Disaster Recovery

Returning Home

Purifying Water

There are two primary ways to treat water: boiling and adding bleach. If tap water is unsafe because of water contamination from flooding, boiling is the best method.


  • Fill a large pot with water after straining the water through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove dirt and other particles.
  • Bring the water to a rolling boil and keep it boiling for three minutes.
  • Pour the water into a disinfected drinking water bottle.
  • Store in the refrigerator, if possible.

    Using Bleach

  • Strain the water through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove dirt and other particles.
  • It is easiest to use gallon-size drinking water containers to calculate the correct chlorine bleach solution.
  • Pour a mixture of 1/8 teaspoon or 16 drops of pure, unscented, household chlorine bleach into a gallon-size, purified drinking water container. Let this stand at least 30 minutes before drinking the water.
  • If the water is still cloudy after 30 minutes, you may add an additional 1/8 teaspoon or 16 drops of chlorine bleach to the gallon size container. Let the water stand another 30 minutes.
  • If the water is still cloudy after the second treatment, do not drink the water.
  • CAUTION: Do not use more chlorine bleach than recommended because excessive amounts can be poisonous!

Flooding & Septic Tanks

If your septic tank has been flooded, it is likely that your toilets will not flush. Flushing may cause the untreated sewage to backup into your home. Therefore, it is safest to wait until the water recedes before trying to flush toilets. Depending on the amount of flooding or damage to your system, you may need to have a professional repair or service once the water recedes and the ground is less saturated. For questions about septic tanks, please call the Santa Rosa County Health Department's Environmental Health Department at (850) 983-5275.

Well Water

Heavy rainfall and flooding may cause some drinking water from private wells to become unsafe. The Santa Rosa County Health Department urges the following precautions:

  • If you are unsure about the impact of flooding on your well water, either use bottled water, boil or disinfect all the water you use for drinking, making beverages, cooking, brushing your teeth, washing dishes, and washing areas of the skin that have been cut or injured.
  • If your well has been flooded, please call Santa Rosa County Health Department at (850) 983-5275 for information on how to sample your water and where to bring the sample for bacteriological testing.

Generator Safety

Having a portable generator can make the days after a storm much more bearable. However, they can be hazardous. Generator safety and proper handling is imperative for everyone who operates one. Because it runs on gas, (which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning) always remember never to operate a generator indoors, whether it's in your home, garage, basement, or other enclosed or partially enclosed areas. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be deadly. It is also important not to install the generator beside your home or in your garage or carport because the carbon monoxide can accumulate in the attic or extra roof space of your home. Be sure to keep the generator dry. Only operate it on a dry surface under an open, canopy-like structure. Before touching the generator, make sure your hands are dry.

Before refilling the gas tank, turn it off and let it cool. It should not be refilled while the generator is running. Fuel spilled on hot engine parts could ignite and cause a fire. Check your oil every time you re-fuel and store any extra fuel away from any fuel-burning appliances.

Plug appliances directly into a generator starting with the largest electric appliance first; then plug in other items, one at a time, or use a heavy-duty, outdoor-rated extension cord. Make sure the entire extension cord is free of cuts or tears and the plug has all three prongs, especially a grounding pin. Grounding the generator is recommended to help prevent accidental electrical shock. NEVER plug the generator into a wall outlet. The only safe way to connect a generator to house wiring is to have a qualified electrician install a power transfer switch.

A generator is something everyone should keep in their home or workplace in case of a disaster. It can keep the lights and fans running as well as other important necessities such as refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, stoves, security alarm systems, garage door openers, air conditioners, washers and dryers, televisions and computers. After a disaster, a generator can be used to run your outdoor power equipment when cleanup is needed. There are two types of generators to consider, portable and standby.

