Preventing Illness During Floods: Sanitation and Hygiene

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Always wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected before eating and after toilet use, cleanup activities or handling items contaminated by floodwater or sewage.

  • Flood waters may contain fecal matter from sewage systems, agricultural and industrial waste and septic tanks. If you have open cuts or sores exposed to the floodwater, keep them as clean as possible by washing them with soap and disinfected or boiled water. Apply antibiotic ointment to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Do not allow children to play in floodwater or with toys that are contaminated by floodwater.
  • If floodwaters are covering your septic tank and leach field you should not use any flush toilets attached to the system.

Preventing Mold Growth

  • Moisture that enters buildings from leaks or flooding accelerates mold growth. Molds can cause disease, trigger allergic reactions and continue to damage materials after the storm.
  • Remove standing water from your home or office. Remove wet materials promptly and ventilate; use fans and dehumidifiers if possible.
  • If mold growth has already occurred, it is best to have a professional remove it.
  • Individuals with known mold allergies or asthma should never clean or remove mold.
  • Be careful about mixing household cleaners and disinfectants, as combining certain types of products can produce toxic fumes and result in injury or death.

 

The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Emergency Information Handbook.” For more information, please visit www.dhses.ny.gov.

Safety of Drinking Water If Flooding Occurs

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  • Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters if it is available.
  • If you don’t have bottled water, you should boil water to make it safe. Boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for boiling. Boil the water for one minute, let it cool, and store it in clean containers with covers.
  • If you can’t boil water, you can disinfect it using household bleach. Bleach will kill some, but not all, types of disease-causing organisms that may be in the water. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for disinfection. Add 1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach for each gallon of water, stir it well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. Store disinfected water in clean containers with covers.
  • If you have a well that has been flooded, the water should be tested and disinfected after flood waters recede. If you suspect that your well may be contaminated, contact your local or State health department or agriculture extension agent for specific advice.
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes.” For more information, please visit www.fsis.usda.gov.

Returning Home After A Disaster

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  • Stay out of damaged buildings and return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Beware of structural damage. Roofs and floors may be weakened and need repair. When entering a fire-damaged building, look for signs of heat or smoke.
  • Turn off any outside gas lines at the meter or tank. Let the building air out to remove foul odors or escaping gas.
  • Upon entering the building, use a battery-powered flashlight. Do not use an open flame as a source of light—some gas may still be trapped inside.
  • When inspecting the building, wear heavy-soled rubber boots and gloves. Watch for electrical shorts and live wires before making certain the main power switch is off.
  • Check the building foundation, chimney, and surrounding land for damage.
  • Have electric, gas, and water connections checked before turning them back on.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, or gasoline or other flammable liquids immediately. Leave area immediately if you smell gas or chemical fumes.
  • Take extra precautions to prevent fire. Lowered pressure in water mains may make firefighting extremely difficult.
  • Contact your local disaster relief service, such as the American Red Cross or Salvation Army, if you need housing, food, or personal items that were destroyed.
  • Take pictures of damages, keep records of all clean up and repair costs, and report to your insurance company.
  • Do not throw away any damaged goods until an official inventory has been taken.
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Emergency Information Handbook.” For more information, please visit www.dhses.ny.gov.

 

Flooded Kitchen? What to do with pots, utensils, and surfaces.

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Pots, Pans, Dishes, and Utensils 

  • Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes, and utensils (including can openers) with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available).

Countertops 

  • Thoroughly wash countertops with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize them by applying a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available). Allow to air-dry.
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes.” For more information, please visit www.fsis.usda.gov.

