Wear proper protective clothing. Heavy-duty work gloves, hard hats, watertight boots with steel shanks and insoles should be used during cleanup. Earplugs and goggles or face shields should be worn if you are using, or are near, powered equipment such as chain saws, dryers and other dangerous tools.
Be cautious of chemicals. Floodwaters and high winds may have shifted or unearthed chemical containers. Avoid inhaling chemical fumes. Propane gas tanks for barbecue grills blown onto your property could pose a risk of fire and explosion. Notify your local fire department immediately to handle such hazards.
Be alert for animal dangers. Wild or stray domestic pets will be disoriented just like humans after a natural disaster. Do not attempt to corral or make contact with such animals. Call your local animal control office to deal with strays and disoriented pets.
If you are bitten by an animal, seek medical attention immediately.
Watch out for an increased presence of rats and other rodents which may feed off spoiled food or animal carcasses. Contact animal control authorities for information on how to dispose dead animals found on your property.
Don't wade into the water. Standing floodwater on your property may hide a host of dangers including live electrical lines and fecal matter from overflowed sewage lines. Do not let children play in any water or touch objects that may have been exposed to possibly contaminated water.
Be prepared for fire hazards. Always have at least two fire extinguishers at the cleanup site since water supplies may be inoperable and local fire department response may be slow.
Beware of spoiled food. Check all food for mold and other signs of spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.
For more information on food safety concerns following a hurricane, check the Food and Drug Administration's Web site: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fsdisas.html.
Is the water safe? Use only bottled water for eating and drinking until local authorities verify that the public tap water system is safe to use again.
You can purify water by boiling it vigorously — it should be bubbling and rolling for at least one minute. If you can't boil water, add six drops of ordinary, unscented household bleach per gallon of contaminated water and stir well. Let the water stand for 30 minutes before use. Bleach alone will not kill parasitic organisms or make the water potable.
Watch your back. Use teams of two or more people to remove debris and heavy objects that weigh more than 50 pounds.
Beware stress and strain. Limit your cleanup to manageable tasks. Avoid over-exertion and take frequent breaks. Also be aware of signs of emotional distress, common after any natural disaster. Seek support from friends, neighbors, religious and professional organizations.
More safety information and tips can be found at the CDC Web site at http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes.