Environmental Protection Secretary James
M. Seif advises residents whose homes have been affected by flood
waters to take a number of precautions to assure a safe cleanup.
"The aftermath of a flood presents a number of potential
dangers for injury and disease," Seif said. "It's important
that people working on their homes after the flood use caution
to make the long, difficult cleaning process a safe one."
Seif said residents should disinfect everything the flood water
has touched. Residents should scrub down walls and any other
smooth, hard surfaces that flood water touched with a water and
two percent chlorine bleach solution. Two to three capfuls of
chlorine bleach to a bucket of water are recommended. When disinfecting
surfaces, residents should wear boots and gloves.
DEP, county and state emergency management agencies and the American
Red Cross have issued the following recommendations to homeowners
who suffered flood damage:
Be careful entering a flood damaged building. Loose,
wet ceiling plaster is heavy and dangerous-knock down hanging
plaster before moving around. Watch for holes in the floor and
loose boards with exposed nails.
Once inside, turn off the gas and electricity-wear
rubber-solved shoes or boots and rubber gloves and turn off the
main switch using a piece of rubber, plastic or dry wood while
standing on a dry board to avoid electrocution.
Take care to protect open scratches or wounds from coming
in contact with the contaminated water. Raw sewage and other
bacteria in the flood waters can cause infections. Wounds should
be cleaned thoroughly with soap and water and a tetanus shot may
Discard any food that comes in contact with flood waters.
Any beverage bottles with twist caps that were under the water
should also be thrown out. Dishes and eating and cooking utensils
should be thoroughly cleaned with the water and chlorine bleach
solution before use.
Check refrigerated or frozen foods carefully if power outages
occur. Any frozen foods that have partially or completely
defrosted should be used immediately or discarded. Perishable
foods kept in a refrigerator that has been off for more than four
hours or has warmed to more than 45 degrees Fahrenheit should
Bring drinking water to a rolling boil for two minutes
if you suspect it has been contaminated. Citizens are urged
to boil water if it is unusually cloudy or has an unusual odor.
Keep all cleaning and disinfecting products out of the
reach of children.
Never use a gas-powered pump or generator in an enclosed
place; you could be overcome by carbon monoxide fumes from
Air-dry family treasurers such as books, photographs or
paintings if you can. If wet books, documents, photographs
or textiles can't be air-dried within 48 hours, freeze them if
you have a big enough freezer. If not, keep them as cool as possible
until air-drying is possible.
Do not pump the basement until the water has gone down-pumping
a water-filled basement could result in the walls collapsing
Test plumbing and basement drains by pouring in a bucket
of water. If the water does not run out, remove the clean-out
plug from the trap and rake out the mud with a wire.
Don't rush to move in. Before a house is habitable,
it must be dried and thoroughly cleaned (flood waters pick up
sewage and chemicals as they travel).
Open doors and windows to ventilate and dry the inside,
and wait until all floors, ceilings, walls and furnishings are
dry and free of mold and mildrew before trying to repair or salvage.
Do not attempt to repair floors until they are fully dry.
Dry wood floors as soon as possible by opening all doors and
windows-this should prevent shrinkage and deformation. Once dry,
buckled floors may be drawn back into place with nails, and humps
may be removed by plaining and sanding.
Remove drawers and clean all mud and dirt from wooden furniture.
Be sure to dry furniture slowly and indoors to prevent it from
warping from the sun.
Basement odors, although unpleasant, are usually harmless.
If ventilation does not remove them, sprinkle bleaching powder
(chloride of lime) on the floor (this powder is a good disinfectant).
Washers, dryers and furnaces can usually be cleaned and
tested by qualified electricians. Replacing expensive appliances
after a flood is not usually necessary.
Mattresses, carpets and rugs should be discarded-in
most cases, mattresses and rugs become so saturated with contaminated
material that cleaning attempts are futile.
CONTACT: John Comey, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency,