At some point, the threat of a storm—whether it be a hurricane, tornado, or just a bad thunderstorm—has likely sent you into a panic. You may, perhaps, have friends or family who live in places that were hit by troublesome storms in the past. Regardless of where you live, it is very important to know how to cope with any damage or safety hazards presented by storm devastation. Avoid the following common mistakes in order to ensure you and your loved ones stay safe during and after a storm.

Ignoring Safety Hazards in Your Home

Leaving broken glass or exposed nails out in the open. If any damage done to your home creates a safety hazard, such as a broken window, do your best to clean up the mess so that no one is injured. If cleaning up the hazard seems too dangerous, do your best to contain it to a small area, and keep others away from the threat.

Lighting candles or matches in areas that could be flammable. When the power is out, it may be tempting to use a match or candle for light. This seems like an easy solution, but if it is dark and hard to see what damage the storm may have done, it is safest to use a flashlight. If there is any kind of gas leak, you may unintentionally cause a fire by lighting a match in a flammable area; battery-powered flashlights eliminate this risk.

Disregarding strange odors. On the topic of gas leaks, trust your nose. If you notice any scent that is out of the ordinary, do not stay in your home. A burning smell could signify an electrical problem, and you should shut off the home’s power at the main circuit breaker. Other odors could point to gas or water leaks. If leaving a home due to an odor, be sure to notify the proper authorities of the suspected issue.

Venturing Outside Too Soon

Driving before roads have been cleared. With the storm over, you are probably itching to go outside, start cleaning things up, and get back to your normal, day-to-day activities, but do not attempt to drive until authorities have given your area the all clear. Driving before power lines have been repaired and debris has been removed creates danger. Additionally, if you try to go out too early, the places you plan to go to may not have regained power yet.

Being exposed to fallen power lines. It is of the utmost importance that you stay away from any fallen or damaged power lines. These obviously present a high risk of electrocution, and this risk is amplified by the presence of water, which is very common after a storm.

Playing in flooded water. A flooded street or cul-de-sac may look like a fun river or lake to play in, but the accumulated water presents a multitude of risks. The water could be contaminated or exposed to wires, which could cause electrocution. No matter how tempting the water looks, keep your children inside and away from it.

Hiring a Contractor Without Taking the Proper Precautions

Forgetting to take pictures or video of damage prior to repair. Take extensive photos or videos of every inch of damage caused by the storm. Having documented evidence protects you from being taken advantage of by insurance companies or shady contractors. Without proof, it may be hard to back up any claim of fraud.

Failing to check all the proper credentials. Unfortunately, there are many disreputable contractors out there, and an area with many people suffering from storm damage provides them with an opportunity to prey on desperation. Many people facing costly repairs jump at low prices only to fall victim to a bait-and-switch situation. Others are eager to return to normalcy and hire the first person available. Regardless of how desperate you are to get repairs done, do not choose a contractor without doing your research. Keep a copy of the Best Pick Reports handy, or visit our website for a list of some of the most reputable contractors in your area.

Knowing what not to do in an after-storm situation is just as important as taking the proper precautionary steps beforehand. Commit to protecting yourself, your family, and your property by avoiding the risky behavior outlined in this article.

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Sources: Federal Allegiance for Safe Homes; National Weather Service.

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