What are the hazards of severe storms and floods?
Coastal storms, hurricanes and floods can result in such immediate health and safety hazards as:
- Falling trees and debris
- Exposure to wind, rain and cold
- Area power outages
- Electrical hazards
- Raw sewage
- Natural gas leaks due to broken gas mains
- Standing water
- Contaminated food and drinking water
- Trip and fall hazards
- Communication systems out of service
How can I prepare for a storm or flood?
- Stay informed on the progress of the storm through local TV, radio and internet broadcasts. Follow instructions from city officials given during broadcasts.
- Determine if you are in an evacuation zone and follow all directions to prepare for evacuation (i.e., prepare a ‘go bag’). Have a supply of your prescription drugs and health and hygiene supplies such as toiletries and a first aid kit.
- Have a battery operated radio available with fresh batteries.
- Have a flashlight available with fresh batteries and an extra set of batteries.
- Buy foods that require no refrigeration and little or no preparation for cooking. Have a supply of food and water for a minimum of three days.
- Keep an appliance thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer in the event of a power outage.
- Move your outdoor furniture, trash cans, flower pots, etc. indoors or secure them so that they cannot become dangerous objects in strong winds.
- Have an evacuation plan for your pet. Ideally, you should arrange to shelter pets at a kennel or with friends or relatives outside the evacuation area. Service animals that assist people with disabilities are allowed in shelters. The NYC emergency shelter system may accept pets, but you will be responsible for their care. You can find information on caring for your pets during an evacuation.
What should I do during the storm?
- Stay indoors or at an evacuation shelter if told to evacuate.
- Stay away from windows that may break from strong winds.
- Refrain from using telephones or electrical items like a computer or television during a lightning or thunderstorm.
- Follow local news broadcasts for instructions.
What should I do after the storm?
Food and Water
- If your power is out or was out for several hours or longer, the food in your refrigerator and/or freezer may not be safe to eat. Generally, food in a closed refrigerator will remain cold for 4 to 6 hours if it is unopened. If any perishable food (meat, poultry, fish, leftovers) in the refrigerator reached a temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more, dispose of it.
- A full freezer will stay frozen for 2 days, a half full freezer will stay frozen for 1 day if the door remains closed. If the food in the freezer thawed and is no longer cold you should dispose of it.
- Foods may be safely cooked and eaten or refrozen if they still contain ice crystals.
- If any food was touched by flood waters, dispose of it. IF IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!
- Listen for public health announcements about the safety of NYC drinking water on the TV or radio. If local authorities inform you that the tap water is unsafe, use your emergency water supplies until instructed otherwise.
- Stay away from deep water and standing water. Flood waters may contain sewage and spilled chemicals as well as sharp debris.
Keep children, pets and people with compromised immune systems away from flooded areas until they have been cleaned and disinfected.
- DO NOT cut down trees or remove other large obstacles that may have fallen in front of your home.
- Keep away from trees and unstable buildings and structures.
- Take precautions to avoid falls, strains, cuts and bruises and get help to lift heavy items.
- Secure ladders and use on level ground.
- Avoid driving vehicles in flooded areas and be careful around obstructions in roadways.
- NEVER touch a fallen power line. Call the power company to report fallen power lines. Avoid contact with overhead power lines during cleanup and other activities.
- If electrical circuits and equipment have gotten wet or are in or near standing water, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician.
- Use flashlights or other battery operated lights. DO NOT use candles.
- Report unsafe conditions to 311.
- Flood waters may contain sewage, so it is important to disinfect contaminated items and keep them from coming into contact with sewage.
- Extensive flooding damage may require cleanup and restoration by professionals.
- Wear waterproof gloves and boots to clean. When finished, disinfect your gloves and boots with a solution of one cup of household bleach added to two gallons of water. Rinse with clear water and allow boots and gloves to dry.
Warning: Never mix bleach with ammonia or detergents containing ammonia products, since dangerous gases may be created.
- Inspect for and remove any standing water near your home to prevent mosquito conditions and mold.
- To help prevent mold growth:
- Remove wet, porous materials and fix any areas where there may be leaks or dampness right away.
- Dry the affected area thoroughly. Use dehumidifiers where possible.
- If there is no power, open the windows and ventilate the area.
- More information on preventing mold growth
- Most surfaces and items can be cleaned effectively with soap or detergent and water. To disinfect materials and surfaces that came into contact with sewage, add one cup of household bleach to two gallons of water.
- Wash your hands, body, and clothing with soap and water after cleanup.
- After a flood, clean and dry affected items as quickly as possible to prevent mold growth
- If there is fuel oil floating on top of the water in a flooded basement (from the oil tank), the oil should be cleaned up before the water is pumped out. If the oil is not removed first, then the floors and walls will be coated with oil as the water is removed.
How Will I Cope?
Storms and floods can be very stressful, especially if it is large scale event. It can disrupt your everyday life and make you and those around you feel less safe. You may experience fear and uncertainty. Learning about stress and strategies to manage it can help you cope.
Prepare Today, Cope Better Tomorrow - Stress during Disasters
provides basic information and practical advice on dealing with the stress and anxiety caused by disasters. It is available in seven languages.
If there is storm or flood affecting the city and you feel overwhelmed and unable to cope, or if you are concerned about someone else, you can find help by calling 1-800 LIFENET. LIFENET is a free, confidential helpline for New York City residents, available 24/7, with trained staff ready to take your calls and offer advice: 1-800-LifeNet 1-800-543-3638 (English), 1-877-Ayudese 1-877-298-3373 (Spanish), 1-877-990-8585 (Chinese), 1-212-982-5284 (TTY).
Where can I get more information?
For more information about coastal storms, visit:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Office of Emergency Management: Coastal Storms & Hurricanes
Office of Emergency Management: Flooding
Health Effects of Coastal Storms and Flooding in Urban Areas