Tampa Bay, Florida Tuesday July 10, 2012 - The American Red Cross urges residents to take extra precautions when returning to flood damaged homes, apartments or businesses to avoid accidents or injury. Emergency officials caution that all danger has not passed simply because the water is receding. Flood and high winds leave behind exposed electrical wires, contaminated floodwater and weakened structures and infrastructures. These are not always obvious, but can be life-threatening.
The Red Cross offers the following tips for those in the affected area to stay safer:
- Continue listening to local radio or television stations or a NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions. If you are away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
- Before entering your home, look outside for loose power lines, damaged gas lines, foundation cracks or other damages.
- Watch out for wild animals, especially poisonous snakes that may have come into your home with the floodwater.
- If you smell natural or propane gas or hear a hissing noise, leave immediately and call the fire department.
- If power lines are down outside your home, do not step in puddles or standing water.
- Keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwater.
- When it is safe to return home, wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and sturdy shoes when examining your walls, doors, staircases and windows for damage.
- During cleanup, wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots.
- Some cleaning solutions can cause toxic fumes and other hazards if mixed together. If you smell a strong odor or your eyes water from the fumes or mixed chemicals, open a window and get out of your home.
- Throw out items that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or disinfected (mattresses, carpeting, cosmetics, stuffed animals and baby toys).
- Remove all drywall and insulation that has been in contact with flood waters
- Clean hard surfaces (flooring, countertops and appliances) thoroughly with hot water and soap or a detergent.
- Make sure your food and water are safe. Discard items that have come in contact with floodwater, including canned goods, water bottles, plastic utensils and baby bottle nipples. When in doubt, throw it out!
- Do not use water that could be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice or make baby formula.
While traveling to and from home following a disaster:
- Beware of water on the road. Water covering the road could hide potholes or washed-away sections of road. Never drive around barriers. Cars are buoyant and can begin to float in less than 24” of water. Turn around. Also, water can rise very quickly. You don’t want be caught half way to the other side.
- Sightseeing can be hazardous following a disaster. Consider all downed power lines “live.” Broken water lines could undermine roads. Even pulling off the road onto soggy road shoulders or medians could lead to an unnecessary tow truck rescue.
To date, Florida’s West Coast Region has served over 13,000 meals and snacks, distributed 423 clean-up kits and more than 350 personal hygiene kits. Statewide, over 450 Red Cross workers from around the country have come to assist those affected by Debby.