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Floods

Last Updated March 23, 2017

What People Need to Know to Stay Healthy and Safe

Floods can impact the public’s health, sometimes even leading to loss of life. They can also cause damage to structures, land, roads, and utilities. Floods may also lead to erosion and landslides, and result in secondary damage. Here is what to be aware of during and after flooding.

Current status

Spokane County has declared a state of emergency as heavy rainfall has brought flooding and washed out roads in the area. It is important to keep a safe distance from the Spokane River. If you enter swiftly flowing water, you risk drowning -- regardless of your ability to swim.

Potential Health Impacts

How to Protect You and Your Family Inside and Outside Your Home

Personal Hygiene

Q: What are the potential health impacts of flooding?

A: Hygiene is especially important in an emergency such as a flood, hurricane, or earthquake, but finding clean, safe running water can sometimes be difficult. The following information will help to ensure good hygiene and handwashing in the event of an emergency.

Handwashing

Keeping hands clean during an emergency helps prevent the spread of germs. If your tap water is not safe to use, wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected. Follow these steps to make sure you wash your hands properly:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

A temporary hand washing station can be created by using a large water jug that contains clean water (for example, boiled or disinfected).

Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.

 Hand sanitizers are not effective when hands are visibly dirty.

When Should I Wash My Hands?

Wash hands with soap and clean, running water (if available):

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After touching garbage

Other Hand Hygiene Resources

Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, or make ice.

Bathing

Bathing after a water-related emergency should only be done with clean, safe water. Listen to local authorities for further instructions. Sometimes water that is not safe to drink can be used for bathing.

Dental Hygiene

·      Brushing your teeth after a water-related emergency should only be done with clean, safe water. Listen to local authorities to find out if tap water is safe to use.

Infectious Disease

Diarrheal Disease

Eating or drinking anything contaminated by flood water can cause diarrheal disease. To protect yourself and your family:

  • Do not eat food that has come in contact with flood waters.
  • Practice good hygiene (handwashing) after contact with flood waters.
  • Do not allow children to play in flood water areas.
  • Wash children's hands frequently (always before meals).
  • Do not allow children to play with toys that have been contaminated by flood water and have not been disinfected.

For information on disinfecting certain nonporous toys, visit CDC Healthy Water's Cleaning and Sanitizing with Bleach section.

Wound Infections

Open wounds and rashes exposed to flood waters can become infected. To protect yourself and your family:

  • Avoid exposure to flood waters if you have an open wound
  • Cover open wounds with a waterproof bandage.
  • Keep open wounds as clean as possible by washing well with soap and clean water.
  • If a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, seek immediate medical attention.

Chemical Hazards

Be aware of potential chemical hazards during floods. Flood waters may have moved hazardous chemical containers of solvents or other industrial chemicals from their normal storage places.

Flood Mediation Inside the Home

See Related Resources

  • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.
  • Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected area.
  • Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as, mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and most paper products).
  • Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.
  • Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.
  • Help the drying process by using fans, air conditioning units, and dehumidifiers.
  • After completing the cleanup, wash your hands with soap and warm water. If necessary, use water that has been boiled for 1 minute (allow the water to cool before washing your hands)

    • Or you may use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (solution of ⅛ teaspoon [~0.75 milliliters] of household bleach per 1 gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use a solution of ¼ teaspoon (~1.5 milliliters) of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.
  • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.
  • Wash clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent. It is recommended that a laundromat be used for washing large quantities of clothes and linens until your onsite waste-water system has been professionally inspected and serviced.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.

See also Reentering Your Flooded Home , Mold After a Disaster , and Cleaning and Sanitizing With Bleach after an Emergency.

Flood Mediation Outside the Home

See Related Resources

  • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until cleanup has been completed.
  • Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected area.
  • Have your onsite waste-water system professionally inspected and serviced if you suspect damage.
  • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.
  • After completing the cleanup, wash your hands with soap and warm water. If necessary, use water that has been boiled for 1 minute (allow the water to cool before washing your hands).
    • Or you may use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (solution of ⅛ teaspoon [~0.75 milliliters] of household bleach per 1 gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use solution of ¼ teaspoon (~1.5 milliliters) of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.

What emergency supplies will I need?

People should store their homes with supplies that may be needed during any emergency period.

  •  Multiple clean containers for water. Big enough for a 3-5 day supply of water.
  • A 3-5 day supply of non-perishable food, including a non-electric can opener.
  • A first aid kid, prescription medicines and any special medical needs.
  • A battery-powered radio, flashlights, and extra batteries.
  • Sleeping bags or extra blankets.
  • Water-purifying supplies, such as chlorine or iodine tables.
  • Baby supplies-baby food, diapers, prepared formula.
  • Personal hygiene supplies, such as toothpaste, soap, etc.
  • Rubber boots, sturdy shoes and waterproof gloves. 

Environmental Services

  • Indoor Environment: Buildings and homes flooded needing water removal and mold remediation.
  • Outdoor Environment:  Release of chemicals and hazardous materials and disruption of sewage and waste water treatment facility operations.

If a flood has yet to hit my area, what are some basic steps I can do to prepare?

·       Learn about your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and locations of emergency shelters.

  • Build an emergency kit.
  • Practice a flood evacuation route with your family.
  • Prepare your home for a flood. Call your local building department or office of emergency management for information.
  • Evaluate the furnace, water heater and electric panel in your home.
  • Consider installing “check valves” to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • Purchase flood insurance from FEMA.
  • Listen to your radio or television for reports of flood danger.
  • Keep your car filled with gas.
  • Identify potential home hazards and know how to secure or protect them before the flood strikes.

How do I keep myself and my family safe?

Create a Family Communication and Disaster Plan.

Communication Plan

Because you and your family may not be together when a disaster hits, it’s important to create a communication plan to help you and your loved ones connect and get help. Complete a contact card for each family member. Have them keep these cards handy in a wallet, purse, or backpack. Templates for contact cards can be found at: http://emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness/plan/

  • Identify an out-of-town contact, such as a friend or relative, who family members can call to let them know they are safe. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, because phone lines can be jammed. An out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.
  • Teach your family members how to text. It may seem like second nature to some of us, but not everyone texts. During an emergency it’s often easier to get a text message delivered rather than a phone call.
  • Subscribe to Alert Spokane, Spokane’s emergency alert system. Post emergency telephone numbers by home phones or save them in your cell phone (fire, police, ambulance, etc.).
  • Teach children how and when to call 911 for help.
Disaster Plan
  • Learn about your community’s warning signals. What do they sound like and what you should do when you hear them?
  • Determine the best escape routes from your home. Find two ways out of each room.
  • Find the safe spots in your home for each type of disaster. For example, during an earthquake you would want to practice “drop, cover, and hold on” under a sturdy desk or table. During a tornado, you would want to seek shelter in a lower level room without windows.
  • Show each family member how and when to turn off the water, gas, and electricity at the main switches.
  • Teach each family member how to use the fire extinguisher, and show them where it’s kept.
  • Practice your plan by quizzing your kids periodically and conduct fire and other emergency drills.
  • Check your emergency supplies throughout the year to replace batteries, food, and water as needed. 

Resources

Documents

Spokane Regional Health District
Clean Up of Indoord Sewage Spills (Instructions)
Water Damage Restoration & Clean Up (Checklist)

Washington State Department of Health
Disinfecting a Well (Instructions)
Water Sampling (Brochure)
Coliform Bacteria and Drinking Water (Fact Sheet)

Websites

 

 

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June 26, 2017