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American Red Cross Urges Caution in New Orleans as Residents Begin to Return Home

Date: 10/9/2005

American Red Cross Urges Caution in New Orleans as Residents Begin to Return Home
National Headquarters
2025 E Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006
Contact: Public Affairs Office
Organization: FOR MEDIA ONLY
Phone: (202) 303-5551

WASHINGTON, Saturday, October 01, 2005 — As floodwaters recede and basic public services resume, some Louisiana residents are finally being allowed to visit their homes to assess damage, collect salvageable belongings and even begin cleanup. As residents return home, safety is a primary concern. The American Red Cross encourages residents to follow all public safety and law enforcement directives.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross is expanding distribution of food, water and cleaning supplies to support residents confronting the destruction and debris left by two hurricanes. Tons of supplies such as gloves, trash bags, brooms and mops, bleach, tarps, dust masks, sun screen and insect repellent, have been already handed out to residents throughout the Gulf Coast and plans are being made for distribution in New Orleans.

On Sunday, six feeding sites will be open in the city of New Orleans, where returning residents can go for food, water and snacks as well as emotional support and basic first aid attention.

Trained Red Cross disaster mental health workers help survivors deal with the emotional toll as they confront the challenges ahead. Experts stress that emotional reactions to scenes of devastation are normal, but usually short-lived, as survivors begin to take concrete steps toward recovery.

Parents should consider leaving children with a relative or friend while the adults make their first inspection of their home in a storm-impacted area. The site may be unsafe for children and the initial scene may be disturbing. Reassurance from a parent who has already calmed down will comfort and guide children in their own reactions.

Tips for post-hurricane safety:

Listen to the authorities – A battery-operated radio will help you stay on top of the local situation. Broadcasts will carry important news from public officials and utilities.
Take basic supplies – You are likely to need a flashlight (no candles!), trash bags, gloves and cleaning supplies. Don’t expect to find stores stocked with these essentials, so bring them with you. You may need cash for unexpected expenses, so be prepared.
Perimeter check – Check the home by walking around outside before entering. Look for loose power lines or gas leaks from the outside first and report them. If there are cracks around the foundation, contact a home construction professional to inspect the home.
Air out – Open windows and doors to air out a home for at least 30 minutes before entering. Mold, which grows quickly after flooding, often smells musty or has a stench. If inhaled, mold can cause an asthma attack, stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing or skin irritation. Flood waters can also carry contaminants which decay and release odors.
As you enter a home, check for sagging ceilings, weak floors and other structural damage.
Check for gas – Use a flashlight. Do not use an open flame, candles or lighter. If you smell gas, leave the building immediately and call the fire department or utility company.
Electricity – Turn off the power or circuit breaker with a dry stick to prevent shock while inspecting for damage. Wait until appliances are thoroughly dry before turning them on.
Sewer and water – If sewers have overflowed or water supplies have been contaminated do not run water faucets or flush toilets. Assume that anything touched by floodwaters is contaminated. Wear gloves and wash hands or use antiseptic gel frequently. Disinfect everything floodwaters have touched.
Food safety:

If power was out for longer than two days, all food in the refrigerator has spoiled. Discard all food from the refrigerator and any food, cans or capped bottles that have been covered by floodwater. Food in the freezer that still has ice on it may be usable, but if it has thawed or reached a temperature above 40 degrees, it must be discarded.
Water safety:

Drink plenty of water – About eight glasses a day.
Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated drinks – They can dehydrate and make a person thirstier.
Drink bottled water until you know the water supply is safe.
You can use water stored in a bath tub for cleaning or flushing the toilet, but not for drinking or cooking.
For additional information on returning home after a hurricane or flood or for general hurricane preparedness information, visit www.redcross.org. Your local Red Cross chapter also has printed materials on these subjects.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of recents disasters and thousands of other disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation.