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Disaster Recovery: Health Information

OSHA TIps for Flood Clean Up Health Safety

Protect Yourself
After a major flood, it is often difficult to maintain good hygiene during cleanup operations. To avoid waterborne disease, it is important to wash your hands with soap and clean, running water, especially before work breaks, meal breaks, and at the end of the working.  If no safe water supply is available for washing, use bottled water, water that has been boiled for at least 10 minutes or chemically disinfected water. (To disinfect water, use 5 drops of liquid household bleach to each gallon of water and let sit for at least 30 minutes for disinfection to be completed.). Water storage containers should be rinsed periodically with a household bleach solution.

If water is suspected of being contaminated with hazardous chemicals, cleanup workers may need to wear special chemical protective outer clothing and goggles. Before entering a contaminated area that has been flooded, you should don plastic or rubber gloves, boots, and other protective clothing needed to avoid contact with floodwater.

Decrease the risk of mosquito and other insect bites by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and by using insect repellants. Wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected before preparing or eating foods, after using the bathroom, after participating in flood cleanup activities, and after handling articles contaminated by flood waters. In addition, children should not be allowed to play in flood waters or with toys that have been in contact with flood waters. Toys should be disinfected.

Tips to Remember

  • Before working in flooded areas, be sure your tetanus shot is current (given within the last 10 years). Wounds that are associated with a flood should be evaluated for risk; a physician may recommend a tetanus immunization.

  • Consider all water unsafe until local authorities announce that the public water supply is safe.

  • Do not use contaminated water to wash and prepare food, brush your teeth, wash dishes, or make ice.

  • Keep an adequate supply of safe water available for washing and potable water for drinking.

  • Be alert for chemically contaminated floodwater at industrial sites.

  • Use extreme caution with potential chemical and electric hazards, which have great potential for fires and explosions. Floods have the strength to move and/or bury hazardous waste and chemical containers far from their normal storage places, creating a risk for those who come into contact with them. Any chemical hazards, such as a propane tank, should be handled by the fire department or police.

  • If the safety of a food or beverage is questionable, throw it out.

  • Seek immediate medical care for all animal bites.

Get a Tetanus Shot

Mold After a Disaster

  • People with asthma, allergies, or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to mold.

  • If you or your family members have health problems after exposure to mold, contact your doctor or other health care provider.

  • Controlling moisture in your home is the most critical factor for preventing mold growth.

  • If you plan to be inside the building for a while or you plan to clean up mold, you should buy an N95 mask at your local home supply store and wear it while in the building.