Family Emergency Supplies

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Identifying and collecting emergency supplies now can save you precious time in the event you must evacuate or go without electricity, heat or water for an extended time. Consider including these items in your emergency supplies kit:

  • Portable battery-powered radio
  • Flashlight(s)
  • Extra batteries for all portable electronic devices
  • At least a 3-day supply of water (1 gallon per person per day); store water in sealed, unbreakable containers and replace every 6 months
  • 3- to 5-day supply of emergency ready-to-eat non-perishable packaged or canned foods that do not require refrigeration – include peanut butter, crackers, granola bars and other high energy foods
  • Manual can opener
  • Clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes for each family member
  • Sleeping bags, bedding or blankets for each family member
  • One week’s supply of essential prescription medicines (be sure to check the expiration dates)
  • Emergency heating equipment (used properly with adequate ventilation) with ample fuel supply and fire extinguisher
  • Special items for infants, the elderly or family members with special needs
  • Extra pair of glasses or contact lenses and solution (be sure to check the expiration dates)
  • List of family physicians, important medical information, and the style and serial number of medical devices such as pacemakers
  • Identification, credit cards, cash and photocopies of important family documents including home insurance information
  • Extra set of car and house keys

 

EMERGENCY FIRST AID KIT

  • First aid manual
  • Sterile adhesive bandages and gauze pads
  • Over-the-counter drugs (e.g., aspirin, antidiarrheal medications, activated charcoal)
  • Antiseptic ointment
  • Latex gloves
  • Thermometer
  • Tweezers
  • Needles
  • Tongue depressors

 

OTHER ITEMS

  • Soap
  • Screwdrivers
  • Cutters and scissors
  • Duct tape
  • Waterproof matches
  • Flares
  • Plastic storage containers
  • Needle and thread
  • Pen and paper
  • Garbage bags
  • Regular household bleach (for disinfecting)

 

The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Emergency Information Handbook.” For more information, please visit www.dhses.ny.gov.

Food Safety in Flooding: What to Keep & What to Throw Away


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How to Dete
rmine What Food to Keep or Discard

  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water.
  • Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps. Also, discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home canned foods if they have come in contact with flood water, because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.
  • Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel-type can opener.

Steps to Salvage All-Metal Cans and Retort Pouches
Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved if you do the following:

  • Remove the labels, if they are the removable kind, since they can harbor dirt and bacteria.
  • Thoroughly wash the cans or retort pouches with soap and water, using hot water if it is available.
  • Brush or wipe away any dirt or silt.
  • Rinse the cans or retort pouches with water that is safe for drinking, if available, since dirt or residual soap will reduce the effectiveness of chlorine sanitation.
  • Then, sanitize them by immersion in one of the two following ways:
    • Place in water and allow the water to come to a boil and continue boiling for 2 minutes, or
    • Place in a freshly made solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available) for 15 minutes.
  • Air-dry cans or retort pouches for a minimum of 1 hour before opening or storing.
  • If the labels were removable, then re-label your cans or retort pouches, including the expiration date (if available), with a marker.
  • Food in reconditioned cans or retort pouches should be used as soon as possible, thereafter.
  • Any concentrated baby formula in reconditioned, all-metal containers must be diluted with clean, drinking water.
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes.” For more information, please visit www.fsis.usda.gov.

Family Emergency Plan: During and After An Emergency

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DURING AN EMERGENCY

  • Remain calm, but take immediate action.
  • Follow emergency orders issued by authorities.
  • Check on family and neighbors, especially infants, the elderly, and those with disabilities.

AFTER AN EMERGENCY

  • Contact interested parties to let them know that you are safe.
  • Obey all curfews and emergency orders.
  • DO NOT enter evacuated areas until local officials have issued an “All Clear.”
  • Stay away from disaster areas. Do not sightsee!
  • If driving, be aware of road and bridge washouts, and storm debris on roadways.
  • Avoid all downed power lines. Assume all have live electricity.
  • Report broken utility lines and damaged roadways and railways to appropriate authorities.
  • When helping injured or trapped persons, do not try to move the seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Emergency Information Handbook.” For more information, please visit www.dhses.ny.gov.

Food Safety During Power Outages

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We practice basic safe food handling in our daily lives, but obtaining and storing food safely becomes more challenging during a power outage or natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.

Steps to Follow to Prepare for a Possible Weather Emergency:
Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. An appliance thermometer will indicate the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer in case of a power outage and help determine the safety of the food.

