After the Event
Broward County Health Department recommends the following to prevent illness from flood waters:
- Basic hygiene is critical. Disinfect or wash your hands before preparing or eating food, after toilet use, after participating in flood cleanup activities, and after handling articles contaminated with flood water or sewage.
- Do not wade through standing water. If you do, bathe and put on clean clothes as soon as possible.
- Avoid contact with flood waters if you have open cuts or sores. If you can’t avoid contact with flood waters, keep open cuts or sores as clean as possible by washing with soap to control infection. If a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, seek immediate medical attention.
- Residents who sustain lacerations and/or puncture wounds and have not had a tetanus vaccination within the past 10 years will require a tetanus booster.
- If there is a backflow of sewage into your house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup. Remove and discard absorbent household materials, such as wall coverings, cloth, rugs, and sheetrock. Clean walls and hard-surfaced floors with soap and water and disinfect with a solution of 1/4 cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Thoroughly disinfect food contact surfaces (counter tops, refrigerators, tables) and areas where small children play. Wash all linens and clothing in hot water. Air dry larger items in the sun and spray them with a disinfectant. Steam clean all carpeting.
Returning To a Flooded Home or Business
- Document the damage with photographs.
- Inspect the building. Make sure there is no structural damage and the building is not in danger of collapsing.
- Be alert for holes in the floor, loose boards, hanging or loose plaster, snakes or other hazards.
- Evacuate immediately if you smell natural gas which has the odor of rotten eggs, or see a broken gas line. Ventilate the area by opening windows or a door. Do not light matches, turn on any light switches, or use the telephone. Call your local utility from outside the home.
- Do not activate any electrical switch or appliance until the entire electrical system has been checked. Some circuits above the flood level may still be energized.
- Disconnect all electrical appliances before attempting to reset breakers or replace fuses. Be sure to wear dry shoes with rubber soles and stand on something dry and non-conductive, such as a dry piece of wood or wooden furniture. Place the other hand behind your back. Do not make contact with the metal breaker box and other grounded objects in the area.
- Disconnect an appliance immediately if a breaker trips, a fuse blows, or you see smoke or smell a burning odor. Have it checked by a qualified appliance serviceperson.
- Check for water damage in all appliances and make sure cords and other parts are dry before re-plugging them into wall sockets.
- Do not allow children to play in floodwater areas and do not allow children to play with floodwater-contaminated toys that have not been disinfected. Disinfect toys using a solution of one cup of bleach in five gallons of water.
After Entering a Flooded Building
- Open windows and doors to allow air to circulate through the house to remove foul odors or escaped gas.
- Don't drink water from the water faucet unless it has been declared safe in your area. Don't give it to your pets, or use it for washing, cleaning, cooking, brushing your teeth, make ice or formula.
- Purify water if contaminated.
- Sort contents to be repaired or discarded.
- Dispose of items that have been in contact with floodwaters including fresh, prepared and processed foods, medicines and cosmetics in packages that are not hermetically sealed.
- Dispose of the contents of all screw-top glass containers or crown-capped bottles if the containers have been covered by floodwaters. This includes food in glass jars.
- Thoroughly wash and sterilize all food utensils and equipment exposed to floodwaters.
- Pump or bail out any remaining water and shovel out mud while it is moist. This will allow walls and floors an opportunity to dry out and minimize further structural damage.
- Pump out wells and have the water tested by authorities before drinking. Do not flush toilets until you know that sewage lines are intact.
- Septic systems will not work until the groundwater level is below the distribution lines.
- Scrub all woodwork and floors with a stiff brush, plenty of water and a detergent to remove mud and silt from corners, cracks and crevices. Always start washing a wall at the bottom and work up. Starting at the top is likely to result in water streaking.
- Take exposed furniture outdoors and remove drawers and other working parts as soon as possible. Clean off mud and silt with cold water. Do not leave wooden furniture in direct sunlight because it may cause warping.
- Have upholstered furniture, especially pieces that were submerged or badly damaged, cleaned, dried and examined by an experienced upholsterer.
- Clean metal as soon as possible. Metal may be wiped with a cloth saturated with kerosene after it is cleaned and dried.
- Place valuables (papers, works of art, paintings, etc.) in cold storage to prevent mildew until they can be restored by an expert.
- Raise wall-to-wall carpet to allow air to circulate through it.
- Launder draperies and clothing or send to a professional cleaner immediately.
- Wearing wet gloves can cause dermal irritation. Long exposures to wet conditions can compromise skin barriers. Repeated use of impermeable gloves, especially in hot and humid conditions, can aggravate skin rashes. Cotton liners are sometimes used under protective gloves to improve comfort and to prevent dermatitis. Latex gloves should be avoided because of the risk of developing skin sensitivity or allergy. If skin contact with floodwaters does occur, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly advises the use of soap and water to clean exposed areas. Waterless alcohol-based hand rubs can be used when soap or clean water is not available. Hands should be washed after removal of gloves.
Be careful about mixing household cleaners and disinfectants, as combining certain types of products can create toxic fumes and result in injury or death.
It can be difficult to throw away items in a home, particularly those with sentimental value. However, saving items that have been soaked by sewage or floodwater may be unhealthy. In general, materials that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried within 24 to 48 hours should be discarded.
- Rain and flooding in a hurricane area may lead to an increase in numbers of mosquitoes, which can carry diseases such as West Nile virus or dengue fever. In most cases, the mosquitoes will be pests, but will not carry communicable diseases.
- Local, state, and federal public health authorities will be working to control the spread of any mosquito-borne diseases.
- To protect yourself from mosquitoes, use screens on dwellings; wear long pants, socks and long-sleeved shirts; and use insect repellents that contain DEET or Picaridin. Follow directions on the product label and take care when using DEET on small children. Try not to be outside at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
- To help control mosquito populations, drain all standing water left outdoors in open containers, such as flower pots, tires, pet dishes, or buckets.
Post-Storm Fish Kills in Lakes and Canals
Health risks associated with a fish kill are difficult to determine without knowing the underlying cause. Therefore, it is best to use common sense and follow these general guidelines:
- Do not eat, collect, or use fish or crabs that were found dead or dying, or from areas where distressed or dead fish are present.
- Do not harvest or eat shellfish from waters that have been closed by a government agency or from areas where there are large numbers of distressed or dead fish.
- Do not harvest fish or crabs that are acting erratically or that have sores or ulcers.
- Do not swim or play in areas where distressed or dead fish are present.
- Do not let pets swim in or drink from water in the vicinity of a fish kill. If your pets come in contact with water, immediately wash their fur thoroughly with soap and clean water.
- Items that have come in contact with affected waters should be thoroughly washed with soap and clean water or disinfected with a bleach solution (mix 1/4 cup of household bleach per gallon of water and immerse items for 15 minutes) prior to continuing their use.
- Contact your physician if you believe you have become ill as a result of consuming or being exposed to fish or affected waters during a fish kill.
If you have other health questions or concerns about fish kills, please call your local county health department.
Updated March 2015