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Palm trees being blown in intense wind


Who this is for: Emergency responders and aid workers traveling to and working in areas of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico impacted by hurricanes and floods.

What this is for: NIOSH recommends safety and health precautions for emergency responders and aid workers, addressing hazards that follow natural disasters, including the hurricanes and floods in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

How to use: Use this information to improve safety and reduce exposure risks during the emergency response in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Key Points:

  • You may face chemical physical and biological hazards in the aftermath of hurricanes and floods. Proper precautions in these affected areas can help you protect your health and safety as you work.
  • Risks could include electrical hazards, carbon monoxide, physical injuries, heat stress, motor vehicle mishaps, hazardous materials, fire, confined spaces, and falls.
  • You can check CDC Travel Health Notices, to learn about current health issues related to specific destinations including: disease outbreaks, special events or gatherings, natural disasters, or other conditions that may affect travelers’ health.
  • You should make a communications plan, that includes your organization’s emergency communication protocol and key phone numbers for professional and personal contacts you may need while on deployment. Also review company or organization policies and plans for working overseas, practice good hygiene, and provide for your personal needs—taking care to reduce stress during your deployment.


For a successful and safe disaster deployment, you must plan before travel to stay safe from possible safety and health hazards. While traveling to areas recovering from a disaster, you may face risks that include floodwater, debris, security issues, illnesses spread by insect or animal bites, as well as other hazards. Planning before travel will help you to fully prepare for such hazards and protect your health and safety.

Medical Considerations

Before travel, check with your doctor or occupational medical team to find out whether you need to get vaccinations or take medicines before you leave. These sites provide information about pre-deployment screening and vaccination:

Guidance for Pre-exposure Medical Screening of Workers Deployed for Hurricane Disaster Work

Health Information for Travelers to Puerto Rico (U.S.)

Health Information for Travelers to the U.S. Virgin Islands

Immunization Recommendations for Disaster Responders

Zika Virus in Puerto Rico

Zika Virus in U.S. Virgin Islands

What to Pack:

Along with your normal clothing and personal care items, you may need other supplies and medications. You may have a hard time finding supplies and medicines at your destination. Medicines and supplies may have different names, or may have different ingredients than what you normally use. The resources below list items to pack as you prepare for travel.

Resources for Travelers: Humanitarian Aid Workers

Healthy Travel Packing List for Travelers to Puerto Rico

Healthy Travel Packing List for Travelers to U.S. Virgin Islands

You should also prepare for safety or health hazards you might face as you respond. Be sure to check whether you can get any protective equipment (like coveralls, steel-toed boots, gloves, hardhats) on site. If you can’t get these items there, you should pack them to take with you. The resources below can help you find out what protective equipment you will need as you work in areas hit by hurricanes or floods.

Hazard Based Guidelines: Protective Equipment for Workers in Hurricane Flood Response

Emergency Response Resources: Personal Protective Equipment

Guidance on Personal Protective Equipment and Clothing for Flood Cleanup Workers


Stress and Coping

Responding to disasters can be both rewarding and stressful. Knowing that you have stress and coping with it as you respond helps you remain well, and this allows you to keep helping those who are affected. Check the resources below as you prepare for and deal with stress.

Coping With a Disaster or Traumatic Event, Emergency Responders: Tips for Taking Care of Yourself

Resilience Resources for Emergency Response


On Scene Hazards and Precautions

You should know the possible dangers and proper safety precautions for hurricane and flood cleanup. Below are resources to prepare for expected response activities, and to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses in the field once rescue, recovery, and clean-up begin.

Emergency Response Resources: Storm, Flood and Hurricane Response

Emergency Response Resources: Disaster Site Management

Natural Disasters and Severe Weather: Hurricane Maria

FEMA: Hurricane Maria (English and Spanish Resources)

Travelers’ Health: Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean

Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance (EHRMS)

Information for Professionals and Response Workers

After a Hurricane

Hurricane Maria


On completing your response activities, be sure to address any residual health or stress issues that need to be monitored or may arise after responding to a natural disaster. Seek support from your family or your supervisor, if possible, or follow-up care from your personal doctor, and use the resources below to help you cope with stress.

Guidance for Post-exposure Medical Screening of Workers Leaving Hurricane Disaster Recovery Areas

Coping With Traumatic Events

Surviving Field Stress for First Responders