Post-hurricane dangers: What to know before returning home

(CNN)As thousands of Hurricane Matthew victims return to their homes, they're also coming back to a host of potential dangers.

Here's what you need to know to avoid everything from electrocution to carbon monoxide poisoning:

Driving home

  • In addition to avoiding flooded roads, watch out for downed power lines.
  • Keep an eye out for weakened bridges and roads that look like they might collapse.

    Inspecting for the first time

    • Walk carefully around the outside of your house and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage.
    • Stay out of any structure if you smell gas.
    • Avoid areas near your home with standing or moving water. Standing water often hides toxins or chemicals, and just 6 inches of moving water can knock you off your feet.

    Dealing with no electricity

    • Never use a portable generator inside a house or garage, even if the windows and doors are open. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a leading cause of death after storms with power outages.
    • Don't use candles.
    • Use battery-powered flashlights, but make sure to turn them on before entering an empty building. The flashlights' batteries can cause a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if there is any.

    Clearing downed trees and heavy limbs

    • Before starting the saw, make sure the lubrication reservoir is full.
    • Start the chain saw on the ground, not by "drop-starting" it.
    • Watch for branches under tension, since they could spring out when cut.

    Staying healthy

    • Remove flood-damaged belongings to lower the risk of mold.
    • Wear insect repellent, since mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water.
    • If sleeping without air conditioning or outdoors, sleep under a mosquito bed net.
    Sources: Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Weather Service, North Carolina Department of Public Safety, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention