Baton Rouge, LA -- Floodwaters can be toxic. The contaminated debris of Tropical Storm Isidore and Hurricane Lili will require special handling. Disaster officials of both the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness (LOEP) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urge owners of flood-damaged homes to keep several important facts in mind as they continue cleaning up.
"Homeowners should assume that anything touched by floodwater is contaminated," State Coordinating Officer Art Jones said. "Mud left by floodwater can contain chemicals from sources as varied as fertilizer and pesticide run off from farms and lawns, household chemicals, gasoline, oil or paints and industrial waste."
Because contaminants also are found in sand bags, the sand should never be used in children's play areas.
"Never allow children to play in flood waters," Carlos Mitchell, federal coordinating officer, added.
It is important to thoroughly dry all areas of your home, especially before rebuilding or repairing. Flood-damaged homes are likely to have damp areas. Even though the surfaces of walls or cabinets are dry, it is not safe to assume that they are dry all the way through.
Hidden moisture can breed molds, mildew and other organisms. Rebuilding too quickly and trapping moisture inside walls also can cause continuing problems such as insect infestations and deterioration of the wood and wood coverings.
FIRST STEPS TO TAKE FOR DRYING OUT THE HOUSE:
- Turn off the main power.
- Open up the house to allow moist air to escape.
- Remove all wet furniture, contents and carpets or rugs. If you decide to keep some of these items they must be cleaned and disinfected.
- Discard all contaminated food products.
Walls must be allowed to dry thoroughly from the inside out. The drying process may take longer than expected in high humidity areas such as Louisiana. For home interiors keep these tips in mind:
- Remove and throw away flood-soaked wallboard/drywall.
- Interior plaster walls must be drained if they are still holding water.
- Remove wet insulation and discard. Rigid foam insulation is an exception. It can be removed and disinfected. Once it is completely dry, it can be reinstalled.
- Wash and disinfect the exposed wall cavity and framing using hot soapy water scrub and bleach rinse. Allow to dry VERY thoroughly.
- Lower the humidity level inside the house by opening up the house, opening closet and cabinet doors, and using fans and dehumidifiers. Desiccants, materials that absorb water, can be useful in drying closets or other closed areas.
- Wet floor insulation must be removed and the framing disinfected and dried out.
- Use a wood moisture meter to check dryness. Lumberyards and hardware stores may rent meters or your local extension service may loan meters.
When the inside of every closet, subfloor joist and framing section have been completely dried and disinfected, rebuild with water-resistant materials. Ceramic tiles, "wonderboard," rigid foam insulation, and even marine plywood, may be appropriate materials to consider if you live in a flood-prone area.
Visit a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) to gather information on specific rebuilding strategies. They are open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. until further notice in Slidell, Houma and New Orleans. Other DRCs will open in affected parishes.
For more information, a joint publication of FEMA and the American Red Cross (ARC) has been published. Repairing Your Flooded Hom...