Returning Home after a Hurricane

Although Hurricane Matthew has moved on, it left behind potential dangers South Carolinians must avoid. In the days immediately following a hurricane, serious concerns often remain about flooding, power outages, and health and safety.

DHEC urges you to take precautions as you encounter potential dangers relating to water safety, food safety, animals and insects and a variety of other concerns.

Some people might not be able to return home immediately. Do not attempt to re-enter your neighborhood until authorities have declared the area safe.

We want you to return home safely. Here are some general tips and resources for clean-up when you do:

Clean-Up After the Hurricane

  • Throw away any toys that have touched floodwater.
  • During clean-up, wear gloves and regularly wash hands in clean water (boiled if from private well or under a boil water advisory/notice) with soap.
  • Once all water has been drained from your home, if you are concerned about water damage or mold, call a professional in your area. See the Yellow Pages under Mold Remediation or Water Damage Restoration.
  • You can make a cleaning disinfectant from one cup of bleach combined with five gallons of clean, boiled water. Try to clean any walls, floors or furniture that may have had contact with floodwaters.
  • Upholstered furniture and mattresses should be air dried in the sun and sprayed with disinfectant, if possible.  Steam clean rugs and replace filters in ventilation systems. Flooded items that cannot be cleaned and dried within 24-48 hours should be discarded.

Smell Gas?

  • If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main valve, open all windows, and get out of the house immediately.
  • Do not turn on the electricity, light matches, smoke or do anything that could cause a spark.
  • Immediately notify the gas company as well as your local fire and police departments.
  • Do not return to the house until you are told it is safe to do so.

Handling Electrical Damage

  • If you see frayed wiring or sparks when you restore power, or if there is an odor of something burning but no visible fire, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker.
  • You should follow the instruction provided by your utility company or emergency preparedness agency about using electrical equipment, including power generators. Be aware that it is against the law and a violation of electrical codes to connect generators to your home’s electrical circuits without the approved, automatic-interrupt devices.
  • If a generator is on line when electrical service is restored, it can become a major fire hazard. In addition, the improper connection of a generator to your home’s electrical circuits may endanger line workers helping to restore power in your area. Make sure all electrical equipment and appliances are completely dry before returning them to service. It is advisable to have a certified electrician check these items if there is any question.

Mosquitoes

Protect yourself against mosquitoes that show up heavy rain and might carry viruses: Wear long-sleeved clothing and avoid being outdoors during dusk and dawn. If you must be outside when mosquitoes are active, applying a mosquito repellent – either a spray or wipe – to your skin or clothing will help protect you from bites.  Just make sure to use products containing one of the four active ingredients that have been registered and approved as safe and effective by the EPA.

Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Be sure to rid your property of standing water; empty and turn over any containers around your home that hold water.

More resources for returning home and safety are available on DHEC’s website.

For updates on DHEC hurricane response efforts and updates, visit www.scdhec.gov/HurricaneMatthew.

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