Public health offers safety tips for dealing with flood damage

The damage from the late June flash floods has encompassed a very large area and Crawford County Public Health Director Gloria Wall has offered some safety tips to remember when dealing with the damage.

• Do not go into flooded areas without appropriate protective equipment. There are many unknown contaminants including bacteria, chemicals and sharp objects which may cause difficult to treat rashes, wounds and infections. This includes boots, rubber gloves and waterproof protective clothing is necessary. Wear masks or respirators where needed.

• Clinics typically will administer tetanus (Tdap) boosters as needed for patients coming in for injury evaluation. If individuals have a regular provider and would like to know their tetanus status prior to working in flooded areas, they can check with their primary care provider. For those with an injury related to flood clean up, without a tetanus booster within the last five years, a dose of tetanus should be administered as soon as possible, and generally within 72 hours of the injury.

• If you have water in your basement, pump water out slowly to avoid walls from collapsing. Clean as soon as possible, discarding all porous items that were wet and cannot be washed, this would include mattresses, wet drywall, stuffed animals, carpets etc. Assume all wet items have been contaminated from sewage from toilets, sinks, floor drains and chemicals stored in garages and sheds. To prevent mold, open all doors and drawers and other closures and ventilate! Hard surfaces may be cleaned with one cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Place sponges and dirty rags in a sealed bag and dispose. Wear protective clothing including N-95 masks from the hardware store when handling bleach and other harsh chemicals.

• Stop using water from private wells that have been flooded. When the waters recede, decontaminate the well and test it. Call Public Health for test kits as well as disinfection and other flooding resources. Never drink water that is cloudy, smelly or colored.

• Food safety is a great concern, if power is off several hours discard the food. When in doubt, throw it out.

• Help your neighbor who has been impacted by the flood waters.

• Do not re-enter a flooded building until a building inspector has deemed it electrically and structurally safe by a building inspector. Turn off all utilities. Children, pregnant women and elderly should not be in a contaminated building.

• Dispose of all flood debris properly according to your municipal rules for flood waste.

• Do an odor and visual inspection for mold if needed.

• Public health is available for questions regarding cleaning, disinfecting and a limited supply of clean-up kits are available. A list of possible professional persons for hire to clean and disinfect, including wells, is also available.

There are many challenges during this time. Above all, remain safe. Be cautious and patient. Seek professional help, especially if you feel your family is at risk.

The Crawford County Public Health phone number is 326-0229.

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