Returning Home

Returning home can be both physically and mentally challenging. Above all, use caution:

  • Keep a battery-powered radio with you so you can listen for emergency updates and news reports.
  • Use a battery-powered flashlight to inspect a damaged home. Note: The flashlight should be turned on outside before entering - the battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.
  • Watch out for animals, especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.
  • Be wary of wildlife and other animals.
  • Use the phone only to report life-threatening emergencies.
  • Stay off the streets. If you must go out, watch for fallen objects; downed electrical wires; and weakened walls, bridges, roads, and sidewalks.


Before you enter your home:

  • Walk carefully around the outside and check for loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage.
  • If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
  • Do not enter if:
    - You smell gas.
    - Flood waters remain around the building.
    - Your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe.


When you go inside your home:

  • Enter carefully and check for damage. Be aware of loose boards and slippery floors.
  • If you smell gas or hear a hissing or blowing sound, open a window and leave immediately. Turn off the main gas valve from the outside and call the gas company.
  • If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, check the electrical system. If possible, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker.
  • If you see roof, foundation, and chimney cracks or if it looks like the building may collapse, leave immediately.
  • If appliances are wet, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. Then, unplug appliances and let them dry out.
  • If pipes are damaged, turn off the main water valve. Check with local authorities before using any water. Pump out wells and have the water tested by authorities.
  • Throw out all food and other supplies that you suspect may have become contaminated or come in contact with floodwater.
  • If your basement has flooded, pump it out gradually (about one third of the water per day) to avoid damage.
  • When opening cabinets, be alert for objects that may fall.
  • Clean up household chemical spills. Disinfect all salvageable items that may have been contaminated by raw sewage, bacteria, or chemicals.
  • Call your insurance agent. Take pictures of damages. Keep good records of repair and cleaning costs.



Local Resources

Visit or check out the Local Resource Section on page Act.16 for a list of rebuilding resources.


Seeking Disaster Assistance

Direct assistance to individuals and families may come from any number of organizations, including:

  • Non-profit organizations
  • Religious organizations
  • Local government
  • State government


In the most severe disasters, the federal government is also called in to help individuals and families with temporary housing, counseling (for post-disaster trauma), low-interest loans and grants, and other assistance. The federal government also has programs that help small businesses and farmers.

The emotional toll that disaster brings can sometimes be even more devastating than the financial strains of damage and loss of home, business, 
or personal property.


Property Damage

If your property is damaged during a disaster, you can apply for grants and assistance. Find a complete list of sources at


Ruined Houses





Try to keep these things in mind:

  • Everyone who sees or experiences a disaster is affected by it in some way.
  • It is normal to feel anxious about your own safety and that of your family and 
close friends.
  • Profound sadness, grief, and anger are normal reactions to an abnormal event.
  • Acknowledging your feelings helps you recover.
  • Focusing on your strengths and abilities helps you heal.
  • Accepting help from community programs and resources is healthy.
  • Everyone has different needs and different ways of coping.
  • It is common to want to strike back at people who have caused great pain.



Signs that an adult may need crisis counseling:

  • Difficulty communicating thoughts
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty maintaining balance in their lives
  • Low threshold of frustration
  • Increased use of drugs/alcohol
  • Limited attention span
  • Poor work performance
  • Headaches/stomach problems
  • Tunnel vision/muffled hearing
  • Colds or flu-like symptoms
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Reluctance to leave home
  • Depression or sadness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Mood-swings and easy bouts of crying
  • Overwhelming guilt and self-doubt
  • Fear of crowds, strangers, or being alone


Contact local faith-based organizations, volunteering agencies, or professional counselors for counseling. Additionally, FEMA and state and local governments of the affected area may provide crisis-counseling assistance.


Kids in a Disaster

Children can be especially vulnerable after a disaster. Learn how to help them cope at


KnoWhat2Do’s kids pages teach kids hazards and introduce them to the emergency supply kit and family plans and drills in a non-frightening way as well. When children are familiar with what can happen, as well as the plans in place to begin recovery, they feel safer. Visit with your child at


This document was prepared under a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Grant Programs Directorate (FEMA/GPD) within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Points of view or opinions expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of FEMA/GPD or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.