Public health guidelines related to severe flooding

Local News
FRANKFORT, KY (WOWK) – The Department for Public Health wants to remind Kentuckians to follow safety guidelines following severe flooding and water run-off events from recent rainfall across the state.

Governor Andy Beshear, praised residents for helping each other after his visit to areas in Eastern Kentucky hit hardest hit by flood.

“We will use every resource available to us to ensure Kentuckians affected by these devastating floods can have a safe and expedient recovery,” Beshear said. “As neighbors have been selflessly helping neighbors, our state agencies stand ready to protect and assist those who are in need.”

NAVIGATING FLOODED AREAS
DPH officials said they urge residents to use caution in flooded areas, before and after floodwaters recede, to keep their families safe.

“Taking the time to follow safety guidelines related to food safety, mold removal and other issues helps prevent unnecessary injury and illness,” said Rebecca Gillis, director of the DPH Division of Public Health Protection and Safety.

Officials said the risk of suffering wounds increase during flood cleanup. Because of this, DPH officials recommend residents stay up-to-date with their tetanus vaccinations.

“Adults need a tetanus booster shot every 10 years,” officials said in a prepared statement. “Td or Tdap can be used; getting the Tdap instead of Td for one tetanus booster during adulthood is recommended to maintain protection against pertussis.”

Flood-related drowning also remains a danger, and often occurs when people become trapped by rising flood waters or when they voluntarily enter flooded areas.

Officials said residents should never enter flood waters unless they must escape immediate danger.

“Do not attempt to drive a vehicle through flood waters,” DPH officials said. “Carefully monitor the weather conditions and water levels to avoid becoming surrounded by water.”

Floods can also damage utilities, leading to downed power lines and a risk of electrocution.

Residents should stay clear of damaged power lines. Natural gas and propane systems can produce dangerous gas leaks. If residents smell gas, DPS said they should immediately open doors and windows and evacuate the area.

CLEAN-UP
After floodwaters recede, residents must begin the process of clean-up. DPS officials said proper safety equipment, such as work gloves, boots, helmets, eye and ear protection, and chainsaw chaps should be worn, especially when operating power tools or machinery.

“Ensure all electrical tools are properly grounded and use ground fault interrupters if available,” officials said. “Never use electrically powered tools in or near standing water.”

Homeowners whose homes sustained water damage should stay vigilant to prevent mold growth. Mold fungi can be found indoors and outside and can accumulate in homes impacted by floodwaters, DPS officials said. Mold grows best in warm, damp and humid conditions. 

“Signs of mold include discolored walls possibly showing water damage, or green or black spots apparent on walls,” DPS officials said. “Mold also has a musty, earthy smell or a foul stench.”

Allergy sufferers may be affected more by mold exposure.

If anyone finds mold growing in their homes, DPS officials said it can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products including soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. However, severe mold cases may require an expert to clean up.

DPH recommends residents ensure proper ventilation during clean up. Residents should also wear protective clothing, including a respirator or suitable mask during heavy mold-growth removal.

Residents should also remove all wet items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and cannot be cleaned and dried.

FOOD SAFETY
In the case of power outages, residents should take care to keep freezer doors closed to maintain proper temperatures for frozen foods. A freezer will hold appropriate temperatures for approximately 48 hours when full and for 24 hours when half full.

DPS officials said refrigerated foods should be safe as long as power is out for no more than four hours.

Residents should throw away any perishable food in your refrigerator, such as meat, poultry, lunchmeats, fish, dairy products, eggs and any prepared or cooked foods that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours.

More information about public health issues related to flooding can be found at cdc.gov/disasters/floods/index.html or healthalerts.ky.gov/Pages/FloodSafety.aspx.

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