PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- The physical devastation that follows a flood is enormous. "As floodwaters recede, there may be even more hazards to your health," said State Coordinating Officer Lt. Edward O'Neil of the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management. "By taking some basic precautions and cleaning up, you can help reduce the possibility of health problems."
Damage inspectors are now in the field visiting people who have registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance. "Don't wait for an inspector to come before you clean-up," said Federal Coordinating Officer Peter Martinasco of FEMA. "Begin cleaning as soon as flood waters recede and it is safe for you to reenter your home. Document your losses; if you have a camera, take photographs. Also, expenses incurred in the cleanup process may be reimbursable. Keep your receipts."
Flood waters pick up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms, factories and storage buildings. Many flooded items, such as wallboard, carpets and mattresses, will hold mud and contamination forever. Here are some tips to help you clean up and avoid possible health problems.
- Walls, hard-surfaced floors and many other household surfaces should be cleaned with soap and water and disinfected with a solution of one cup of bleach to five gallons of water.
- Be particularly careful to thoroughly disinfect surfaces that may come in contact with food, such as counter tops, pantry shelves, and refrigerators.
- Areas in which small children play also should be cleaned.
- Wash all linens and clothing in hot water, or dry-clean them.
- For items that cannot be washed or dry-cleaned, such as mattresses and upholstered furniture, air-dry them in the sun and spray them thoroughly with a disinfectant.
- Steam clean all carpeting.
- If there has been a backflow of sewage into the house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup.
- Remove and discard contaminated household materials that cannot be disinfected, such as wallcoverings, cloth, rugs, and drywall.