Sunday, April 11, 1999
Coping with the storm
Homeowners hit by the tornado face confusion and choices. Here are suggestions, gathered from an assortment of experts including representatives of Cinergy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross.
Expect the unexpected. Have someone with you when you inspect your house for structural damages.
If you see fallen or sagging electrical wires, assume they're ''live'' and call authorities.
Check the outside of the house for loose power lines and gas leaks. If you see or smell trouble, call Cinergy, at 421-9500.
Check the foundation for cracks; examine porch roofs and overhangs. Look for gaps between the steps and the house. If supports or portions of the foundation are missing, the floor probably is not safe. Call a contractor before going in.
Don't go inside if you see standing water next to the outside walls. The building might not be structurally sound.
To prevent explosions, don't smoke or use candles, gas lanterns or other open flames in the house.
If you suspect a gas leak, leave the house and call Cinergy. If the gas meter is outside, turn off the gas at the valve next to the meter. If the valve is parallel to the pipe, the gas is on. To turn it off, turn the valve 90 degrees. (a quarter turn) so the valve is perpendicular to the pipe.
Even if your street has no power, make sure the supply to your house is disconnected, so it won't come on without warning.
If you have to step in water to get to your electric box, call an electrician. Otherwise, pull the fuse box handle to OFF, then pull out fuses. If your house has breaker boxes, push all circuit breakers to OFF.
To prevent power surges and potential damage to televisions, computers and other electronic equipment, turn them off and/or unplug them.
Putting it on paper
Make a list of damages to the house and your belongings. Records will be needed for insurance claims, applications for disaster assistance and income-tax deductions.
Records should include receipts for materials, labor, equipment rental and other storm-related expenses. Your insurance representative can explain how to record losses properly.
Photos and videotapes can be beneficial. You might be asked to keep a sample of some items, like a piece of carpet or upholstery.
Ask someone to sign your record as a witness.
Difficult as it may be, extensively damaged appliances, furniture and flooring will have to be discarded.
For items too big for normal trash pickup, call haulers BFI, at 771-4200, and Rumpke, at 742-2900.
FEMA's hot line for federal assistance: (800) 462-9029. The FEMA Web site is www.fema.gov. has a section on ''Help After a Disaster'' and a ''Response and Recovery.''
To dry out wiring that has gotten wet, remove cover plates on wall switches and outlets. Pull the receptacle, switches and wires about 2 inches from the box, but don't remove electrical connections.
To have gas and electric service restored, call Cinergy, 421-9500. To report a gas leak or electrical a problem with gas: 651-4466. Electric: 651-4182.
Cincinnati Bell: residential repair, 566-1511; business, repair, 566-1611; 24-hour help, 565-6090.
Depending on the temperature in your house, much of the food in your refrigerator will spoil in four to six hours without electricity or ice. The more ice you add, the longer food will stay cold. Remember to use pans to catch melting ice.
A full freezer will keep food frozen for two days without power. Use dry ice if power will be off for an extended period. But don't touch it with your bare hands.
Discard thawed food that rises to room temperature and remains there longer than two hours.
Before examining a water-damaged appliance, unplug it and shut off power at the circuit breaker or fuse box.
Even if a dried-out appliance works, have it checked by a certified technician. Corrosion can damage controls, belts and circuit boards, risking electrical shock, gas explosion or fire.
Property owners are responsible for having equipment and appliances serviced and inspected. To find qualified professionals, check the Yellow Pages. under Heating Contractors; Plumbing Contractors; and Electric Contractors. As a follow-up, call the Greater Cincinnati Better Business Bureau at 421-3015.
For information on appliances:
Whirlpool Consumer Assistance Center, (800) 253-1301.
GE Appliance Repair & Service, (800) 432-2737.
Sears Appliance Repair, (800) 473-7247.
- Mike Pulfer