  • Make sure the freezer is at 0 °F (Fahrenheit) or below and the refrigerator is at 40 °F or below.
  • Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator, or coolers after the power is out.
  • Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk, and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately-this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.
  • Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
  • Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours. Purchase or make ice cubes and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
  • Group food together in the freezer—this helps the food stay cold longer.

Steps to Follow During and After the Weather Emergency:

  • Never taste a food to determine its safety!
  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
  • The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed).
  • Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below.
  • Obtain block ice or dry ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for 2 days.
  • If the power has been out for several days, then check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer or food thermometer. If the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below, the food is safe.
  • If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, then check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
  • Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers, and deli items after 4 hours without power.
  • When in Doubt, Throw it Out!
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes.” For more information, please visit www.fsis.usda.gov.

Batteries: Industry Overview

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Every year in the United States, Americans buy, use and throw out billions of batteries. The demand for batteries can be traced largely to the rapid increase in cordless, portable products such as cellular phones, video cameras, laptop computers, and battery-powered tools and toys. Because some types of batteries still contain toxic constituents, such as mercury and cadmium, they can pose a potential threat to human health and the environment if improperly disposed. Batteries, especially those with toxic constituents, should be recycled. Manufacturers and retailers have important roles in helping to reduce the environmental impact of batteries by redesigning batteries in ways that eliminate or reduce toxic constituents and by making them more recyclable at the end of their useful life. Manufacturer and retailer participation is also key to increasing recycling opportunities for batteries.

Over the past decade, the battery industry, partly in response to public concerns and legislation, has played an active role in finding solutions to these problems. Industry efforts have touched on every stage of the product life cycle:

    • Redesign – Some battery manufacturers are redesigning their products to reduce or eliminate the use of toxic constituents. For example, since the early 1980s, manufacturers have reduced their use of mercury in batteries by over 98 percent.
    • Reuse – Battery manufacturers are producing more rechargeable batteries each year, relative to the number of non-rechargeable batteries produced. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association has estimated that U.S. demand for rechargeables is growing twice as fast as demand for non-rechargeables.
    • Recycling – Manufacturers and retailers are working to help increase the collection and recycling of used rechargeable batteries. See link to Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation below. In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act (9 pp, 134K, about PDF) and many states passed legislation prohibiting incineration and landfilling of mercury-containing and lead-acid batteries.
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Batteries.” For more information, please visit www.epa.gov.

General Rules of the Road for Bicyclists

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Bicycles in many States are considered vehicles, and cyclists have the same rights and the same responsibilities to follow the rules of the road as motorists. When riding, always:

    • Go With the Traffic Flow. Ride on the right in the same direction as other vehicles. Go with the flow – not against it.
    • Obey All Traffic Laws. A bicycle is a vehicle and you’re a driver. When you ride in the street, obey all traffic signs, signals, and lane markings.
    • Yield to Traffic When Appropriate. Almost always, drivers on a smaller road must yield (wait) for traffic on a major or larger road. If there is no stop sign or traffic signal and you are coming from a smaller roadway (out of a driveway, from a sidewalk, a bike path, etc.), you must slow down and look to see if the way is clear before proceeding. This also means yielding to pedestrians who have already entered a crosswalk.
    • Be Predictable. Ride in a straight line, not in and out of cars. Signal your moves to others.
    • Stay Alert at All Times. Use your eyes AND ears. Watch out for potholes, cracks, wet leaves, storm grates, railroad tracks, or anything that could make you lose control of your bike. You need your ears to hear traffic and avoid dangerous situations; don’t wear a headset when you ride.
    • Look Before Turning. When turning left or right, always look behind you for a break in traffic, then signal before making the turn. Watch for left- or right-turning traffic.
    • Watch for Parked Cars. Ride far enough out from the curb to avoid the unexpected from parked cars (like doors opening, or cars pulling out).
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Kids and Bike Safety.” For more information, please visit www.nhtsa.gov/.