Thousands of residents have started the process of tearing out their drywall and repairing their flood-ravaged homes. While the immediate weather threats from Harvey have largely subsided, recovering from a flood can also be dangerous. Flood victims who are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the disaster may forget to put safety first, but it’s critically important to protect yourself during this difficult time. The experts at Memorial Hermann Red Duke Trauma Institute have the following tips to help you stay safe as you dry out your home and navigate debris piles.
Use protective gear.
The dirty and dangerous floodwater that sloshed through people’s homes should be treated with extreme caution. If standing water remains in your house, wear protective boots and gloves to prevent the contaminated water from touching your skin. Mold, which can start to grow within 24 hours of exposure to water, may cause allergy-like symptoms. When working inside flood-damaged spaces, cover your mouth and nose with a particulate filtering respirator such as an N95 to avoid inhaling mold spores and toxic or hazardous fumes from household chemicals that may have leaked. Protect your eyes with safety glasses or goggles, and be sure to wash your hands regularly with soap and clean water.
Be aware of your surroundings.
There have already been news reports of wildlife seeking shelter from floodwater and appearing in residential areas. Be on the lookout for snakes and other wild animals that may be lurking in debris or near flooded areas. Never touch a downed power line, even if the electricity in your area is turned off. Instead, leave the area and call the electrical company immediately.
Use tools, ladders with caution.
If used improperly, power tools such as circular saws, nail guns and chain saws can cause serious traumatic injuries. Always follow the product’s instructions and wear eye and ear protection when operating a power tool. In addition, ladders and stepladders may seem innocuous, but falls from portable ladders are a leading cause of occupational fatalities and injuries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Always read and follow all labels and markings on a ladder, avoid electrical hazards, inspect ladders for damage before using and make sure all locks are engaged. Be sure to maintain a three-point contact when climbing (two hands and a foot, or two feet and one hand). Never use the top step/rung of a ladder and do not move or shift a ladder while a person is on it.
Never operate a generator inside your home or garage.
Generator use is a major cause of poisoning by carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas that causes sudden illness and death if inhaled. Each year, more than 400 people die in the U.S. from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Operating a generator inside a home, garage or camper during an electrical outage can cause carbon monoxide to accumulate in a room and poison the people and animals inside, even if the doors and windows are open. Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.
Be wise about tetanus.
If you have an open cut or scrape and came into contact with contaminated water or soil, you may consider a tetanus vaccine if you haven’t had one in more than five years. Tetanus is a serious infection that can lead to severe muscle spasms, known as lockjaw. Symptoms may appear weeks after exposure and develop into difficulty swallowing or opening the jaw. Contact your primary care physician or seek medical advice if you are wondering whether to get a tetanus vaccination.
Should you need medical attention, Memorial Hermann Urgent Care and Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center locations are available to walk-in patients. All Urgent Care locations are open from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Online check-in is available to get in line before you arrive. Convenient Care Centers have 24/7 Emergency Rooms and are available to see patients who need emergency medical attention.