Important information pertaining to the effects of flooding, according to experts
Here is what you need to know to keep your home and family safe
TEXAS – According to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts, there are numerous things you can do to protect your family’s health and well-being and restore your property after a flood.
In Texas, flooding can become a major problem, especially in low-lying areas like Houston and coastal communities. AgriLife Extension Specialist Joyce Cavanagh, Ph.D. focuses on family development and resource management at Bryan-College Station. According to Cavanagh, Texas Extension Disaster Education Network, Texas EDEN, provides a range of information on how to recuperate from flooding.
The EDEN site provides advice and guidance on cleaning and drying flood-damaged homes, emergency food and water supplies, post-flooding safety practices and other topics.
“The site also has instructional videos on flood recovery,” Cavanagh said.
Additional information on flooding and recovering from the effects is available at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Bookstore. On the site, there are many free materials to download and print, including flood recovery safety tips, controlling mold, basic first aid, caring for important papers, and post-disaster considerations for the older community.
Safety top priority in flooded area
According to the Director of AgriLife Extension’s Disaster Assistance and Recovery Program at Bryan-College Station Monty Dozier, Ph.D., safety is paramount when returning to areas affected by flooding.
“Listen to local news or an NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and don’t return home until authorities say it’s safe,” Dozier said. “Be mindful that snakes and harmful insects may have sought refuge in and around your home. If you are re-entering your home or business, it’s best to wear protective clothing, including a hat or cap, long sleeves, long pants, rubber gloves and boots.”
While staying in or revisiting flooded areas, safety is a top priority. Dozier recommends throwing out items that can’t be sanitized or disinfected, including rugs, carpeting, mattresses, cushions and pillows.
“Those returning should also be wary of possible structural or electrical damage and damage to gas lines, as well as potential contamination from floodwater,” Dozier said. “If any appliances were flooded, don’t use them until they’ve been checked to make sure they’re safe.”
Dozier also recommends taking photos or video of the inside and outside of the damaged home and its contents for insurance purposes.
“Unfortunately, most insurance companies will not pay for additional damage done after a disaster, so homeowners are responsible for making temporary repairs to keep further damage from occurring,” Dozier said.
Dry your home
Dozier mentioned mold is another possible health hazard related to flooding. Although some mold can be cleaned by hand, a significant amount may require a professional mold remediation service.
“There are steps you can take to prevent mold growth,” Dozier said. “These include disposing of waterlogged, unsalvageable items, cleaning and drying salvageable wet items as soon as possible, and keeping wet areas well ventilated. You can use air conditioning and fans to help dry out damp items. And if you see or smell mold, clean the area with a solution of 1 cup household liquid bleach to 1 gallon of water as a short-term remediation.”
The secret to preventing mold growth is to clean, disinfect and dry out the damaged area. If the problem continues, reach out to a respectable service that focuses on mold remediation. Businesses providing mold services must be licensed and/or registered through the State of Texas.
According to Dozier, being proactive and drying the home can help reduce hazards and damages from flooding.
“Open flooded walls, even if they appear undamaged, and remove water from the home as soon as possible,” Dozier said. “Ventilate the house by opening doors and windows and facilitate the drying by using dehumidifiers and fans. Cross-ventilate by placing a fan in a window or on the floor. Discard any flooded drywall or wet, fibrous insulation. And leave walls open until they have thoroughly dried. Drying time could be a few weeks to a month, depending on weather conditions, moisture content and other variables.”
When in doubt, throw it out
Cavanagh encourages disposing of any food or medicine that has been or may have been in contact with floodwaters or mud. Additionally, she suggests homeowners should not take a chance with potentially contaminated water.
“Don’t drink the water in or near an area that you know to have been flooded,“ Cavanagh said. “Flooding can easily contaminate potable water sources, so it’s best to drink bottled water or water from a source you know to be safe until your regular water supply has been tested and deemed safe. You’ll also want to have any damages to sewage systems repaired as soon as possible to avoid further risk to your or your family’s health.”
Post-flood mosquito propagation
According to Dozier, mosquito populations often multiply after a flood, and the diseases they carry contribute to another health risk.
“Dump or drain water to eliminate egg-laying sites, eliminating any place where water can collect and be retained, especially if there’s organic matter such as soil or leaves,” Dozier said. “If the water can’t be dumped or drained, use a larvicide.”
He also suggested using a fogger for temporary relief but says it’s best to apply a DEET-based repellent.
“If you are wearing long sleeves, long pants and protective coverings for personal safety while you are removing debris and drying and cleaning your home, these will also help shield you from mosquitoes,” Dozier said.
Dozier reminds people that flood recovery can be a slow and frustrating process that requires much patience and consistency.
“It’s also extremely important that people affected by flooding remember to take some time to take care of themselves as well as their property,” Dozier said.
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