Hurricane forecasters predict increased hurricane activity over the next 30 years. In the United States, the most hurricane prone areas are in the coastal areas of Florida, Texas, New Orleans, and the Caribbean islands. The two deadliest recorded hurricanes in the United States are (a) the 1900 Galveston storm, which killed 8,000 – 12,000 people, and (b) the 2005 hurricane Katrina, which killed about 1,200 people in the coastal areas of Mississippi and New Orleans.
The damage that a hurricane creates is due primarily to high winds and flooding.
Because hurricanes destroy property and threaten life, it is essential that homeowners heed warnings issued by state governments to evacuate.
After the devastation wreaked by a hurricane is over, what safety precautions should a homeowner take before re-occupying the home? The Red Cross has issued the following guidelines:
- Carry plenty of cash, flashlights, bottled water, and non-perishable foods. Be aware that grocery stores and gas stations may be crowded. Fill your gas tank whenever the opportunity arises.
- Look for rodents, snakes, insects and other animals that may have entered the home.
- Assume that the home will develop mold that will pose health risks.
- Look for visible structural damage, such as cracks to the foundation, exterior damage, and the smell of gas.
- Do not enter the home if it is laden with water.
- Turn off your water and main electric power supply, and do not turn them back on until your home has been inspected.
This article emphasizes that it is essential to have a home inspected by a licensed electrician after a hurricane, because electrical damage is not as easy to detect as structural damage.
After a hurricane, the homeowner should expect the following major warnings:
- State Regulations may prohibit you from entering your home, and your electricity supplier may turn off your power supply until your home has been inspected. Your gas supply may also be turned off.
- A licensed electrician should inspect your home and certify that it is safe before electricity supply is restored. Likewise, a plumber should certify that the home is safe before gas supply is restored.
- Until your home is certified as safe by a licensed electrician,
(a) you should stay away from breaker boxes in flooded basements;
(b) you should not use electrical equipment that became wet during the flood, because you could suffer electric shock;
(c) you should not connect a generator to your home.
To summarize, it is strongly recommended that a licensed electrician inspects your home after a hurricane, and that necessary repairs are made before the home is re-occupied. A good source for obtaining professional advice is U.S. Electrical Services, Inc.