August 29, 2005

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says that more deaths generally occur after a hurricane than during the storm. The problem is that people are in a hurry to clear limbs, check on flooded property and drive through high water. 


Electrocutions, drownings and chain saw accidents become predictable. Here is a checklist for people who are re-entering a flooded home. Even if you are not in the hurricane zone, bookmark this page for future use.  


Let’s start with some other basics:

Hurricanes often cause power outages. Indoor use of portable generators, charcoal grills or camp stoves can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Here are some steps for how families can protect themselves from carbon monoxide poisoning.


There is no doubt that the floods will flush out all sorts of critters who will be in an ugly mood if they encounter people. Here are some tips for dealing with wild and domestic animals.

The following is a list of resources from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and its National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health that may be helpful to cleanup workers after a hurricane.


Inside the Home


From the Gulf Coast to Tennessee, we will see floods from this storm. The CDC has some tips for cleanup after a flood:

When returning to your home after a hurricane or flood, be aware that flood water may contain sewage. Protect yourself and your family by following these steps:

    • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.

    • Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves and goggles during cleanup of affected area.

    • Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as: mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings and most paper products).

    • Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.

    • Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.

    • Help the drying process by using fans, air conditioning units and dehumidifiers.

    • After completing the cleanup, wash your hands with soap and water. Use water that has been boiled for one minute (allow the water to cool before washing your hands).

      • Or you may use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (solution of 1/8 teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use a solution of 1/4 teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.

    • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.

    • Wash clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent. It is recommended that a laundromat be used for washing large quantities of clothes and linens until your onsite waste-water system has been professionally inspected and serviced.

    • Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.

See also: Protect Yourself from Mold

Flood Insurance


Of course, homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. That is why we have the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It takes 30 days after purchase for a policy to take effect, so it’s important to buy insurance before the floodwaters start to rise.


Even if you do not live in the hurricane zone, the events there might be a reason for you to tell your public about how this program works and what your flood risks are. You can enter an address right here and discover your flood zone/risk. FEMA says:

  • Federal disaster assistance is usually a loan that must be paid back with interest. For a $50,000 loan at 4 percent interest, your monthly payment would be around $240 a month ($2,880 a year) for 30 years. Compare that to a $100,000 flood insurance premium, which is about $400 a year ($33 a month).

  • If you live in a low- to moderate-risk community and are eligible for the Preferred Risk Policy, your flood insurance premium may be as low as $112 a year, including coverage for your property’s contents.

FEMA’s flood resources site also has links to tools that allow users to estimate their flood insurance premium and find a list of agents who offer NFIP flood insurance in their area.


More flood insurance resources:


Dry Ice


How to use dry ice in emergencies.



Voice Over Internet Protocol Hurricane Coverage


This is one of the coolest things: listen to the Internet Radio Linking Project, which makes amateur radio reports from the storm area available online.


They have reports coming in from affected areas. These reports often came long before police or journalists could see stuff with their own eyes. Be patient; sometimes there will be long periods of silence. I just run it as background audio on my computer.



Tracking Storm Coverage

Click on this interactive Poynter map, which shows every newspaper and TV station Web site in the path of Katrina’s remnants. 



Citizen Journalism


Lots of sites are asking for pictures from the public, but I have not seen much useful information come in yet.


The (Biloxi, Miss.) Sun Herald hosted a citizens’ blog, which they also turned into an RSS feed. Good for them! This is the most up-to-the-minute of any that I saw. 


The site included this chilling note from a reader:

My parents on second street in Gulfport have 5 feet of water inside their house. They are in the attic. 

And this has been one of the more interesting citizen forums running during the hurricane.


There is a lot of junk on this site, but you will see some interesting photos, too. 


Blogging the Storm


The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, La., did a nice job of blogging the storm minute by minute.  It included this passage: 

The side of the Times-Picayune building facing the Pontchartrain Expressway has taken enough damage to cause some extra discomfort among those sheltered here. Windows blown out in the third floor executive suite have lead to flooding through the ceiling into the company cafeteria — Chez Picayune. 

WLOX in Biloxi gave an account of how that station is managing to keep going.


WDSU-TV in New Orleans kept up a nicely updated blog throughout the ordeal.


WBRZ and The Advocate in Baton Rouge have a converged operation and run a constantly updated news blog.


USA Today’s team covering the storm kept blogging. (which has contributions from Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville and other papers) has a constantly updated blog from all of the sites affected in Alabama.


Miles O’Brien from CNN kept a running blog in which he made this interesting entry:

Louisiana State University Hurricane Center’s Ivor van Heerden just said a real concern is coffins that would be swept away by the floodwaters — which themselves will be laced with a witches’ brew of industrial chemicals. Horrifying image. (Watch video of van Heerden warning about this “toxic gumbo.”) 

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Editor’s Note: Al’s Morning Meeting is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. 

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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