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Now the recovery begins

STILLWATER, Okla. – After destructive natural disasters, families can be left with the daunting task of cleaning up and, ultimately, rebuilding.

“Recovering from any major disaster can be difficult, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist. “There’s no question people will eventually rebuild their homes and lives, but it will take time and patience.”

As a first step, affected families should wait for an all clear notice from emergency professionals before returning to their property.

Also, before returning to any potentially damaged property, sketch out a plan of action, including identifying priorities for the most important tasks that should be accomplish first.

“Taking the time to think about how you want to approach the recovery process also will give you a chance to try to mentally prepare for the conditions you could face,” Peek said.

Dress appropriately in protective clothing covering the arms, legs, feet and hands. Safety equipment could include disposable masks, rubber gloves, eye protection and boots or thick soled shoes.

Before entering any structure, inspect the outside of the home. For example, look at the foundation, roof and chimney for damage.

“Always visit the disaster site during the daylight hours, and when entering the area, drive and walk cautiously. Scattered debris could be unstable,” Peek said. “If you have any doubts about the safety of the building or structure, seek professional help before entering the structure.”

If it is safe to go inside the building or residence, carefully clean up. Look for any dangerous items, such as medicines, as well as household chemicals that may have spilled.

Snakes, rodents and other animals could pose hazards around disaster areas so it is important to wear gloves and use a sturdy stick to poke through debris. Also, watch for nails, splinters and sharp- and ragged-edged objects.

Take care to avoid downed power lines. If there are sparks, broken or frayed wires are visible or if something smells like it is burning, leave immediately. Alert emergency personnel for assistance.

In the event there is a smell of gas or there is a hissing or blowing sound, open a window and leave immediately.

Turn off the main gas valve from the outside, if possible, and contact the gas company from a neighbor’s residence.

“Keep in mind if you shut off the gas supply at the main valve, you will need a professional to turn it back on,” Peek said. “Avoid smoking or using oil, gas lanterns, candles or torches for lighting inside a damaged home until you’re sure there’s no leaking gas or other flammable material present.”

Also, always follow the direction of emergency personnel and health officials

“Become familiar with any regulations aimed at protecting the community against potential disease outbreaks,” Peek said. “If you suspect any violations, report them immediately to the appropriate authorities.”

Finally, families should take their time working through the clean up process.

“Pace yourself and watch closely for signs of stress in family members,” Peek said. “If it gets to be too much for you or other family members, don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek professional assistance.”

For more information, contact the nearest county Extension office.


Leilana McKindra
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
158 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-6792
Fax: 405-744-5739

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078