Items You Will Need to Operate a Generator

  1. CO Detector
    This will protect you from any possible exposure to carbon monoxide fumes while the portable generator is in use.
  2. Gas Cans
    It's a good idea to have some extra gas cans so you don't run out of gas for your generator. The National Agriculture Safety Database offers tips for storing gasoline:
    • Store gasoline in a well-ventilated area separate from the house, with no electrical equipment, open flames or other sources of ignition present.
    • Do not store gasoline in the utility room.
    • If you do not have a suitable storage area, consider building or buying a cabinet for outside your home.
    • Once a month check for leaks from fuel tanks, engines or storage containers.
  3. Fuel Stabilizers & Lubricants
    The stabilizer is used to prevent stale gas from forming due to a long storage period. It is best to change the oil after the first five hours of operation, then after every 50 hours of use.
  4. Extension Cords
    You should always have these in your home because they can be used for a wide variety of household operations. Heavy duty 12-guage or 14-gauge grounded three prong or GFCI cords work great with the operation of a generator. REMEMBER, CONNECTING GENERATORS IMPROPERLY PUTS OUR ELECTRICAL WORKERS AT RISK FOR INJURY OR EVEN DEATH.

Cleaning Up Safely

Santa Rosa County, the cities of Gulf Breeze, Milton, and the Town of Jay will determine if a storm warrants special debris collection. After a severe storm, residents should follow regular service schedules and watch for service changes published in the local news media. Storm debris should be prepared for pickup as quickly as possible since special collection may be available only for a limited time. After the designated time, debris will be the responsibility of the property owner. The debris and damage left behind by a hurricane can carry hidden dangers and hazards.

Follow these safety tips when cleaning up:

  • Always wear gloves and work boots when cleaning or removing debris.
  • Discard unsafe food.
  • Open windows to provide ventilation.
  • Remove wet contents including carpet, furniture and building materials.
  • Do not allow children to play in or around debris piles. Check play areas for hazards.
  • Do not try to move any displaced propane tanks. Get in touch with fire officials to provide them the location of these tanks.
  • Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than one cup of bleach in one gallon of water. Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners; mixing can produce dangerous, toxic fumes.

Please Separate Storm Debris into These Categories

  1. Household garbage:
    Perishable items, such as food and normal household waste, will be collected by your regular garbage service provider. This type of garbage will have priority service. Service may be interrupted due to road closures.
  2. Yard debris:
    All yard waste must be placed on the right of way. To decrease debris on the roadways, leaves, plants and small branches should be contained in a garbage bag or can. Limbs should be stacked and must be less than four feet long, 12 inches across or 60 pounds. Larger tree sections/limbs may be collected as expanded service after a declared disaster.
  3. Construction debris & bulk items:
    Storm damaged bulk items, such as large furniture and materials relating to building construction, may be collected as an extension of service. Construction debris is not included in normal collection service.

Chain Saw Safety

  • Become familiar with the recommended safe operational procedures before attempting to work with a chain saw.
  • Be sure that you are in top physical and mental condition when operating dangerous machinery.
  • Medications and alcohol can cause you to be a hazard to yourself and others when working with chain saws.
  • Equip yourself with protective clothing and equipment including safety goggles, hearing protection, steel-toed shoes, hard hat, gloves and close-fitting clothing.
  • Don't stand on a log and saw between your feet.
  • Always stand to one side of the limb you are to cut and never straddle it.
  • Always keep in mind where the chain will go if it breaks; never position yourself or other people in line with the chain.
  • Keep the chain out of the dirt; debris will fly, the teeth will be dulled and the chain life will be shortened considerably.

Points of Distribution

A Point of Distribution or POD is where the public goes to pick up emergency supplies following a disaster. The need for a POD is based on lack of infrastructure to support normal distribution of food, water or other supplies. If a major store is open in an area, a POD will not be activated. PODs may not open immediately or at the same time and are subject to change depending on the extent of damage.

Santa Rosa County is required to pre-identify POD locations annually. The final selection of which PODS will be opened for a specific event must be provided by the county to the State EOC Logistics Section no later than 96 hours PRIOR to hurricane landfall.

Depending upon the event and impact, not all the pre-designated PODS in Santa Rosa County will require opening. The county logistics section will advise the State EOC at least 48 hours prior, which PODS will be opened. After the event, additional PODS may need to be opened, depending on the identified requirements.

Listen to your local media to learn if any PODs are to open and hours of operations.