Venturing outside or returning home after a disaster has occurred, can be both physically and mentally challenging. Knowing what you can expect to see and deal with may help you adjust to the aftermath.
Things you can expect following an event include:
- Debris – and lots of it.
- Possible damage to your home and/or contents.
- Possible fallen power lines.
- Road closures.
- Emergency services and response groups working to assess and repair damage and provide assistance to the community (based on priority of greatest need).
- Possible loss of power and telecommunications.
- Limited or no access to essential services, local businesses and supplies.
- If you have evacuated, it may be some time before Emergency Services declare it safe for you to return home.
- Displaced animals.
What to do after an event
After an event, it is essential to ensure the safety of yourself and your family before commencing clean up or trying to assist others. Here are some tips for keeping you and your family safe:
- Do not venture outside until you have heard the official word that the cyclone has passed. The calm may just be the eye or the cyclone may turn and hit your area a second time.
- Avoid entering floodwaters on foot or in a vehicle.
- Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream on foot if the water is above your knees.
- Continue to listen for weather warnings and advice. The cyclone may redevelop or change direction threatening your area again. Flooding is also likely. Officials will issue public safety notices on such things as contaminated water supplies.
- If you had to evacuate, do not return home until advised, then use the route recommended.
- Check to see if neighbours, especially those with special needs, require assistance. Help injured or trapped neighbours. This will help relieve the strain on emergency services, who will be stretched to the limit. If the situation is life threatening, call ‘000’.
- Be wary of fallen power lines and notify Ergon Energy. Treat all power lines as live and keep your distance.
- Look for fire hazards, mainly broken or leaking gas lines and gas cylinders.
- If there is a sewage overflow on your property, notify the council.
- Take pictures of the damage to your home for evidence in insurance claims.
- If the power has been out for some time, perishable food may have started to go off. Throw out any food that were exposed to floodwater.
- Do not drink or prepare food with tap water until authorities have advised supplies are safe.
- Use the telephone only for emergency calls. Arrange to have one family member or friend outside of the impacted area call others to let them know of your situation. Demands on the telephone network for emergency calls will be high and parts of the system may be damaged.
- Do not use electrical appliances, which have been wet until they are checked for safety.
- If your home has become uninhabitable due to cyclone damage, contact your local Council to identify where you can seek further assistance.
- Throw away any food that has been exposed to flood waters.
- Pump out flooded basements gradually to avoid structural damage.
- Check the fridge and freezer for spoilage.
Following an emergency such as flood, severe storm, cyclone, fire or power failure, there is a danger that any food you have may no longer be safe to eat.
Food safety after a flood or cyclone
Following an emergency such as flood, severe storm, cyclone, fire or power failure, there is a danger that any food you have may no longer be safe to eat. It is recommended to dispose of:
- Food that has come into contact with floodwater.
- Food that has an unusual odour, colour or texture.
- Refrigerated food including perishable food ( such as meat, poultry, fish or dairy products) that have been left unrefrigerated or above 5°C for more than four hours.
- Frozen food. After 48 hours if the freezer is full of food or after 24 hours if the freezer is only half full. If frozen food has partially thawed, the food should be eaten as soon as possible.
- Canned food where the can is open, swollen or damaged, or has a missing or damaged label such that the food cannot be identified.
- Food containers with screw caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soft drink bottles), twist caps, and flip top lids.
After a power failure
It is useful to make a note of the time the power failed.
- Keep it cold!
- If the power supply is off for more than four hours, food in refrigerators can spoil. Keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible while the power is off. A closed refrigerator should keep food cold for 4 hours. If food that is meant to be in the refrigerator is allowed to warm for 2 hours or more, avoid eating it.
- Freezers will usually not defrost and allow food to spoil for at least 24 hours, provided the door has been kept shut. If frozen foods have thawed, they should not be refrozen but should be kept cold and eaten as soon as possible.
- If you have access to a good supply of ice, it is possible to fill your refrigerator and freezer to help maintain the temperatures of food.
- Keep it hot!
- Throw out food that was being cooked when the power failed if cooking cannot be completed properly within two hours: if food is already properly cooked, you should ensure it is eaten within two hours or thrown out.
- Remember: If In Doubt – Throw it Out!
Queensland Health has a variety of fact sheets with detailed information on food safety. Fact sheets can be accessed from the Queensland Health website at www.health.qld.gov.au.