ATLANTA – Use caution when returning to flood-damaged homes or businesses. Structural damage can make a building unsafe; electricity and gas can pose a threat, and snakes, insects and other animals take up residence when flood water recedes.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommend a careful and organized approach when returning.
Some suggestions are:
Turn off electricity
Before beginning to work, turn off the electricity. Unplug appliances and lamps, remove light bulbs and remove the cover plates of wall switches and outlets that got wet.
Get standing water out
Use a pump, mop, squeegee or wet/dry vacuum cleaner to remove standing water from all buildings as soon as possible.
Hose it out
Shovel as much mud as possible out of the building, and then hose it out. Use an attachment that sprays soap to wash and rinse muddy walls, floors, furniture and other major items.
When in doubt, throw it out
Floodwater and mud may be contaminated with chemicals as varied as garden chemicals, a neighbor’s septic tank and cleaning products. Wallboard, mattresses, and carpeting will hold mud and contamination forever. Spoiled food, soaked cosmetics and medicine are health hazards. Get rid of them.
Flood damage causes dampness where mold, mildew and other organisms thrive. Mold may cause respiratory problems, so it is important to use proper procedures when cleaning. Use a combination of household bleach and soap or detergent to wash down walls, floors and other mold-contaminated areas.
Wash your hands and other parts of the body that may come into contact with floodwater with soap and clean water or with hand sanitizer.
- Do not go near downed power lines. Call the utility company if you find downed power lines or suspect a gas leak.
- Turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker and turn off natural gas.
- Look for cracks in the foundation, and sagging roofs.
- If you have doubts about the safety of a building, contact a qualified inspector or structural engineer before going inside.
- Check floors and ceilings for signs of sagging. Rain or flooding can soak plaster, drywall and flooring making it slippery with the potential to collapse.
- Because they emit deadly carbon monoxide, do not use generators or other gasoline-powered machines indoors and use only camp stoves and charcoal grills outside for cooking.
- Drain the basement no more than one foot per day to minimize further damage.
- Floodwater promotes the growth of mold and mildew. Open windows and doors, and turn on fans to help dry out interiors.
- Walls, floors, closets, shelves, contents and personal items touched by flood water, should be thoroughly washed and disinfected.
- Unplug appliances and let them dry out. Have them checked by a professional before using them again.
- Check with local power company before turning the power on.
- Check with local authorities before using water; it could be contaminated. Pump out wells and have the water tested by experts before drinking.
- Do not flush toilets until you know that sewage lines are intact.
- Take pictures of damages. Keep good records of all repair and cleaning costs.
- Watch out for broken bottles, nails and other hazards. Before beginning clean-up, get a tetanus shot.
To learn more about safely cleaning up: http://www.msema.org/documents/moldandmildew9-1.pdf
Learn what to do with displaced wildlife: http://www.msema.org/documents/wildlife9-1.pdf
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