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Cleaning Flood-Damaged Homes Can Involve Hidden Dangers

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Release date: 
September 21, 1999
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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Take extra precautions when cleaning flood-damaged homes, mobile homes, apartments or businesses, say federal and state disaster officials as residents of seven southeastern Pennsylvania counties continue to clean-up from Hurricane Floyd.

Even after their homes have been determined to be structurally safe, people should proceed with caution as they begin to clean up. "The dangers are not over just because the water has receded," said State Coordinating Officer Bob Churchman, of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA).

Floodwaters affect a house in several ways, added Federal Coordinating Officer Jack Schuback, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "Water damages materials. Wallboard will disintegrate if it stays wet too long; wood can swell, warp or rot; electrical parts can short out and cause fires or shock. Mud, silt and unknown contaminants in water not only get everything dirty, they also are unhealthy. And, dampness promotes the growth of mildew," Schuback explained.

The following clean-up tips apply whether you are returning to a home, apartment, mobile home or business:

  • Lower the humidity, and everything will dry more quickly. You can speed the process 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.

  • Floodwaters 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.
Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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