In our last article, we covered how to prepare for flood. This week, we’ll cover some steps you can take to protect yourself during a flood and during flood recovery.
1. During a flood: Follow evacuation orders and don’t wait until the last minute. Flood waters can rise fast. Place valuable belongings and documents up high to protect them, know ahead of time what you need to have with you when you evacuate, and leave your house quickly. The Red Cross will have shelters open during a flood.
Do not walk through flood waters: the water can be contaminated with sewage and chemicals that will make you sick or cause skin sores. Additionally, just six inches of moving water is enough to knock an adult down. For this reason, do not drive through flood waters. It is often difficult to tell how deep moving water is and just 12 inches of fast moving water can carry away a small car and 18 inches can carry away an SUV.
2. Know what to do after a flood: Only re-enter your home when the authorities say it is safe to protect yourself. Realize that your home may need extensive repairs to prevent/remove mold growth. Any porous material that has been wet over 24 hours should be considered contaminated with mold. Work only with reputable contractors. If you plan on doing the work yourself, be prepared to remove all contaminated drywall/paneling. Wooden studs and frames may be dried or replaced. Borrow or purchase a moisture meter to help gauge the extent of the moisture damage and to know when it’s ok to cover the wooden studs and frames. If you have a well, test your well water for fecal coliform and chemical contamination before turning your water back on. If you have a septic system that has been damaged, call a licensed professional and the local health department for advice to prevent sewage contamination of surface and ground water.
Some food items may be salvaged from a flood but most will need to be tossed. Canned goods that are not dented, bulging, or otherwise damaged can be cleaned and sanitized. Food stored in water-proof containers or that did not come in contact with flood waters may be saved. Discard everything else, including beverages with screw-top lids. Flood water can seep through these lids. If flood waters did not enter your home but you did lose power, discard any meat, poultry, dairy, or leftovers that have been over 41F for over four hours. Usually if unopened, a full refrigerator can hold its temperature for four hours and a full freezer can hold its temperature for 48 hours. If your appliance is only half-full, cut these hold times in half.
For more information on how to protect yourself during and after a flood, visit Ready.Gov, FEMA.gov, or FDA.gov and search for flood preparedness or safety information. You can also call Kristina Sommers at 456-2405 at the Howard County Health Department.