Following the events of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, KPA extends our sincere thoughts to our clients, co-workers, families and friends who have been affected by the flooding and devastation. As recovery efforts begin we want to ensure that KPA is being as helpful as we can in answering your questions. Businesses and families are eager to begin rebuilding but there are dangers to this process that could affect your employees.
Floodwaters may contain many hazards including infectious organisms, intestinal bacteria and other disease agents. Precautions should be taken by anyone involved in cleanup activities or any others who may be exposed to flood waters.
Recovering from Floods
Avoid contact with flood water due to potentially elevated levels of contamination associated with raw sewage and other hazardous or toxic substances that may be in the flood water. In addition, these waters can carry large objects that are not always visible which can cause injury to individuals in the water. Other potential hazards include electrical shock from downed power lines or electrical wires, and possible injuries inflicted by animals (snakes) displaced by the floodwaters.
Below are links to OSHA’s Fact Sheets and QuickCards that provide details about hazards present in flooded areas:
- Electrical hazards
- Tree and debris removal
- Carbon monoxide
- Lifting injuries
- Rodents, Snakes and Insects
- Chemical and biological hazards
- Exhaustion (from working extended shifts)
Wait for officials to give the all-clear before returning to your home or business. When it is safe to return, take the following precautions:
- Do not enter your home or business if the electricity may still be on.
- Wear sturdy shoes, long pants, long sleeves, safety glasses, and gloves when cleaning up.
- Generator exhaust is toxic. Always put generators outside well away from doors, windows, and vents. Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas. Carbon monoxide (CO) is deadly, can build up quickly and linger for hours.
- If electrical circuits and electrical equipment have gotten wet or are in or near water, turn off the power at the main breaker or fuse on the service panel. Do not enter standing water to access the main power switch. Call an electrician to turn it off.
- Never turn power on or off yourself or use an electric tool or appliance while standing in water. Do not turn the power back on until electrical equipment has been inspected by a qualified electrician. All electrical equipment and appliances must be completely dry before returning them to service. Have a certified electrician check these items if there is any question.
- If you see frayed wiring or sparks when you restore power, or if there is an odor of something burning but no visible fire, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker.
- CDC’s recommendations for precautions for returning after a flood.
- TCEQ’s recommendations for Managing debris from declared disasters.
- OSHA’s Hazard Exposure and Risk Assessment Matrix for Hurricane Response and Recovery Work.
- OSHA’s Flood Preparedness and Response.
With two vastly destructive hurricanes that have already made landfall and the possibility of others, being prepared is important. For storm information specific to your area, including possible inland watches and warnings, please monitor your local forecast and/or the National Weather Service forecast office.
HOW TO PREPARE
- Ensure employees are informed of current weather warnings and risks
- Secure drums and tanks and ensure fill ports are closed
- Secure advertising, promotions, trash cans, and other loose items that can blow away
- Move equipment and assets to higher ground
- Shut off utilities, practice electrical safety, avoid water that covers the electrical outlets or where cords are submerged.
- Be ready to evacuate and obey evacuation orders
- Avoid driving through standing water. If you come upon a flooded street, take an alternate route.
- Review the National Weather Service’s Guide for Hurricane Preparedness.