Last week, a staggering series of storms has left dozens dead and impacted the lives of thousands of people throughout the southern U.S. Tornadoes and flooding made their unwelcomed mark across seven states, including Texas, Alabama, Illinois and Missouri. In the wake of these tragic weather events, many people are still feeling the impact – through continued flooding and utility outages. If you’re one of these folks, our heart goes out to you and we hope this information will help.

Don’t Stay In a Home With Structural Damage
Most of us love our homes, and don’t want to leave them in a disaster. But if your home has suffered significant structural damage from high winds or a tornado, it’s time to go stay with a neighbor or family member who’s home isn’t under the risk of collapse. After a severe storm has done damage to a home, it’s always smart to have a home inspector check for structural damage or framing damage, especially the load bearing walls, trusses, and the foundation. It’s important to get any issues identified and verified quickly – first, for your family’s safety and secondly, you may have a limited time to file an insurance claim. If you cannot get on the schedule of a local inspector, here are a few of the signs to help you assess the safety of your home.

— Leaks in your roof or ceiling, or a roof that is sinking or is shifted off of the frame
— Door frames that have shifted, making it impossible to open or close doors
— Major cracks in drywall, ceilings or flooring
— Cracked masonry work or foundation cracks
— Bulging or leaning walls

If you see any of these signs in your home, find someplace else to stay until you can get a professional to perform an inspection. This precaution could save your life.

Use Your Back-up Water Supply
Almost every home has a back-up water supply: it’s called a water heater. For smaller homes and apartments, it might be a modest 40 gallon tank. For larger homes it may be an 80 gallon behemoth. There is a drain valve at the bottom of every unit, and the water heater is full of the same water you’ve been drinking in your home. Each unit should provide several day’s worth of drinking water and cooking water for the average family. It’s always the best policy to use the water heater first, if you have other water storage. The warm water could start to grow bacteria as it sits there during the utility outage. If you doubt the safety of any water, boil it, treat it with disinfection tablets, or run it through a water filter.

Cook Without Power
Thousands of people lost their electricity during the past week of storms, but that doesn’t mean they lost their appetite. What you can serve for dinner after a utility outage depends on a great many factors, including the food on hand, the way it was stored, how quickly the food will go bad, and which cooking methods you have available. These alternative cooking methods can always help you out while the utilities are down:

—A gas grill will let you grill and boil water, and possibly bake your frozen pizzas. Bundle up and use the grill outdoors. BBQ grills aren’t safe for indoor or garage use.
—A solar oven will slow cook food on sunny days.
—The campfire has been good enough for a many millennia, build one in the back yard.
—Camp stoves or alcohol stoves are both handy and portable.
—Foil wrapped food can be cooked on your vehicle engine.

If your family was impacted by these holiday storms, you have our deepest sympathies. If you’d like to share your storm experience, please leave us a comment.