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Hurricanes

ALWAYS CALL 911 if you are in immediate danger and need emergency help.

EPA information for protecting health and the environment:

Information about EPA's response:

Prepare for a hurricane

See also: Flooding

Make any preparations that can minimize injury and property damage. Households, utilities, and businesses should plan for disaster before hurricane season starts, or make any possible preparations when a hurricane is predicted.

Drinking water:

Water and wastewater systems

Planning for disaster debris:

Damage from a hurricane depends on the size, extent, and other factors. Damage debris can include destroyed structures, hazardous waste, green waste, or personal property. More about disaster debris planning

This guide highlights the need for communities to plan ahead for debris cleanup after a major natural or man-made disaster, plus case studies. Read a printable version

Chemical or fertilizer storage:

Properly designed or modified storage facilities enhance worker safety and minimize the risk contamination.

Summary of regulatory requirements related to shutdown operations - For complex industrial processes, shutdown operations require special care beyond normal operations. Facility owners and operators are required to minimize chemical releases during process shutdown operations; and if reportable releases occur, they must be reported immediately upon constructive knowledge of occurrence. Read more about applicable regulations: Reminder to minimize process shutdown-related releases and report releases in a timely manner.

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Recover after a hurricane

ALERT: Generator exhaust is toxic. Always put generators outside well away from doors, windows, and vents. Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas. Carbon monoxide (CO) is deadly, can build up quickly, and linger for hours. More information.

See also: Flooding

Report suspected spills, contamination or possible violations.

  • To report oil,chemical, or hazardous substance releases or spills, call the National Response Center 800-424-8802.
  • Report a suspected environmental violation on EPA's reporting page.

Flooding

  • Limit contact with flood water. Flood water may have high levels of raw sewage or other hazardous substances. Early symptoms from exposure to contaminated flood water may include upset stomach, intestinal problems, headache and other flu-like discomfort. Anyone experiencing these and any other problems should immediately seek medical attention.
  • What do I do about water from household wells after a flood? Do not turn on the pump due to danger of electric shock. Do not drink or wash with water from the flooded well until it is tested and safe to use. Read more about household wells.
  • What do I do with my home septic system after a flood? Do not use the sewage system until water in the soil absorption field is lower than the water level around the house. If you have a home-based or small business and your septic system has received chemicals, take extra precautions to prevent contact with water or inhaling fumes. Proper clean-up depends on the kinds of chemicals in the wastewater. Read more
  • For water and wastewater facilities: Suggested post-hurricane activities to help facilities recover.

Mold

Drinking water

Home or facilities wastewater

Pesticides, chemical and oil spills, hazardous waste:

  • Call the National Response Center 1-800-424-8802 (24 hours a day every day). For those without 800 access, please call 202-267-2675.
  • Industries and businesses that encounter spills or discharges in the aftermath should contact the National Response Center immediately. You or your organization may have legal requirements for reporting or for taking other actions, depending on the spill.
  • National Pesticide Information Center: 1-800-858-7378. Pesticide contacts
  • Report spills or environmental violations

Managing debris

Disasters can generate tons of debris, including building rubble, soil and sediments, green waste (e.g.., trees and shrubs), personal property, ash, and charred wood. How a community manages disaster debris depends on the debris generated and the waste management options available. Burying or burning is no longer acceptable, except when permission or a waiver has been granted, because of the side effects of smoke and fire from burning, and potential water and soil contamination from burial. Typical methods of recycling and solid waste disposal in sanitary landfills often cannot be applied to disaster debris because of the large volume of waste and reluctance to overburden existing disposal capacity.

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Renovation and rebuilding

Lead-safe work: By law, contractors need to use lead-safe work practices on emergency renovations on homes or buildings built before 1978. Activities such as sanding, cutting, and demolition can create lead-based paint hazards. Lead-contaminated dust is harmful to adults, particularly pregnant women, and children.

Asbestos: Anyone working on demolition, removal, and cleanup of building debris needs be aware of any asbestos and to handle asbestos materials properly. People exposed to asbestos dust can develop serious lung health problems including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Although the use of asbestos has dramatically decreased in recent years, it is still found in many residential and commercial buildings and can pose a serious health risk.

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