After an emergency, cleaning up the site and salvaging equipment and materials can be dangerous to your health and safety. Evaluate your risks before you start and take proper precautions.

Staying Safe During Clean Up

Artist + Beneficiary Dave Warren Studio Fire. Photo by Mary Coy 2011


Wear protective gear at all times.

Carry a communication device (walkie-talkie or cell phone).

Look for electrical system damage, and turn off the electricity at the main switch if you can do this without risk (otherwise, call the power company or an electrician).

Carry a stick to lift debris (after a flood, snakes and other animals may be hiding).

Check for possible gas leaks; if you smell gas or hear blowing or hissing sounds, open a window and leave the building immediately. Turn off the main gas valve from the outside, if you can do this safely, or call the gas company. (Note: after the main valve has been turned off, you will need to have the gas company turn it back on).

Avoid prolonged exposure to heat and high humidity.

Drink plenty of water — at least a gallon per person per day — and take frequent breaks.

Set up a rest area, with a first-aid station (including eyewash kits), sanitary supplies, and drinking water and cups.

If health problems develop, stop work and immediately seek medical attention.

Keep tuned to emergency radio stations for updates.


Don’t try to take on everything at once. Begin by surveying the damage and making a plan.

Don’t enter or work alone.

Don’t work in spaces with mold outbreak unless you know the type of mold — and have proper protection.

Don’t use gas-powered generators indoors.

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