Take Precautions in Your Home After Hurricane Sandy
Look for external damage
Examine the foundation, roof and chimney for cracks or other damage. If obvious damage is found or serious safety doubts exist, contact a building inspector.
Keep generators outside
Those who remain without power should only use generators or other fuel-powered machines outdoors. Such machines emit deadly carbon monoxide fumes, which are odorless and can quickly overwhelm you indoors.
Clean safely and beware of mold
Flooding causes dampness where mold, mildew and various organisms thrive. Mold may induce respiratory problems, so it is important to use proper procedures when cleaning. Use a combination of household bleach and soap or detergent (but never mix bleach with ammonia) to wash down walls and other mold-contaminated areas. You can also open windows and doors and turn on fans to help dry out interiors. For more information about mold, go to: http://www.health.ny.gov/publications/7287/
Avoid Scam Artists
As you plan long-term repair and rebuilding projects, be aware that natural disasters can bring out criminals looking to prey on victims by offering fraudulent services. Among other precautions, get three estimates for repair work, check the credentials of contractors and consult your local Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce to learn about any complaints against the contractors.
Ways to get help:
Register with FEMA for federal disaster assistance
Survivors who haven’t yet registered should call FEMA’s toll-free helpline at 800-621-3362. Lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice, and assistance is offered in most languages. Individuals may register for help online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by smartphone or tablet at m.fema.gov. If you have a speech disability or hearing impairment and use a TTY, call 800-462-7585 directly; call 800-621-3362 if you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS).
“Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP)” Program is in effect
The STEP Program helps restore temporary electricity, heat and hot water by funding emergency residential repairs through local governments for those whose homes can be used to shelter in place while permanent repair work continues. If you live in the five boroughs of New York City, call 311 for information about STEP. If you live in Suffolk County, call 211. If you live in Nassau County, call 888-684-4267.
Expedited partial flood-insurance payments may be available
To allow National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policyholders to remain safely in damaged residences, FEMA in some circumstances is allowing claim payments to be made even before inspections and repair estimates are obtained for equipment that provides heat and hot water. The inspection and report still have to be completed later. For complete details on the accelerated NFIP payment program, policyholders must contact their insurance company or agent.
Low-interest disaster loans from SBA
U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loans are a major source of federal rebuilding funds for homeowners, renters and businesses. Completing a disaster loan application is part of the FEMA grant process. Homeowners and renters may qualify for loans of up to $200,000 for repair or replacement of damaged real estate. Up to $40,000 may be available to repair or replace personal property. Applications can be completed online via SBA’s secure website at https://DisasterLoan.SBA.gov/ELA. More information is available by calling 800-659-2955 (TTY 800-877-8339). Assistance also is available by sending an email to DisasterCustomerService@sba.gov or by visiting www.sba.gov
How to Replace Documents Lost in a Disaster
One of the dire consequences of any disaster for many people is the loss of important documents. Often, such documents are needed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state emergency services in order to process assistance applications for those who suffered losses or damage to their homes and belongings.
If papers are gone – like birth certificates, Social Security cards, drivers’ licenses, tax records, etc. – New York state and FEMA are advising residents on how to recover them:
If you were born within the confines of the five boroughs of New York City, visit or write to the Office of Vital Records, 125 Worth Street, Room 133, New York, N.Y. 10013. (A photo ID is required both by mail and in person.) The office advises the fastest way to get records is online at www.nyc.gov/vitalrecords. The phone number is (212) 788-4520. To download and print an application, log onto http://home2.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vr/birth1.pdf ; to apply online, log onto www.nyc.gov/vitalrecords. If you were born in New York state outside of New York City, log onto www.vitalchek.com or phone 877-854-4481. This will connect you to a company called VitalChek, which is contracted with the state to handle credit-card orders. There are modest fees involved.
Visit any New York Department of Motor Vehicles office. To find an office nearby, log onto www.dmv.ny.gov/index.htm and click on “Replace License or ID.”
Social Security cards:
Call the U.S. Social Security office at 800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST. For TTY users the number is 800-325-0778, or log onto www.ssa.gov/ssnumber for more information.
