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Many Americans suffered the devastating effects of Hurricane Ike and resulting inclement weather. Here in Chicago, we experienced record rainfall and the worst flooding in years due to the remnants of Ike. In fact, Cook County was placed under a state of emergency due to the high flood waters.

Now that the rain has stopped, people are left with the daunting task of putting their homes and lives back together. Even when the water begins to recede, many dangers still exist. Here are some flood safety tips to keep in mind during this difficult time:

Listen to a radio or television and don’t return home until authorities indicate it is safe to do so.

When you are allowed to return, remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance

Inspect foundations for cracks or other damage

When entering buildings, use extreme caution

Look for fire hazards

If your home was damaged, check the utilities

Stay out of buildings that remain in the floodwaters.

Avoid coming in contact with floodwaters. The water may be contaminated with oil, gasoline or raw sewage

Do not wade through a flooded stream to protect or retrieve belongings

Consider your family’s health and safety. Wash your hands frequently with soap and clean water if you come in contact with floodwaters. Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.

Throw away food — including canned goods — that has come in contact with floodwaters

Pump out flooded basements gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid structural damage

Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewer systems pose a health hazard.

Stay alert for areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a vehicle.

Do not let children play in or near floodwaters, flooded creeks or flood retention ponds

Stay away from downed power lines. Report them to the utility company immediately

If unaffected by the flood, stay out of the area until allowed to enter by officials. Your presence may hamper emergency operations.

Monitor the radio for special information about where to go to get assistance for housing, clothing and food. Other programs are available to help you cope with the stress of the situation.

Take photos of or videotape the damage to your home and your belongings

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