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What to do after the storm hits

What do you do if the power is out for an extended time? What if your car or your carpets got soaked? How can you avoid getting ripped off by a repairman? Here are some answers.

The power is off. What do I do?

Notify your electric utility (Progress Energy, toll-free 1-800-228-8485; Tampa Electric, toll-free 1-800-223-0800). Do not follow up with repeated phone calls for the status of power restoration efforts.

Turn off major appliances, including the air conditioner and water heater, to reduce damage. If flooding threatens, turn off electricity at the main breaker.

Use perishable food and food from the refrigerator first, then use foods from the freezer. In a sound freezer, food will usually be safe for three days.

For emergency cooking, use a charcoal grill or camp stove outdoors only.

What should I do if my furniture and carpet get wet?

Wet upholstered furniture resting on carpet should be elevated or moved to a covered patio or carport to dry. If upholstery was soaked, rent a machine to extract the water. Wet draperies and area rugs should be taken outdoors to dry. Soaked wall-to-wall carpeting should be lifted up and the padding discarded. Rent a special vacuum to extract water from the carpet.

My car got flooded. What should I do?

Don't start it. Have it towed to a mechanic. If water got into the brake system, the brakes could fail. Change the oil and filter. If the water reaches the dashboard, your insurance company probably will declare the car a total loss.

I need repairs. How do I avoid getting ripped off?

Make immediate repairs to prevent further damage. Don't hire the stranger who shows up offering to clear damaged property or make repairs. Your insurance company could want the damage appraised and the work authorized. Take pictures before work is done. Keep receipts for your insurance claim.

Don't pay in cash. Don't pay in full before the work begins. Beware of the person who wants cash so he can buy supplies.

Insist on seeing a state or county contractor's license. Don't make a final payment until work is completed.

How do I make an insurance claim?

Find your insurance papers and your adjuster's phone number. Report damage to your insurer immediately. Document the damage and repairs in writing, with receipts and with photos.

The state Department of Financial Services toll-free storm line number is 1-800-227-8676.

What basic precautions should I take after the storm passes?

Don't go outside barefoot or in flip-flops. Yards and streets might have sharp debris.

Stay at least 20 feet away from downed power, cable or phone lines. Metal fences, ponds or standing water may be energized by lines touching them.

I'm riding the storm out at home. What's the best advice?

Make sure windows are protected and clear the yard of potential flying debris. Stay away from windows, skylights and glass doors. Find an interior, reinforced room, closet or bathroom on the lower floor.

Will flooding bring out pests?

Like people, animals seek higher ground. Look out for alligators, snakes and floating islands of fire ants. The colony will form a loose ball and flow with the water until it reaches a dry area, including unprotected legs.

What about my pet?

After the storm, be careful in allowing your pet outdoors. Familiar scents and landmarks might be altered and your pet could easily be confused and become lost. Don't let pets consume food or water that might have become contaminated.

Compiled from staff reports and Times files.

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