.  If it's too bad to stay, don't be afraid to leave the area for a while and come back when it's more stable.  You may need to seek shelter or assistance from disaster relief agencies for a while.  This is especially true if you have kids, elderly, people with special needs, or pets in your care.

If there is a federal Presidential Disaster Declaration, contact FEMA as soon as possible. 

If you sustained damage and need assistance from a storm that receives a federal Presidential Disaster Declaration, you are encouraged to contact FEMA as soon as possible to request assistance.  Call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or register online.

Use only licensed professionals for repairs. Beware of scams.

Many people will come out of the woodwork after a disaster trying to make a buck.  Be sure to use only state licensed contractors. If you need help finding a contractor, try the Disaster Contractor's Network.  Beware of fraudulent "up-front" loans that promise immediate cash for repairs while you await a FEMA or insurance claim.  Beware of contractors going door-to-door looking for work, that offer you discounts for finding other customers, "just happen to have" materials left over from a previous job, ask to be paid up-front for a subtantial or full amount, or request to be paid in cash.  Obtain at least three written estimates, as required by most insurance companies. 

Be safe when cleaning up and making small repairs. 

Always use proper safety equipment such as heavy gloves, safety goggles, heavy boots, light-colored long-sleeve shirts and long pants when cleaning up debris or making small repairs. Tie back long hair. Wear a hat and sunscreen. Lift with your legs, not your back.  If you can't tell what it is, don't touch it.  Assume all downed wires are live electrical wires until proven otherwise.  Use the right tools for the job and don't use anything you don't know it works.  Follow manufacturer's instructions on all equipment.  

Stay healthy and safe cleaning up after the storm. 

The biggest thing you need to do after the storm is stay hydrated.  Drink plenty of non-sugary, non-caffeinated, and non-alcoholic fluids throughout the day, but especially when working in the heat.  Rest and take breaks when needed.  Ask for help when the task it too big for you to handle.  Beware of raw sewage, standing flood waters, insects and wildlife.  Use insect repellent. Wash your hands often and use antibacterial hand sanitizer.  Use caution with cleaning chemicals; never mix bleach with ammonia.  

Take care of your pets and beware of stray animals.   

Continue to take care of your own pets with plenty of food, water and medical attention.  Beware that many animals, especially strays, may be very agitated and scared.  They are more prone to attack, bite or scratch.  Use extreme caution when approaching stray animals, no matter how innocent they look.   

Talk to kids. 

A natural disaster is a traumatic experience, but especially for kids.  Take the time from your own situation to talk to kids about their experience and listen carefully to what they have to say. 

Properly dispose of damaged or destroyed property or debris. 

Check with local officials for cleanup instructions before disposing of debris.  You can help get your garbage picked up faster if you separate it into different piles:  yard debris (trees, bushes, leaves, etc);  building materials (shingles, plywood, glass, screens, carpets, etc.);  appliances and electronics;  furniture; and regular bagged garbage (including food). 

Prevent mold and mildew growth. 

First step is to prevent things from getting even more wet; cover openings and prevent leaks.   Elimate puddles of standing water.  Tear out any carpet and padding that was significantly saturated.  If water soaked up into drywall, you may need to have a professional cut parts of it out and replace it.  Get the air moving with fans.  Allow as much sunlight in as possible.  Turn up the air conditioning, if possible.  Dry all wet clothing.  Dispose of any furniture or items with "stuffing" that got wet inside or porous surfaces that cannot be completely cleaned or dried out (e.g. bean bags, couches, and mattresses).  Harder materials such as glass, plastic and metal can be cleaned and disinfected. Learn More>>

Getting Back to Business

How soon after a storm will Florida State University reopen and resume classes?

It all depends on how bad the storm was, how severely campus was damaged, and how quickly the community around us is responding.  Life safety is the first and foremost priority of the University.  We will not reopen or resume operations on campus until all hazards and threats to life safety have been addressed.  This includes having adequate infrastructure (e.g. power and water) to support occupancy.  Another consideration includes the ability of the community around us to support the return of our students and employees.  We will work closely with our community partners to make sure everyone is ready.  

Everything might not be clean, repaired and "normal" when we do reopen. 

Our goal is to resume campus operations as soon as it is safe to do so.  This does not mean that everything will be completely cleaned up, repaired, or restored to pre-storm conditions when we reopen campus.  You may encounter fenced off areas or boarded up buildings, closed or inaccessible areas, and/or limited services.  

Who do we report on-campus damages to? 

If the damage is an immediate threat to life safety, call FSU Police at (850) 644-1234.  Unless instructed otherwise, continue to report any on-campus structural or grounds damages to Facilities at (850) 644-2424.  Report any telecommunications issues to Information Technology Services at (850) 644-HELP (4357). 

Document! Document! Document! 

Did we forget to say: Document?  We cannot stress enough how documenting every minor detail, whether written or photograph, of any on-campus storm-related damages, preparedness or response activities is.  We will need to prove every little nuance when it comes to insurance and FEMA claims.  Include: before and after photos, timesheets, purchase receipts, logs of how long each piece of equipment was used for, etc.  

Some priority functions and services may be restored before others. 

It is possible that some aspects of campus life may not reopen or resume at the time that people are allowed back on campus.  The University will focus its response and recovery efforts on core-critical facilities and functions.  

Will the semester be extended or vacation days cancelled? 

Depending on how long the University was closed and at what point during the semester the closure occurred, rescheduling classes at non-traditional times may be required. 

Some offices, functions and services may be relocated or re-established in temporary facilities. 

Depending on the extent of damages to your office or workspace, it is possible that your function may be relocated to another space on campus or potentially re-established in a temporary structure.  Part of your pre-storm planning should include a list of mission-critical resources you need to resume your job. 

Long-Term Recovery

Who at Florida State University manages insurance and FEMA claims? 

The Department of Environmental Health & Safety, Risk Management Section, will coordinate all insurance and FEMA disaster assistance claims on behalf of the University. 

How long could it take for the University to completely recover?

Depending on the severity of the storm, it can take the University months to years to fully and completely recover after a significant disaster.  Florida State University is still managing some FEMA claims from 2004 and 2005, up to ten years later.  While all the repairs have certainly been completed at this point, the financial and administrative process lingers.