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American Red Cross Provides Tools and Guidance for a Safe Return Home


Nearly 9,000 Red Cross workers continue to offer a wide range of support to those affected by the California wildfires. Such services include sheltering and feeding for the displaced, distribution of clean up supplies and mental health support. Additionally, the Red Cross is providing safety guidance and tools for people who have been told by local authorities that they can return home.

The American Red Cross offers the following tips for returning home safely. As always, listen to and follow the instructions of local officials who will have the most specific, up-to-date information for your area.

Use caution entering the burned area because the following hazards may still exist:

* Hot spots that can flare up without warning.
* Damaged, burned, or fallen power poles or lines. Avoid these dangerous poles and wires and immediately report them to authorities.
* Ash pits are holes full of hot ashes created by burned trees and stumps. Watch for ash pits and mark them for everyone’s safety.
* Burned trees - if fire has burned deep into the trunk, or if the roots have been burned, the tree is unstable and could be toppled by wind.

Take the following precautions when entering your damaged home:

* Before you enter, look for broken or damaged gas lines, foundation cracks or other damage. See if porch roofs and overhangs still have all their supports.
* Sniff for gas– leave immediately and then call the fire department if you smell natural or propane gas or hear a hissing noise.
* Check for smoke and embers throughout your home, including the attic.
* Fire can cause circuit breakers to be tripped. If there is no power, check to make sure the main breaker is on. If it is and there is still no power, contact the utility company.
* If you turned off the valves on a propane tank system, contact the propane supplier, and leave the valves closed until the supplier inspects your system.

Pay attention to local air quality reports to protect your health:

* Listen and watch for news or health warnings about smoke.
* Find out if your community provides reports about the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI).
* Follow instructions from public health officials about taking additional safety measures such as proper use of masks.

Take precautions during clean-up:

* Keep children away from hazardous sites.
* Follow public health guidance on safe cleanup of fire ash.
* Wet down debris to minimize health impacts from breathing in particles.
* Wear leather gloves and heavy-soled shoes to protect hands and feet from sharp objects while removing debris.
* When working with plumbing fixtures and sewer piping, wear rubber gloves to decrease exposure to harmful bacteria.
* Materials such as kitchen and bathroom cleaning products, paint, batteries, contaminated fuel, and damaged fuel containers are hazardous and need to be properly handled to avoid risk. Check with local authorities for assistance with disposal.

Make sure your food and water are safe.

* Discard food that has been exposed to heat, smoke, or soot. The high temperatures of fire and its by-products can make food unsafe.
* Watch or listen to your local news for reports on the safety of your water. Do NOT ever use water that you think may be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice, or make baby formula.
* If you are in doubt about the safety of your water, contact your local or state public health department for specific recommendations for boiling or treating water in your area after a disaster.


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