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Safety in a flooded area

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Posted at 5:06 PM, May 22, 2010
and last updated 2017-05-09 13:43:27-04

* Avoid or leave areas subject to sudden flooding. These include dips and low spots.
* Avoid already flooded and high velocity flow areas. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams.
* If driving, be aware that the road bed may not be intact under flood waters. Turn around and go another way.
* Never drive through flooded roadways. The depth of the water is not always obvious. If the vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and its occupants, sweeping them away.
* Use caution at night when it is more difficult to recognize flood dangers.
* Children should never play around high water, storm drains or viaducts.

After the Flood

* If fresh food has come in contact with flood waters, throw it out.
* Boil drinking water before using. Wells should be pumped out and the water tested for purity before drinking. If in doubt, call your local public health authority.
* Seek necessary medical care at the nearest hospital. Food, clothing, shelter, and the first aid are available from the Red Cross.
* Do not visit disaster areas. Your presence might hamper rescue and other emergency operations.
* Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.
* Use flashlights (not lanterns, torches, or matches), to examine buildings. Flammables may be inside.
* Report broken utility lines to the appropriate authorities.

If your home is flooded:

As soon as you’re allowed back in the house and it’s safe to turn on the electricity (an electrician will have to make this determination), turn the air conditioning on to start the movement of cool, dry air throughout the house.

If the AC isn’t on, don’t open the doors and windows hoping to get some air through the house. The humidity outside is probably higher than inside, and all the wet outside air goes inside, making a bad situation worse.

If the house is truly soaked, you may need professional equipment: high-velocity air movers and dehumidifiers.

Your home AC and household fans don’t have the power to do the job.

Remove soaked carpets and pads. Insurers will regard them as unsalvageable if they’ve been soaked in water from a storm (homeowner’s insurance does not cover damage from rising water; separate flood coverage is required).

If you have hard-surface floors (wood or tile), a wet vacuum can help suck up the water.

A hurricane’s heavy rains may also cause damage from above. If water penetrates the roof, ceilings may collapse, insulation is soaked, water soaks walls and drips down through air conditioning vents.

The big post-flooding headache is mold, which thrives in warmth and moisture. Washing surfaces with a bleach solution or painting over mold with primers and shellacs such as Kilz® will hide mold, but physical removal is the only real solution. That means cutting out drywall, removing soaked insulation, and sanding wood studs.

Vinyl wall covering should be removed. It acts as a vapor barrier so the wall behind it can’t dry.

Some homeowners cover everything with plastic after a storm. If furniture and household items are wet under that plastic, you’re creating a mini greenhouse where you’ll grow a bumper crop of mold. Dry the items before you wrap them in plastic.

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