TRENTON, N.J.–Repairing or rebuilding your home following Superstorm Sandy can be a complicated and expensive process, but having your home thoroughly inspected and making all necessary repairs are critical components of the recovery process.
While much of the damage from a storm such as Sandy is visible to the naked eye, hidden damage may exist that can pose a safety hazard to residents and/or compromise the integrity of the structure.
If you are living in your home while you are repairing it, are preparing to move back in and are about to begin repairs, be sure to follow these guidelines to protect your family:
Look for any external damage
Examine the foundation, roof and chimney of the structure for cracks or other damage. The presence of cracks does not necessarily mean an unsafe structure and may be unrelated to the storm. If necessary, contact a building design professional to evaluate your building and make a determination. If you have reason to believe that your home is not safe to occupy, the local building inspector could perform an inspection.
Thoroughly check your electrical system
Floodwater contaminants can create serious fire hazards if electrical wiring and equipment have been submerged in water. Even with professional cleaning and drying, sediments and toxins are difficult to remove. It is not always necessary to replace all of the wiring, but it is recommended that you have a qualified electrical contractor evaluate the condition of:
- Circuit breakers and fuses
- All electrical wiring systems
- Light switches, thermostats, outlets, light fixtures, electric heaters and ceiling fans
- Furnace burner and blower motors, ignition transformers, elements and relays for furnaces
- Hot water tanks
- Washing machines, dryers, furnaces, heat pumps, freezers, refrigerators, dehumidifiers, vacuums, power tools, exercise equipment and similar pieces
- Electronic equipment, including computers and home entertainment systems
Keep generators outside
If your building is without power and you plan to install a backup system, use generators or other fuel-powered machines outdoors only. Such machines emit deadly carbon monoxide fumes which are odorless and can quickly overwhelm you if they are used indoors.
Conduct a thorough inspection for mold
Flooding causes dampness where mold, mildew and various organisms thrive. It can grow unnoticed in hidden areas such as above ceilings, behind walls, in attics and basements or crawl spaces.
Exposure to mold can pose a health risk, particularly for infants, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions such as allergies or asthma.
Because mold feeds on cellulose, which is a component of many building materials, it can break down studs and joists, causing extensive property damage.
Wear gloves and a mask to protect yourself from mold spores that may be released while you are cleaning, and be sure to follow directions when using cleaning products.
The New Jersey Department of Health has released Mold Guidelines for New Jersey Residents recovering from Superstorm Sandy. To receive a copy of Mold Guidelines for New Jersey Residents, call (609) 826-4950 or download a copy online atnj.gov/health/er/hurricane_recovery_resources.shtml.
Avoid Scam Artists
As you plan long-term repair and rebuilding projects, be aware that natural disasters can bring out criminals who prey on disaster victims by offering fraudulent services. The state Division of Consumer Affairs in the Attorney General’s Office licenses home improvement contractors, which is intended to provide protection for homeowners. For assistance filing a complaint, or to check on the complaint history of a business, call the DCA Consumer Service Center at (973) 504-6200.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
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