The American Red Cross is on the scene as floodwaters slowly begin to recede in rain-soaked New England, where residents are beginning the difficult job of cleaning up their homes.
The Red Cross is giving people a safe place to stay, hot meals, comfort and clean-up kits, and emotional support. Teddy Hampton, Red Cross disaster relief operations job director, likened the flood damage in Rhode Island to what he has seen responding to hurricanes.
"When you start talking about the number of people who are affected, it's pretty close to a Category 3 or Category 4 hurricane," said Hampton, who flew in from Alabama and often has to respond to the tropical systems. He estimated close to 200,000 people will be dealing with the flood on some level, from cleaning sewer- tainted water out of their homes to finding food.
In Massachusetts, President Barack Obama visited the state's Emergency Management Agency to thank those coordinating the flooding response in that state. "Whether you are a governor or a president, when these kinds of natural disasters hit, what really matters is the people on the ground," Mr. Obama said. "I just want to say thanks on behalf of the country as well. Good job." The Red Cross will be distributing clean-up and comfort kits across Massachusetts over the Easter weekend, according to Laurel Goforth, Public Affairs manager in Massachusetts.
As conditions improve, the Red Cross shares these steps for people to remain safe as they return to their neighborhoods:
- Return home only when officials have declared the area safe.
- Before entering your home, look outside for loose power lines, damaged gas lines, foundation cracks or other damage.
- Parts of your home may be collapsed or damaged. Approach entrances carefully. See if porch roofs and overhangs have all their supports.
- Watch out for wild animals, especially poisonous snakes that may have come into your home with the floodwater.
- If you smell natural or propane gas or hear a hissing noise, leave immediately and call the fire department.
- If power lines are down outside your home, do not step in puddles or standing water.
- Keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwater.
- Materials such as cleaning products, paint, batteries, contaminated fuel and damaged fuel containers are hazardous. Check with local authorities for assistance with disposal to avoid risk.
- During cleanup, wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots.
- Make sure your food and water are safe. Discard items that have come in contact with floodwater, including canned goods, water bottles, plastic utensils and baby bottle nipples. When in doubt, throw it out!
- Do not use water that could be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice or make baby formula.
- Contact your local or state public health department for specific recommendations for boiling or treating water in your area after a disaster as water may be contaminated.
Learn how to be prepared for emergencies. Visit the Preparedness section of our Web site.