Federal tax records:
Call the Internal Revenue Service at 800-829-1040, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST, or log onto www.irs.gov.
New York state tax records:
For copies of returns, log onto www.tax.ny.gov/help/contact/how_to_reach.htm. Click on “Get a copy of my return” and fill in the application. You can also apply for a tax-filing and payment extension for those directly affected by Hurricane Sandy at this site.
For copies of your utility bills, bank records, insurance policies, mortgage payments and the like, call the appropriate firm and speak to a customer-service representative.
To prevent further loss of vital documents, place the originals or copies in a sealable plastic bag or other watertight container and secure that container where it is best protected and can easily be located. It is also a good idea to make copies of vital and important documents and mail them to a friend or relative you can trust to keep them safe and retrievable.
Family Disaster Plan
Families should be prepared for all hazards that affect their area and themselves. Follow these basic steps to develop a family disaster plan:
- Learn your community’s warning signals.
- Meet with your family to create a plan. Pick two places to meet: a spot outside your home for an emergency such as fire, and a place away from your neighborhood in case you cannot return home (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school). Choose an out-of-area friend as your family check-in contact for everyone to call if the family becomes separated.
- Implement your plan. Post emergency telephone numbers by the phones. Install safety features in your house such as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Inspect your home for potential hazards and correct them. Have your family learn basic safety and first aid measures. Make sure everyone knows how and when to call 9-1-1 or your local emergency medical services phone number. Have disaster supplies on hand.
Home Emergency Supplies
Winter has arrived and you should stockpile the following supplies in the event a winter storm or power outage prevents you from leaving your home.
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- Battery-operated radio and extra batteries
- Emergency non-perishable foods that do not require refrigeration
- Non-electric can opener
- Bottled water
- One week supply of essential medicines
- Extra blankets and sleeping bags
- First aid kit and manual
- Fire extinguisher
- Emergency heating equipment, used properly
Winterize Your Home
Take the time now to get your home ready for the winter season by following these tips:
- Have your heating system checked by a professional annually. This will ensure that your system is working safely and efficiently which, in turn, will save you money. If you heat by wood, clean your fireplace or stove. Have your chimney flue checked for any buildup of creosote and then cleaned to lessen the risk of fire.
- Make sure your home is properly insulated. If necessary, insulate walls and attic. This will help you to conserve energy and reduce your homes power demands for heat.
- Caulk and weather-strip doors and windowsills to keep cold air out.
- Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside. This will provide an extra layer of insulation, keeping more cold air out.
- Inspect and flush your water heater.
- Clean gutters. Leaves and other debris will hamper drainage.
- Replace batteries of smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors. If you did not do it when you set the clocks back, do it now.
To keep pipes from freezing:
- Wrap pipes in insulation or layers of old newspapers
- Cover the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture
- Let faucets drip a little to avoid freezing
- Know how to shut off water valves
Staying Warm Indoors
If your heat goes out during a winter storm, you can keep warm by closing off rooms you do not need.
- Use only safe sources of alternative heat such as a fireplace, small well-vented wood or coal stove or portable space heaters. Always follow manufacturers instructions.
- Dress in layers of lightweight clothing and wear a cap.
- Eat well-balanced meals.
Losing your heat when winters winds are howling is not pleasant. However, by following these simple tips, you will weather the storm more comfortably.
Protecting Water Pipes
To prevent the mess and aggravation of frozen water pipes, protect your home, apartment or business by following the simple steps below.
Before Cold Weather
- Locate and insulate pipes most susceptible to freezing, typically those near outer walls, in crawl spaces or in the attic.
- Wrap pipes with heat tape (UL approved).
- Seal any leaks that allow cold air inside where pipes are located.
- Disconnect garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.
When It's Cold
- Let hot and cold water trickle at night from a faucet on an outside wall.
- Open cabinet doors to allow more heat to get to un-insulated pipes under a sink or appliance near an outer wall.
- Make sure heat is left on and set no lower than 55 degrees.
