HEALTH DEPARTMENT WARNS OF RISKS BEFORE THE STORM

Tropical storm readiness should begin before the event occurs. The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) advises residents to prepare before the storm, so lives can be saved and illness and injuries prevented.

Prepare for a Weather Emergency

  • Identify potential home hazards that could develop during a storm or hurricane, such as those involving gas, electricity, chemicals and structural damage.
  • Provide escape ladders for multi-story structures.
  • Establish an assembly point where family members will meet.
  • Give your relatives and friends the name of a contact person who will know where you are and how you are doing.
  • Show family members how to shut off the gas, water and electric mains.
  • Have copies of your important papers in a safe location.
  • Inform local authorities of any special needs: for example, elderly or bedridden people or anyone with a disability.

Power Outages: Preventing Fire Hazards

  • Use battery-powered lanterns and flashlights instead of candles.
  • If you must use candles, make sure you put them in safe holders away from curtains, paper, wood, or other flammable items.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas, and is highly poisonous. Take the following precautions to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Only use grills or generators outside. Do not use grills or generators inside a house, garage or any enclosed space.
  • Symptoms of CO poisoning may include fatigue, weakness, chest pains for those with heart disease, shortness of breath upon exertion, nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, lack of coordination, impaired vision, loss of consciousness, and in severe cases, death.
  • If you suspect you are experiencing any symptoms of CO poisoning, open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and go outside. In cases of severe CO poisoning, call 911 emergency services or the Mississippi Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Sanitation and Hygiene: Preventing Waterborne Illness

Contamination levels, if any, vary among water systems. If your area is officially notified that emergency water purification is necessary, the MSDH advises the following:

  • Vigorously boil water for at least a full minute before using.
  • Disinfect by adding unscented chlorine bleach in these amounts: two drops of bleach for each quart of clear water or four drops of bleach for each quart of muddy or dirty water. Let the water stand at least 30 minutes before using.
  • Basic hygiene is very important during this emergency period. Always wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected before eating, after toilet use, after participating in cleanup activities and after handling articles contaminated by floodwater or sewage.
  • Flooding that occurs after the hurricane may mean that water contains contaminants from sewage systems, agricultural and industrial waste and septic tanks.  If you have open cuts or sores exposed to the floodwater, keep them as clean as possible by washing them with soap and clean water.  Apply antibiotic ointment to reduce the risk of infection.  If a wound or sore develops redness, swelling or drainage, see a physician.
  • Do not allow children to play in floodwater.  They can be exposed to water contaminated with fecal matter.  Do not allow children to play with toys that have been in floodwater until the toys have been disinfected.  Disinfect with one fourth cup of bleach in one gallon of water.

Food Safety: Preventing Food-Borne Diseases

  • Throw away all food including fruits, vegetables and other produce if it comes in contact with flood water or tidal surges.
  • Throw away all screw cap or crimp cap containers if they become submerged.
  • Discard any cold or cool food that has warmed. Food that is still frozen or cold (45 degrees Fahrenheit or less) is safe to prepare.
  • Commercially prepared cans of food should not be eaten if there is a bulge or opening on the can.
  • Cans with screw caps, soda pop bottle tops, pop-tops or twist-caps cannot be disinfected and should be discarded.
  • Undamaged, commercially canned foods can be used if you remove the labels and then disinfect the cans in a bleach solution. Use one fourth cup of bleach in one gallon of water; re-label the cans including expiration date and type of food.  Assume that home-canned food is unsafe.
  • The basics of breastfeeding during an emergency are much the same as they are in normal times. Continuing to breastfeed whenever the baby seems hungry maintains a mother’s milk supply and provides familiar comfort.

For more information on tropical storm and hurricane preparedness, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com  or contact the Mississippi State Department of Health toll-free 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-866-HLTHY4U (1-866-458-4948). Download MS Ready, a smartphone app that gives you the latest health and safety news in emergencies.

Follow MSDH by e-mail and social media at www.HealthyMS.com/connect.

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