Phoenix, AZ -- Federal and state disaster officials urge people to take extra precautions when returning to flood-damaged homes, apartments or businesses.
"The danger is not over just because the water has receded," State Coordinating Officer Michael P. Austin said. "Flood hazards such as exposed wires 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, David Fukutomi, also 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 local officials," Fukutomi said. "Play it safe."
Disaster officials urge people to keep these safety tips in mind:
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: Look at the foundation for cracks or other damage. Inspect porch roofs and overhangs to be sure they still have all their supports. If any part 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 force the door open, stand outside the doorway to avoid being hit by falling debris.
Check fuel tanks: It you have a fuel oil or propane tank, it may have floated loose, causing the connecting pipes to break. Even an underground tank can float. Turn off the fuel valve at the tank and ask your local fire department for assistance.
AFTER ENTERING A BUILDING:
Turn off the electricity: First, find the main breaker box or fuse box and turn off the power, even if the utility company has already turned off the electricity. You don't want the utility to restore service without warning while you are working on it. Do not use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned and dried.
Water and electricity do not mix: If you have to stand in water to access your breaker or fuse box, don't do it. Call an electrician.
Look before you step: Floors and stairs may be covered with debris and be very slippery. Watch out for broken glass, 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. If your gas meter is outside, turn off the gas. Then write down the gas meter reading. Check the numbers again in five minutes. If they are the same, the gas has stopped. If the numbers have changed, leave the area and call the gas company.
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 grills should be done outside. Gas and charcoal fumes can be deadly.
Hose the house: Many health hazards are found in mud and silt which floodwaters leave behind. Shovel as much mud as possible out of the house, then hose it down, inside and out.
Be aware of health hazards: Flood waters pick up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms, factories and storage buildings. Many flooded items, such as wallboard and mattresses, will hold mud and contamination forever. Spoiled food, waterlogged cosmetics and m...