Floods caused by torrential rains and other severe weather conditions can cause a host of safety problems to flood victims in addition to their devastating effects on homes. Floodwater is often contaminated with sewage, chemicals and sharp objects which can cause disease outbreaks and other health hazards in flood-hit areas.
The following are some steps you can take during and after flooding to minimize the potential negative health impacts caused by floods:
Preparation of water for safe use
- Drink bottled water if available.
- Boil water from safe source before consumption:
- Filter first through clean cloth or allow water to settle before drawing off the clear water.
- Boil the water, let it cool and then store it in covered containers.
- Disinfecting water for other uses:
- Add 1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of unscented household bleach (5.25% concentration) to each gallon (~3.79 L) of filtered water.
- Stir well before using.
- Store it in clean covered containers.
- Make sure to wash your hands with soap and disinfected water. Alternatively you can use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Bathing and teeth-brushing should only be done with clean and disinfected water. Do not swallow water that is not safe for drinking.
Health and wound care
- Attend to open wound immediately by cleaning with soap and clean water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer (in the absence of soap and clean water).
- Sanitize the wound with antiseptic solution before applying water-proof bandages to open wound to prevent its contact with flood water .
- Do not swim in flood water which may increase the risk of infections (particularly leptospirosis) or drowning.
- Be alert to potential animal and insect bites.
- Seek medical attention if:
- a wound develops redness, swelling or oozing or if foreign object is lodged in the wound
- you develop fever, headache, chills, vomiting (which could be a sign of leptospirosis) or diarrhoea
- you are bitten
Safety when re-entering home
- Do not attempt to power on electrical appliances/tools while standing in water!
- Put on protective gears such as rubber boots, rubber gloves and face mask during clean up.
- Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces using water and appropriate cleaning detergent.
- Discard items which cannot be washed or disinfected.
Kitchen and food safety
- Discard food items not in waterproof container/packaging which have been exposed to flood water.
- Remove labels (if any) which can harbour dirt and germs on undamaged food items in waterproof container/packaging. Wash with soap and clear water followed by sterilization either through 2 minutes boiling or dipping for 15 minutes in freshly made solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of clean water.
- Thoroughly wash kitchen tops, pots, pans, dishes and all utensils using soap and clean water followed by sterilization of kitchenware using clean boiling water.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Natural Disasters and Severe Weather