As a public service to readers, I share the following information, taken from FEMA and CDC web sites. It’s not exhaustive, but may prove helpful.
What follows is also not necessarily in order of importance, and much is simply common sense, but sometimes it just helps to see things written out. If you know someone dealing with the aftermath of flooding, they probably don’t have Internet access, and you’ll want to pass this along.
After a Flood
The following are guidelines for the period following a flood:
Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink.
Avoid floodwaters; water may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
Avoid moving water.
Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company.
Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
Stay out of any building if it is surrounded by floodwaters.
Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage, particularly in foundations.
Service damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible.
Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.
Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.
After natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, excess moisture and standing water contribute to the growth of mold in homes and other buildings. When returning to a home that has been flooded, be aware that mold may be present and may be a health risk for your family.
People at Greatest Risk from Mold
People with asthma, allergies, or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to mold. People with immune suppression (such as people with HIV infection, cancer patients taking chemotherapy, and people who have received an organ transplant) are more susceptible to mold infections.
Possible Health Effects of Mold Exposure
People who are sensitive to mold may experience stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing, or skin irritation. People allergic to mold may have difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath. People with weakened immune systems and with chronic lung diseases, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs. If you or your family members have health problems after exposure to mold, contact your doctor or other health care provider.
You may recognize mold by:
Sight (Are the walls and ceiling discolored, or do they show signs of mold growth or water damage?)
Smell (Do you smell a bad odor, such as a musty, earthy smell or a foul stench?)
Safely Preventing Mold Growth
Clean up and dry out the building quickly (within 24 to 48 hours). Open doors and windows. Use fans to dry out the building.
Reentering Your Flooded Home
When in doubt, take it out!
Remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. These items can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from the home. Porous, noncleanable items include carpeting and carpet padding, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, floor and ceiling tiles, insulation material, some clothing, leather, paper, wood, and food. Removal and cleaning are important because even dead mold may cause allergic reactions in some people.
To prevent mold growth, clean wet items and surfaces with detergent and water. Homeowners may want to temporarily store items outside of the home until insurance claims can be filed. See recommendations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
If you wish to disinfect, refer to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document, A Brief Guide to Mold and Moisture in Your Home.
If there is mold growth in your home, you should clean up the mold and fix any water problem, such as leaks in roofs, walls, or plumbing.
Controlling moisture in your home is the most critical factor for preventing mold growth. To remove mold growth from hard surfaces use commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Use a stiff brush on rough surface materials such as concrete.
If you choose to use bleach to remove mold:
Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners. Mixing bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products will produce dangerous, toxic fumes.
Open windows and doors to provide fresh air.
Wear non-porous gloves and protective eye wear.
If the area to be cleaned is more than 10 square feet, consult the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guide titled Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. Although focused on schools and commercial buildings, this document also applies to other building types. You can get it free by calling the EPA Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse at (800) 438-4318, or by going to the EPA web site at https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-remediation-schools-and-commercial-buildings-guide.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using bleach or any other cleaning product.
More information on personal safety while cleaning up after a natural disaster is available at http://www.emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/workers.asp .
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. Make certain that you follow instructions on the package for fitting the mask tightly to your face. If you go back into the building for a short time and are not cleaning up mold, you do not need to wear an N95 mask.
In addition to the above, you’re welcome to click on the Downloads Page for a couple of flyers you can print out on further precautions to take as well as cleaning up after a flood.
If you’re dealing with the aftermath of flooding, know that thoughts and prayers are with you.