From Hurricane Fiona in the Caribbean to Hurricane Ian in the southeastern U.S., this 2022 Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most catastrophic in years. The New York Times reports that Ian alone caused $67 billion in home property damage across five states.
When you live in a region that’s vulnerable to extreme weather or natural disasters, chances are, you know which precautions to take before a storm hits. But how do you respond in its aftermath, when the skies clear yet the devastation remains? Hurricane clean-up often feels overwhelming, but here’s how to streamline the process as much as possible.
Do: Inspect the Entire Premises and Take Photos of All Damage
Once the hurricane is over, and it’s safe to return home, conduct a thorough inspection of both the interior and exterior. You’ll want to do this in daylight to minimize potential injuries, and it’s a smart idea to take someone else with you if possible. As you walk around the house, search for flooding or water leakage; issues with the HVAC system; damage to the roof, doors, walls, windows, or gutters; ruined valuables; fallen trees or landscape; and other storm-related impacts. Document everything on camera for when you file insurance claims.
Don’t: Forget to Wear Protective Clothes During this Inspection
Inspecting is necessary but can also be hazardous if you don’t have the right safety clothes and gear. So before you re-enter the premises, be sure to protect yourself from the threat of falling debris, sharp objects, or standing water (which can cause electrical shocks and chemical or bacterial exposure). To that end, the CDC recommends you wear the following protective clothes to help ensure both a safe and efficient hurricane clean-up:
- Hard hat and protective eyewear
- Heavy waterproof gloves
- N-95 respirator mask
- Long sleeve shirt and thick pants
- Waterproof boots (with steel toe/insole)
Do: Remove Small Debris You Can Lift Without the Risk of Harm
Most hurricane damage is impractical—or even dangerous—to fix yourself, but there might be some debris you can clear out on your own. For example, removing tree branches strewn across the yard, shingles that have fallen from the roof, or plywood sheets on the windows is safe and easy. As long as the effort is not too strenuous and won’t put you at risk, it’s alright to do what you can within reason. Just be aware of your own limits and save the more intense repairs and heavy lifting for a professional clean-up service (more on that in a minute).
Don’t: Turn on Light Switches or Use Water-Exposed Appliances
Even if the power is working in your area, resist the urge to use electricity if at all possible. If you smell a gas leak or notice water residue in the house, it’s especially vital not to turn on the lights or use any appliances. This includes the A/C unit, oven, dishwasher, microwave, refrigerator, washer or dryer, coffee maker, television, and anything else that runs on electrical or gas power. If these items are wet, a spark could ignite when you turn them on and cause electrocution, housefire, or explosion. The same results can occur if you flick on a light switch.
Do: Hire a Professional Cleaning and Storm Restoration Service
While some of the damage to your home will be visible, other hurricane impacts are harder to see. But the longer these undetectable issues fester, the more problems they’ll create over time. Moisture or water stains can seep into your home’s walls, floors, insulation, and plumbing, which can ultimately cause mold or corrosion. This is why it’s crucial to hire a professional storm restoration and clean-up team that’s certified to perform the following services:
- Expert damage assessment
- Thorough water extraction
- Debris removal and repairs
- Drying and cleaning services
- Restoration to pre-storm condition
Tackle the Aftermath of a Hurricane Just Like a Pro
It’s often tough to predict just how much destruction a hurricane will leave in its wake, but these strategies will keep you as safe as possible when the storm blows over, and the clean-up begins. With global climate disasters on the rise (a 37 percent increase is projected by 2025), it’s more critical than ever to be ready with a plan in the aftermath of extreme weather.