- If you plan to be away: (1) Have someone check your house daily to make sure the heat is still on to prevent freezing, or (2) drain and shut off the water system (except indoor sprinkler systems).
If Pipes Freeze
- Make sure you and your family knows how to shut off the water, in case pipes burst. Stopping the water flow minimize the damage to your home. Call a plumber and contact your insurance agent.
- Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch.
- Always be careful of the potential for electric shock in and around standing water.
If The Lights Go Out
If you lose electrical service during the winter, follow these tips:
- Call your utility first to determine area repair schedules. Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored. Leave one light on to indicate power has been restored.
- To help prevent freezing pipes, turn on faucets slightly. Running water will not freeze as quickly.
- Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning:
- DO NOT operate generators indoors; the motor emits deadly carbon monoxide gas.
- DO NOT use charcoal to cook indoors. It, too, can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide gas.
- DO NOT use your gas oven to heat your home -- prolonged use of an open oven in a closed house can create carbon monoxide gas.
- Make sure fuel space heaters are used with proper ventilation.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to help reduce food spoilage.
Electric generators can provide you with piece of mind and convenience when you are faced with a temporary loss of electric service.
Follow these safety guidelines when operating a generator:
- Before installing a generator, be sure to properly disconnect from your utility electrical service. If possible, have your generator installed by a qualified electrician.
- Run generators outside, downwind of structures. NEVER run a generator indoors. Deadly carbon monoxide gas from the generators exhaust can spread throughout enclosed spaces. Install a carbon monoxide detector.
- Fuel spilled on a hot generator can cause an explosion. If your generator has a detachable fuel tank remove it before refilling. If this is not possible, shut off the generator and let it cool before refilling.
- Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Most of the small, home-use portable generators produce from 350 to 12,000 watts of power. Overloading your generator can damage it, the appliances connected to it, and may cause a fire. Follow the manufacturers instructions.
- Keep children away from generators at all times.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent, deadly killer claiming about 1,000 lives each year in the United States. Such common items as automotive exhaust, home heating systems and obstructed chimneys can produce the colorless, odorless gas. The gas can also be produced by poorly vented generators, kerosene heaters, gas grills and other items used for cooking and heating when used improperly during the winter months.
- NEVER run generators indoors. Open a window slightly when using a kerosene heater.
- NEVER use charcoal to cook indoors.
- NEVER use a gas oven to heat your home.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include sleepiness, headaches and dizziness. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, ventilate the area and get to a hospital.
Wood-burning stoves, fireplaces and heaters can add a cozy glow, but make sure you are using them safely.
- Always keep a screen around an open flame.
- Never use gasoline to start your fireplace.
- Never burn charcoal indoors.
- Do not close the damper when ashes are hot.
- When using alternative heat sources such as a fireplace, wood stove, etc. always make sure you have proper ventilation. Keep curtains, towels and potholders away from hot surfaces.
- Have your chimney checked before the season for creosote buildup -- and then clean it.
- Have a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors ... and make sure they work! Establish a well-planned escape route with the entire family.
If you use kerosene heaters to supplement your regular heating fuel, or as an emergency source of heat, follow these safety tips:
- Follow the manufacturers instructions.
- Use only the correct fuel for your unit.
- Refuel outdoors ONLY and only when the unit is cool.
- Keep the heater at least three feet away from furniture and other flammable objects.
- When using the heater, use fire safeguards and ventilate properly.
Remember, the fire hazard is greatly increased in the winter because alternate heating sources often are used without following proper safety precautions.
Clearing Your Roof
As the snow and ice continues to build up, homeowners should think about safety before trying to clear the snow from their roof. Here are some safety tips:
- When possible, use long-handled snow rakes or poles.
- If you must use a ladder, make certain that the base is securely anchored. Ask a friend, neighbor or adult family member to hold the ladder while you climb.
- Know where the snow is going to fall before clearing the area.
- Make certain not to contact electrical wires.
- If possible, do not attempt to clear the roof alone.
- If you are afraid of heights or think the job is too big for you, HIRE HELP.
Clearing roofs is a dangerous task. However, if you think safety, and work safely, you will get the job done.
