COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Flood victims in disaster-declared South Carolina counties who are returning to their homes are strongly urged by FEMA and SCEPD officials to clean up their residences as soon as they can. All flood-damaged items should be immediately removed for health and sanitation reasons regardless of whether or not a FEMA inspector has visited.
"You don't have to wait until an inspection has been completed to clean up your home and belongings," said Stan McKinney, State Coordinating Officer. "Photographs or other documentation of damaged items and areas will be helpful but not necessary to determine eligibility for assistance. We are most concerned that you take the precautions necessary to protect yourself and the members of your household."
"The dangers are not over just because the water has receded," McKinney said. "Flood hazards such as exposed electrical wires, contaminated floodwater or a weakened foundation are not always obvious but can be life-threatening. We urge people to be very careful."
The federal coordinating officer for the disaster recovery, Larry Bailey, warned flood victims to be careful of potential chemical hazards such as solvents, car batteries, propane tanks and other industrial chemicals. "If you are unsure of a situation, ask for help or seek advice from your emergency management center," Bailey said. "Play it safe."
Disaster officials are urging those returning to buildings and homes in flooded areas to keep these safety tips in mind:
When Walking or Driving in Flood Waters: Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths. Most drownings occur during flash floods, and six inches of swiftly moving water can knock you off your feet. If you must wade through floodwaters, use a pole or stick to make sure there is ground before you step. This applies even where water is not flowing. And, more people drown in their cars than any other place. Don't drive around road barriers - the road or bridge may be washed out.
Before Entering a Building:
Check the outside of the building: Call the utility company immediately if you find downed power lines or detect gas leaks. (Gas leaks will emit an odor of rotten eggs.)
Look for external damage: Examine the foundation for cracks or other damage. Inspect porch roofs and overhangs to be sure they are adequately supported. If any portion of the foundation has been undermined, it may not be safe to enter the building. For obvious damage, ask a building inspector to check the house before you go inside.
Enter the building carefully: If the door sticks at the top as it opens, it could mean the ceiling is ready to cave in. If you decide to force the door open, stand outside the doorway to avoid being hit by falling debris.
After Entering a Building:
Look before you step: Floors and stairs may be covered with debris and be very slippery. Watch out for broken bottles, nails and other hazards.
Be alert for gas leaks: Do not strike a match or use an open flame when entering a building unless you know the gas has been turned off and the area has been ventilated. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage.
Turn off the electricity: Even if the power company has turned off electricity to the area, be sure to disconnect your house's power supply. Do not use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned and dried.
Replace exposed wires: Electrical wires that have been exposed to salt water should be considered recyclable junk and be replaced.
Watch for animals, especially snakes: Small animals that have been flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours. Scare them away by poking a stick into likely hiding places.
Carbon monoxide exhaust kills: Do not use generators or other gasoline-powered machines indoors. All cooking on camp stoves and charcoal g...