||Health and Family Services, Cabinet for
|Use Care and Follow Safety Guidelines When Reentering Flood Damaged Homes
||June 4, 2004
Guy F. Delius or David Jones, 502/564-7398
FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 4, 2004) - Floods pose a risk not only outside your house but also inside your house. The impact of the receding floodwaters can damage your home and your health.
“Floods have multiple risks associated with them in addition to the obvious. The health impacts can be wide ranging from skin rashes and physical injuries to breathing problems,” said Guy Delius, assistant director with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ Division of Public Health Protection and Safety. “In addition, the interior of a house also must be examined closely to eliminate the risks associated with flood damage. Because of the many variables involved in cleanup efforts, we are providing general guidelines to help ensure the safety of our citizens during these trying times. "
The cabinet offers the following information from a public health perspective when dealing with flood-damaged structures.
- Wash your hands with soap and water, thoroughly and often. This is especially important before handling food, eating or smoking. If possible, use an antibacterial soap on your hands. Avoid biting your nails.
- Look for visible mold growing on walls, ceilings, floors, carpeting, furniture, mattresses, curtains, books, papers, clothing, etc. Check all surfaces, not just those touched by floodwaters. Generally speaking, mold may be removed by simply scrubbing the surface with a soap and water solution. To disinfect the surface after cleaning, simply mix 1-2 cups of 5.25 percent bleach (sodium hypochlorite) to 1 gallon of water and wipe the surface. Allow the surface to dry for 24-48 hours.
- Look for hidden mold behind furniture, under carpeting, under wood floors, behind cabinets, in closets and attics.
- People with asthma or other breathing disorders should not participate in cleanup work.
- Porous, damaged materials should be removed and discarded. These materials include: wallpaper/paneling, carpets, mattresses, fiberglass or cellulose insulation, sheetrock, upholstered furniture, papers, books and all other porous material.
- Upon entering the building, don't use matches, cigarette lighters or any other open flames, since gas may be trapped inside. Instead, use a flashlight to light your way.
- Floodwaters pick up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms and factories, so the water is not clean. Throw away foods and medicines that may have come into contact with floodwater. Foods unrefrigerated for longer than 2-4 hours should be discarded.
- Be careful walking around. After a flood, steps and floors are often slippery with mud and covered with debris, including nails and broken glass.
- Electrical power and natural gas or propane tanks should be shut off to avoid fire, electrocution or explosions. Try to return to your home during the daytime so that you do not have to use any lights. Use battery-powered flashlights and lanterns, rather than candles, gas lanterns or torches.
- If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve, open all windows, and leave the house immediately. Notify the gas company or the police or fire departments or State Fire Marshal's office. Do not turn on the lights or do anything that could cause a spark. Do not return to the house until you are told it is safe to do so.
- Infants, pregnant women and people with health problems should avoid the flooded area until cleanup is complete.
- Standing or working in water which is cooler than 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) will remove body heat more rapidly than it can be replaced, resulting in hypothermia. To reduce the risk of hypothermia, wear high rubber boots, ensure that clothing and boots have adequate insulation, avoid working alone, take frequent breaks out of the water and change into dry clothing when possible
- Set priorities for cleanup tasks and pace the work over several days or weeks to avoid physical exhaustion.
- Resume a normal sleep schedule as quickly as possible. Get plenty of rest and take frequent rest breaks before exhaustion occurs.
“Our citizens are our most important resource and we want to ensure they return to their homes in a safe manner,” said Public Health Commissioner Rice Leach, M.D.
For More Information, call your local health department or the Division of Public Health Protection and Safety at 502-564-7181.