This was written by Felicia Baratz of Eat Breathe Blog.
With Hurricane Isaac reduced to scattered pockets of rain petering out in the Midwest, the hard-hit Gulf Coast region is set to begin cleanup duties. Because of the force with which Isaac battered coastal regions, flooding was rampant in New Orleans and surrounding areas, and the recovery process in those parts of the country could be extensive.
The aftermath of a hurricane can also introduce some significant hazards that can lead to illness and injury if property safety measures aren’t taken. Following are some essential steps flood victims should take when reentering their home.
Examine flooded areas during daylight
Hurricanes and flooding can compromise the structural integrity of your home, and they can bring potential threats into your residence. Homes should be inspected during the day to make sure key structures and the foundation are intact. Cracks in the foundation could jeopardize the structural integrity of the entire building, in which case the building should be evacuated.
You also want to check all rooms to make sure unwanted inhabitants like snakes and other animals haven’t taken refuge in the building. Any wildlife you do find may be injured or scared from the natural disaster and could be especially prone to an attack. Keep your distance from wild animals and seek out medical attention if you are bitten or attacked.
Image courtesy of Official U.S. Navy Imagery Inspect food carefully
Floodwaters can easily infect food with germs and bacteria that can make you sick. Floodwaters often contain sewage that becomes overrun with water, so it’s always wise to treat any objects touched by flooding with extreme caution. This goes for any food — don’t consume products that have been soaked with (or even touched by) floodwaters. Additionally, be wary of food found in refrigerators and freezers. Hurricanes usually knock out power in the areas they strike, so perishable food may have spent days spoiling as temperatures increased.
Filter your water
Just like food, all water – even tap water – should be considered contaminated. In some cases, tap water may still be drinkable, but you should use a water filter to cleanse water before drinking it. Check with health officials, though, to make sure water doesn’t need to be boiled in addition to filtered, which could be the case if extreme flooding has occurred.
Wash your hands frequently
When you’re in areas that have recently been struck by hurricanes and flooding, anything can make you sick — even touching walls or other everyday objects in your home. To protect yourself from being infected by these surfaces, wash your hands periodically throughout the day and avoid touching your face during the cleanup process.
If you’ve experienced a few hurricanes in the past, you’re probably familiar with the safety considerations facing families as they clean up and rebuild after these natural disasters. But it’s always better to err on the side of caution and be prepared beforehand for what might be waiting when you return to your abandoned home. And never return with the expectation of spending that first night back in your old home — if the situation isn’t safe, you don’t want the pressure of staying the night to put you and your family in harm’s way.
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