Health and Family Services Cabinet
Flooding Creates Health, Safety Concerns
Statewide News Release Media Contact: Gwenda Bond or Barbara Fox
(502) 564-6786, ext. 3100 or 3102
Flooding Creates Health, Safety Concerns
Public Health Issues Guidelines Related to Severe Flooding
FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 11, 2013) - The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is reminding Kentuckians to follow safety guidelines in the wake of flooding and potential flooding in some areas of the state. “We ask Kentuckians to use caution as waters rise, and as clean-up begins when flood waters recede,” said Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, DPH commissioner. “Taking the time to follow safety guidelines related to food safety, mold removal and other issues helps prevent unnecessary injury and illness.”
The following precautions are recommended by DPH:
- Never attempt to drive through or enter flooded areas. Roadways can be washed away or damaged during flooding. Carefully monitor the weather conditions and water levels to avoid becoming surrounded by water and trapped.
- Floods can damage utilities, leading to downed power lines and a risk for electrocution. Stay clear of damaged power lines. Natural gas and propane systems can produce dangerous gas leaks. If you smell gas, open doors and windows and evacuate the area.
- Do not let children play in or around flood waters.
Home Clean-up and Mold Removal
- Use care during clean-up measures. Wear proper safety equipment, such as work gloves, boots, helmets, eye and ear protection, and chainsaw chaps when operating power tools or machinery. Ensure all electrical tools are properly grounded and use ground fault interrupters (GFI) if available. Never use electrically powered tools in or near standing water.
- Injuries can be a risk for tetanus for those who are not up-to-date on tetanus vaccination. Contact your regular health care provider or your local health department if you believe you may need a tetanus shot.
- Homeowners whose homes have sustained water damage are urged to follow recommendations to limit mold growth. Mold fungi can be found indoors and outside and can quickly grow in homes affected by flood/water damage. Mold grows best in warm, damp and humid conditions and spreads by making spores. In order to correct mold growth, eliminate the moisture source and clean up existing mold.- Signs of mold can include discolored walls where water damage has occurred; green or black spots appearing along walls; or a musty, earthy or foul smell inside the home. People with allergies are often more affected by exposure to mold.
- If mold is growing in your home, you will need to clean up the mold and fix the moisture problem. Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Severe cases of mold may require an expert to clean up.
- DPH recommends that doors and windows be open while cleaning the affected area. Use protective glasses or goggles, rubber boots and waterproof gloves and wash clothing afterwards. If there is heavy mold growth, use a respirator or suitable mask to prevent breathing the mold. Remove all items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and are not able to be cleaned and dried.
- DPH also cautions people to keep food safety in mind if they have been affected by power outages and/or flooding.
- Refrigerated food items such as meats, poultry, lunchmeats, fish, dairy products, eggs, and cooked foods can generally be held safely for about four hours once above 40 degrees. Frozen food items will maintain product temperature longer. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours and for 24 hours if the freezer is half full. If you have power outages keep freezers closed to help keep frozen food from going bad.
- Unprotected flood items that have come into direct contact with flood waters should not be consumed.
For more information about public health issues related to flooding, visit the Health Alerts website or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
Emergency Management officials advise that if you know of anyone in need of assistance from flooding, please contact your local emergency management director.
If you have any damage to your residence or business you should document the damage with photos, save any repair receipts and report the damage to your insurance company and county emergency director. A list of all Kentucky County Emergency Management directors, and office telephone numbers, may be found at http://kyem.ky.gov/teams/Pages/countydirectors.aspx.