COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Disaster officials urge Missouri residents to take extra precautions when returning to flood-damaged homes, apartments or businesses to avoid accident or injury. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cautions that all danger has not passed simply because the water has receded.
- Check the outside of the building: Call your utility company immediately if you see downed power lines, detect gas leaks (natural gas leaks smell like rotten eggs) or see water gurgling up from underground.
- Look for external damage: Examine the foundation for cracks or other damage. Inspect porch roofs, overhangs and the foundation. If you find obvious damage, ask a building inspector to check the building 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. Don't walk under a sagging ceiling until it has been checked.
- Turn off the main electricity breakers and valves for water and gas. Even if the power company has turned off electricity to the area, be sure to disconnect your home's main power supply. Have all utility connections inspected before resuming their use. Do not use appliances or motors that were exposed to water until they have been cleaned and dried.
- Dress for safety. Consider using a dust mask or N-95 mask to filter mold spores or other contaminants. Masks can restrict airflow so those with respiratory conditions should not use them. Wear safety glasses, leather or rubber gloves and protective shoes (avoid rubber soled athletic shoes when walking in or around debris). Hard hats, long sleeves and pants are encouraged to guard against bumps and scrapes.
- Look before you step: Floors and stairs may be covered with debris and may be very slippery. Watch out for window glass, broken bottles, nails and other hazards.
- Watch for critters: Snakes, skunks, raccoons and other wildlife seeking high ground may choose your home for safety. Proceed with caution to avoid being startled or startling them.
- 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, not an open flame.
- Be aware of water-borne health hazards: Inside the home, any wet items, such as wallboard and mattresses, will hold mold and contamination forever. Throw them out. Spoiled food, water-logged cosmetics and medicine are also health hazards. When in doubt, throw it out. Don't let children play in standing water.
CLEANING UP A BUILDING
- Hose the house: Many health hazards are found in the mud and silt. Shovel as much mud and debris as possible out of the house, then hose it down, inside and out.
- Expect mold growth. Within days of being waterlogged, dry wall, upholstered furniture and wooden fixtures may develop mold or mildew. Mold and mildew can be health hazards. Ask your local health authorities for information on removing mold.
- Carbon monoxide exhaust kills: Do not use camp stoves and charcoal grills indoors. All cooking on camp stoves and charcoal grills should be done outside. Gas and charcoal fumes can be deadly.
- For several days after you return, be on the lookout for any broken utility connections: Broken water or sewer pipes, bent gas pipes and damaged electrical outlets or fixtures can be a serious hazard. Get damage repaired as quickly as possible.
- Be aware of water on the road. Water covering the road could hide potholes or...