After a Disaster:

Click here for a condensed version of the “Red Guide to Recovery: A Resource Handbook for Disaster Survivors.”

Picture of the cover and the table of contents of the Red Guide to Recovery

This handbook is specific to the San Diego region and was written with support by the County of San Diego, the San Diego Fire Chief’s Association, the County of San Diego’s Office of Emergency Services, and American Red Cross. Save it on to your laptop and tablet for easy access in a disaster.

After the Immediate Threat Passes

  • Perform a safety check of your living quarters, wearing sturdy shoes, gloves and a dust mask or wet handkerchief if damage is extensive.
  • Some chimneys may collapse and others may be weakened and should be approached with caution. Do not use a damaged chimney.
  • If you find damaged electrical wiring, shut off the power at the control box. Do not touch downed power lines. If the power is out, unplug sensitive electronic equipment, such as computers, to protect them from a power surge. Leave a table light on so you will know when power is restored. There is generally no need to turn off the main power switch if there is no damage. To shut off electricity, turn off all small breakers and then shut off the main circuit breaker. For a home equipped with a fuse box, remove all small fuses and then turn off the main using a knife switch handle.
  • Beware of items that may fall out of a cupboard or closet or from shelves.
  • Do not eat or drink anything from open containers near shattered glass. If the power is out, first eat foods that will spoil quickly, such as those in the refrigerator and freezer. Generally, they're safe to eat as long as they're refrigerator-cool. Freezer items may be refrozen if ice chips are still evident. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Operate portable generators outdoors only. Use only with appliances that can connect directly to the generator by extension cords and do not plug a generator into a household outlet. That could send electricity back into the main utility system and cause possible injury.
  • For leaks and spills, check water lines in the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room and the landscaping system. Check the main line connection at the street and house. Turn off the valves as needed. Immediately clean up any spilled medicines, drugs and hazardous materials, such as gasoline or bleach.
  • Check that each telephone is on its receiver. Phones that are off the hook tie up the phone network. Cordless phones may not work if power is out, so have a manual traditional phone available to plug into the wall. Cell phones may not work if towers have been destroyed or the system is disrupted.
  • If you smell natural gas or hear a gas leak, turn off the main valve, using a 10-to 12-inch wrench. Report the leak to SDG&E from a telephone outside your home and request a company technician or a licensed contractor to check for leaks and turn on the gas. Do not turn the gas back on yourself and do not turn on electrical switches until you are sure there is no leak. There is no need to turn off the gas if you do not detect any leaks. When checking your house, use only flashlights, not lanterns, candles or other flammable light sources, which could ignite a gas leak.

Pick Up the Pieces Safely

  • Cleaning homes and yards after a disaster can be a big job. Let professionals handle complicated and dangerous repair work, such as a cracked foundation, downed power lines or gas leaks.
  • Be careful upon entering your home. A sticky door could signal a ceiling ready to fall. If you need to use force, wait a few seconds after opening a door in case debris falls.
  • Wear safety goggles, gloves and hard-sole shoes at all times.
  • Remove water quickly from inside a home with a mop or squeegee to prevent mold and mildew. Floodwaters can contain dangerous oil-based and other hazardous materials, requiring interiors to be disinfected.
  • In sorting through belongings, keep this in mind: When in doubt, throw it out.

In addition, see the Steps to Recovery from American Red Cross below for more information.

Staying Safe in the Immediate Aftermath
Checking Utilities and Major Systems
Checking Your Home: Structural Elements
Recovering Emotionally
Recovering Financially