Flood Water Soup – Flood Safety
- 1 of each — all cleaning supplies and pesticides in your home and garage
- Couple of gallons of industrial solvents
- All the neighbors’ cat boxes
- Toss in a few rusty nails
- A couple of sharp razor blades
- Splintery wood
- Some Medical waste
- 1 plugged in appliance (toaster, blowdryer.. your choice)
- Top off with a few gallons of water.
Flood waters carry a vast array of contaminants, including raw sewage – which hosts bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms– as well as any number of different chemical contaminants. Additional risk is posed by the debris in the flood waters, as well as the swift currents that might not be visible at the surface. Underwater currents can easily sweep your feet out from under you.
The bacteria and microorganisms in flood waters can easily infect any cut, scrape, scratch or even a hangnail. Wading in flood waters can be seen as the equivalent of wading through human waste. Since you can’t see through the water, who knows if the next step you take will be on a piece of debris that will pierce through your foot, scratch your leg; or even if the earth underneath has been washed away completely. Chemicals from industrial sites, household chemicals, and various other sources all combine in a toxic soup during flooding. Many chemicals are known carcinogens, or corrosive and submerging yourself into this mix is just not a good idea.
Downed power lines are common in flood areas. Water and Electricity don’t play nice together. Wading through flood waters could very well lead you to a very shocking, and deadly experience without ever even having to touch the downed lines.
It could take anywhere from days to weeks for the flood waters to finally ebb. When the drying out begins, new problems arise.
Wildlife: Beware of snakes that have washed downstream, as well as rodents that have taken harbor in dry areas of the house, or debris on your property. Stray animals may have also sought shelter, approach with care and call animal control to remove any injured animal.
Mold/Mildew: Mold and mildew create a particular risk in flooded areas. Know how to identify toxic (black) mold. Black mold or not, any kind of mold or mildew can cause respiratory distress for those allergic, or have respiratory ailments such as asthma or COPD, or compromised immune systems, and clean up should be left to professionals.
Before the clean up begins, be sure to document the damage for your insurance. Photograph or videotape your home or business showing the mud levels, damage to the interior walls and furnishings or equipment. Keep the cameras handy during clean up too, to document any further damages you come across.
When cleaning, you should wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, a dust/particle mask, and goggles, to reduce any contact with contaminated mud or water.
To disinfect hard surfaces, such as kitchenware or dishes, use 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach per gallon of hot water. Drywall or plasterboard are not hard surfaces, and will soak up the contaminated water; they should be removed to just above the flood line to eliminate any mold or mildew problems. Furniture should be professionally cleaned before use, or discarded.
Some “must read” information on cleaning up after a flood:
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Center for Disease Control
Photos courtesy of Thomas Godoy.
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