Responding to Hurricane Matthew
Last week, Hurricane Matthew moved through the Caribbean and along the east coast of the United States—bringing damaging winds, dangerous storm surges and significant rainfall and flooding with it. By the end of the weekend, more than 30 Americans lost their lives and countless communities were left to deal with the aftermath of dangerous flooding. To help those affected, Dan Christensen, CIH—CTEH’s Director of Industrial Hygiene —is sharing five essential steps residents should take before returning to their homes or offices:
1. Watch out for dangers in the water: Floodwater may contain sewage, chemicals, debris and displaced living creatures such as snakes and insects. Wear the proper protective equipment before entering any standing water.
2. Secure utilities: While outside of your home or office, make sure your gas, electricity and water are turned off. If not, there may be the potential for fire explosions, electrocution or other hazards from malfunctioning appliances. Never operate a gas or diesel generator inside of a building due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
3. Assess the building’s exterior condition: Perform a visual assessment to determine whether the building has been physically damaged. Ask yourself questions such as, “Are there cracks that weren’t there previously?” or “Do the walls seem warped?” If you see signs of damage, contact an expert immediately to determine whether the building is structurally sound.
4. Assess the building’s interior: Once it has been determined the building is safe to enter, assess the interior’s condition by noting the water level line. Then, begin removing the standing water and any materials that may have been affected by flooding (i.e., carpet, drywall, ceiling tiles). If employees are needed for remediation, ensure they wear the proper protective equipment (i.e., steel-toed boots, long sleeves shirts and pants, eye protection, and gloves). All first aid concerns should be addressed immediately as risks for infection are high when dealing with potentially contaminated floodwater.
5. Install fans and open windows: After removing water and affected materials, allow the building to dry out by opening windows and installing fans. Remain alert to any type of microbial growth. If growth occurs, treat it with a bleach solution of one cup of bleach to five gallons of water. If no microbial growth occurs for at least 36 hours, it is safe to re-establish utilities and begin the rehab of the building.
Have you been affected by flooding? CTEH® can conduct post flood indoor air quality and mold assessments for office buildings, schools, residential homes and industrial facilities to effectively address potential health concerns. For more information, visit cteh.com.