Dress for the Season
Winter has arrived and you should dress for the season.
- Wear loose, lightweight, warm clothing in several layers. Trapped air between the layers acts as an insulator. Layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and subsequent chill.
- Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent and hooded.
- Always wear a hat or cap on your head since half of your body heat could be lost through an uncovered head.
- Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from extreme cold.
- Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves because fingers maintain more warmth when they touch each other.
Winter storm conditions and cold waves are the deadliest types of weather.
Cold temperatures put an extra strain on your heart. Heavy exertion, such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a car, increase the risk of a heart attack.
To avoid problems, remember these tips:
- Stay warm, dress warm and SLOW DOWN when working outdoors.
- Take frequent rests to avoid over exertion.
- If you feel chest pain -- STOP and seek help immediately.
Winter Sports Safety
New York State offers an abundance of sports activities during the winter season. From skiing and snowboarding to ice climbing, hiking and other outdoor pursuits, parents and children should follow the safety rules of the sport.
- Most importantly, use the proper equipment and check to make sure everything is in proper working condition. A well-fitting ANSI/SNELL certified helmet will assure a safer, more enjoyable wintertime experience whether you are skiing, sledding, snowboarding or skating.
- Dress in multiple, lightweight layers to stay warm and dry while enjoying the outdoors. Check the weather forecast but be prepared for anything.
- If you are heading into the backcountry, never travel alone. Let someone know your route and estimated time of return.
- Skiers and snowboarders should go on runs that are appropriate for their ability. Stay in control at all times and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects. Obey all posted signs and warnings.
- No matter what sport you participate in, always focus 100 percent of your attention on the activity and the terrain you are on. Moreover, rest when you are tired.
Winter is a fun time for children, but it also may be dangerous. Parents should be aware of some simple safety tips for their children when they go sledding or tobogganing:
- Children should never use streets or roads for sledding unless they are blocked off from traffic.
- Children should sled only during daytime hours.
- Do not sled on icy hills. Sledding hills should be only snow covered.
- Avoid sledding over snow bumps or anything that may cause the sled to become airborne.
- Never sled alone. An adult should always accompany small children.
- Children should stay out of the paths of other sledders. In addition, if the slopes become busy, they should move off them quickly.
Parents, if you are sledding with your children, follow these rules yourselves.
Winter is a fun time for children, but it also may be dangerous. Parents should be aware of some simple safety tips for their children when they go ice-skating:
- If possible, skate at areas that have been approved and posted for ice-skating.
- Never skate alone. Always have at least two people present.
- Children should never be allowed to skate on a pond unsupervised.
- Remember ice thickness is never consistent on lakes and ponds. Water currents, particularly around narrow spots, bridges, inlets and outlets are always suspect for thin ice.
- Stay away from cracks, seams, pressure ridges, slushy areas and darker areas that signify thinner ice.
- Never skate after dark.
Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can cause hypothermia, especially in children and the elderly.
Watch for these symptoms:
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor coordination
- Slurred speech
- Uncontrollable shivering, followed by a sudden lack of shivering
If the persons body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, get emergency medical assistance immediately! Remove wet clothing, wrap the victim in warm blankets and give warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated liquids until help arrives.
People working or playing outdoors during the winter can develop frostbite and not even know it. There is no pain associated with the early stages of frostbite, so learn to watch for these danger signs:
- First, the skin may feel numb and become flushed. Then it turns white or grayish-yellow. Frostbitten skin feels cold to the touch.
- If frostbite is suspected, move the victim to a warm area. Cover the affected area with something warm and dry. Never rub it!
- Then get to a doctor or hospital as quickly as possible.
Snow Blower Safety
Do you have a snow blower? Did you know that most snow blower injuries happen because the operator did not read the operating instructions?
So, read your owners manual and follow these tips:
- Never leave your snow blower running and unattended.
- Make sure the discharge chute is not aimed at passing motorists or pedestrians.
- Never put your hands into the discharge chute or augers to clear stuck snow and ice.
- Never add fuel when the engine is running and hot.
- Make sure you know how to turn the machine off quickly