As numerous locations across the eastern part of the state are dealing with the recovery and clean-up from widespread flooding, the Wolf Administration is urging residents to take safety precautions to protect their health during clean-up activities.
“After the recent storms that left flooding in numerous areas, many residents are taking steps to clean-up,” Governor Tom Wolf said. “We want to make sure that all Pennsylvanians who are involved in or assisting with clean-up operations are staying healthy and safe as they work to recover from the flooding.
“Flood waters can leave behind a number of items that can be dangerous to your health, such as contaminated water, spoiled food and pests,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Flooding presents a number of hazards that people do not typically encounter on a daily basis. As you work in areas that were flooded, it is essential that people take precautions and be observant for differences from what they are used to.”
The department also urges residents to avoid contact with floodwater as much as possible, as it can contain contaminants such as raw sewage, fuel and hazardous chemicals. In addition, there may be debris in the flood water.
The wet summer across the state has led to a high number of West Nile Virus cases in mosquitoes. While cleaning, you should wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts and socks and use bug spray with DEET to prevent mosquito bites. All standing water should be drained from containers to prevent mosquitoes from breeding further.
Residents whose power has been out should dispose of items that can spoil in the refrigerator that may have been above 40 degrees for two hours or more. This includes foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, leftovers and dairy products. In addition, most foods that came into contact with flood water should be disposed of.
It is also important to know whether your water is safe to drink and use for cooking or bathing, or if you have to use bottled water or boil water. All residents should have bottled water available in their emergency kit. All dishes, pans and utensils that came into contact with floodwater should be thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water and then sanitized by boiling the items in clean, non-contaminated water.
If you are working and receive a puncture wound, it is important to wash it with soap and clean water, and then contact a doctor to see if a tetanus shot is needed.
As cleanup continues, you may deal with mold inside your home, especially if the home was not able to be cleaned out and dried within the first 24 to 48 hours after flooding. You should wear protective masks as possible and remove visible mold with either commercial products or a bleach solution. In extreme cases, it may be best to let a professional restoration company take care of the mold.